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  1. Hey everyone, welcome to my WIP thread, showcasing my ongoing work on my main 40k army, my World Eaters, and their allies, the band of traitorous Imperial Guard known to the galaxy as "Urash's Marauders". I realise that some of you probably already know my thread in the Hall of Honour section. Now I've chosen to open a WIP thread for two reasons: One, I am far better (and faster) at converting and kitbashing than I am at painting. So this thread will give me the chance to keep posting new stuff even while I haven't managed to finish the paintjob on the models in question Two, the number of truly creative and spectacular threads in this section - like Brother Heinrich's Night Lords or 1000Heathen's Heresy thread, to name but two - is truly astounding and inspiring, and I would like to be a part of that ;-) Like I said, my World Eaters have always been, and continue to be, my most important 40k project. I worked on them back when I was a teenager, and they are the army i pretty much immediately returned to when getting back into the hobby in late 2010 after a longer hiatus. So before I show you the unpainted, work in progress stuff - warts and all - let me just share a few impressions of the painted part of my World Eaters as it stands right now: Here's a look at almost all of the painted models. I give you Khorne's Eternal Hunt: http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2013/7/19/518400-Army%2C%20Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Khorne%27s%20Eternal%20Hunt.jpg My World Eaters' background is that they are the remnants of the 12th Astartes legion's 4th assault company. While most of the legion fractured into small warbands after the Skalathrax campaign, the 4th still functions as a fairly coherent fighting force. And even though this force is reasonably similar to other World Eaters’ forces all over the galaxy, there’s one marked difference: The legionaries of the 4th are still clinging fiercely to their martial honour, a remnant of their past as the Warhounds Astartes legion. They feel that it is only their honour that still gives them purpose, and so they are eternally trawling the galaxy for powerful warriors and worthy prey, a never ending hunt in the service of the Blood God – hence the name. Let me show you some more pictures: http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2013/7/19/518402_sm-Army%2C%20Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Khorne%27s%20Eternal%20Hunt.jpg A model I am really proud of is my converted Heldrake, called the "Hellrazor": http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2013/7/19/518404-Army%2C%20Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Khorne%27s%20Eternal%20Hunt.JPG Building and painting Chaos Lords in Terminator armour is a lasting addiction of mine, so here are some of them: http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2013/7/19/518405-Army%2C%20Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Khorne%27s%20Eternal%20Hunt.jpg And there’s an equally large collection of Chaos Lords in power armour, of course. Among them my converted Dark Apostle (shown on the left): http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2013/7/19/518406-Army%2C%20Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Khorne%27s%20Eternal%20Hunt.jpg Then there’s a small collection of champions and models I painted just for fun (among them the starts of a dedicated gladiator squad). While several of those concepts may be spun off into an own squad, all of these “stragglers” together can almost make up another berzerker squad: http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2013/7/19/518407-Army%2C%20Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Khorne%27s%20Eternal%20Hunt.jpg And finally, there’s the beginnings of a small detachment of traitorous Space Wolves, led by one "Joras Turnpelt". These will be used as "regular" Chaos Space Marines (optionally granted the Mark of Khorne), whenever the battle plan calls for some bolter-wielding personnel: http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2013/7/19/518408-Army%2C%20Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Khorne%27s%20Eternal%20Hunt.jpg All in all, that's quite a collection already: http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2013/7/19/518401-Army%2C%20Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Khorne%27s%20Eternal%20Hunt.JPG In addition to the models seen above, there are also some more recent additions (or simply models I am pretty proud of). Such as... ...my custom Dark Apostle Stian Gul (wielding a huge warhorn, since hearing its sounds will always prove more inciting to the World Eaters than any sermon could ever hope to be) and my custom Warpsmith Deracin, Keeper of the Forge: http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2013/8/13/527022-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Lord%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Huntmaster%2C%20Khorne.JPG Both models were completely build from various plastic parts. And there's my newest Daemon Engine, dubbed the "Wargrinder": http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2013/9/6/534840-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Counts%20As%2C%20Daemon%20Engine%2C%20Decimator.JPG http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2013/9/6/534846-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Counts%20As%2C%20Daemon%20Engine%2C%20Decimator.JPG http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2013/8/30/532668-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Counts%20As%2C%20Decimator%2C%20Dreadknight%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Kitbash.JPG And, last but not least, my World Eaters can be accompanied by an allied regiment of Traitor Guard, Urash's Marauders. This is still a fairly small detachment, and I mostly use the project to build and paint whatever takes my fancy: http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2012/10/31/426663-Chaos%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Lntd%2C%20Lost%20And%20The%20Damned%2C%20Marauders%2C%20Paintjob%2C%20Renegades.JPG http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2012/10/12/420624-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Cultists%2C%20Dark%20Vengeance%2C%20Starter%20Box%2C%20Traitor%20Guard%2C%20Traitors.JPG So yeah, so much for the recap of the painted part of my army. If you would like to see more of those guys, you're very welcome to head over to my Hall of Honour thread and check them out. And now for the less finished stuff Let me just start by posting some of the things that I am currently working on (or that have already been built but still lack some colour). First up, my Chaos Terminators. I have been in love with Terminators as a unit type for a very long time, and this has nothing to do with their rules. There’s just something about these colossal, armoured behemoths that really clicks with me. And from a converter’s perspective, the added size compared to regular Marines offers lots of room for customisation, dramatic posing etc. Alas, the original metal Chaos Terminators were always a tad too expensive for my teenage self, back in the 90s, and by the time the new plastic Chaos Terminators came around in 2007, I was still on my hobby hiatus. But when I returned to wargaming in 2010, a box of Terminators was a part of the first order I ever placed with GW, and the resulting squad was actually among the first things I built. Over time, I kept adding more models to the squad, since I wanted them to be a fitting retinue for my Chaos Lords. So here are pretty much all the Terminators I’ve come up with so far: First up, a Terminator wielding a chainfist and a Combi-Melta: http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2012/12/12/440324_sm-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Terminator%20Armor%2C%20Warhammer%2040%2C000.JPG http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2012/12/12/440325_sm-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Terminator%20Armor%2C%20Warhammer%2040%2C000.JPG As you can see, I added Khornate bunny ears to the model’s armour – a trait shared by pretty much all of my “regular” Terminators. On a related note, I am really glad that I didn’t break off all the weapon arms when the newly released codex said these guys could get either the combi-weapon or the special CC weapon. This oversight was fortunately corrected in the FAQ. Phew! Here’s a Terminator with a Heavy Flamer. You know, for the “Burn!” in “Kill! Maim! Burn!” http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2012/12/12/440326_sm-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Terminator%20Armor%2C%20Warhammer%2040%2C000.JPG http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2012/12/12/440327_sm-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Terminator%20Armor%2C%20Warhammer%2040%2C000.JPG Funnily, this is also one of the few models actually wearing a Terminator helmet… In this case, it’s the one with the Rhinoceros like horn which I quite like. And while we are on the subject of special weapons, here’s a Terminator with a Reaper Autocannon: http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2012/12/12/440330_sm-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Terminator%20Armor%2C%20Warhammer%2040%2C000.JPG http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2012/12/12/440331_sm-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Terminator%20Armor%2C%20Warhammer%2040%2C000.JPG this model was actually converted from an AOBR loyal Terminator! I added some WFB Marauder shoulder pads to the Terminator’s knees to mask their loyal heritage… This next model was built to be the squad’s champion: http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2012/12/12/440328_sm-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Terminator%20Armor%2C%20Warhammer%2040%2C000.JPG Again, the model is armed with a chainfist and Combi-Melta. I used a leftover head from the FW Lord Zhufor kit to show this guy’s status as a champion. http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2012/12/12/440329_sm-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Terminator%20Armor%2C%20Warhammer%2040%2C000.JPG And now, let me show you my favourite conversions in the squad: http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2012/12/12/440339_sm-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Terminator%20Armor%2C%20Warhammer%2040%2C000.JPG This guy was also converted from an AOBR Termie — from the very model that came as a giveaway with WD when 5th edition was released, to be exact. When I built this guy in early 2010, I was quite proud of myself for figuring out that the chaos bitz could be combined with the loyal AOBR models. It’s surely been some time since then, and I like to imagine that my more recent conversions are quite a bit more ingenious. But this is where it started http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2012/12/12/440340_sm-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Terminator%20Armor%2C%20Warhammer%2040%2C000.JPG Here’s my favourite detail about the model, though: When I built it, I didn’t have enough chaos shoulder pads. So I used a really old WFB skeleton as a stand-in on the model’s right arm. Take a look: http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2012/12/12/440338_sm-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Terminator%20Armor%2C%20Warhammer%2040%2C000.JPG Pretty nifty, huh? Then there’s this guy, also converted from an AOBR model, from the sergeant in fact. http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2012/12/12/440332_sm-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Terminator%20Armor%2C%20Warhammer%2040%2C000.JPG http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2012/12/12/440333_sm-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Terminator%20Armor%2C%20Warhammer%2040%2C000.JPG I really went all out on this guy back then, adding lots of skull trophies, chains, some very nice Chaos Knight pauldrons, and all new weapons. The horns came from the “Khornate head” from the regular CSM kit. The Pteryges loincloth worn by the model fits with the gladiatorial look of the World Eaters rather nicely. And finally, the squad’s (and company’s) standard bearer, brother Verak: http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2012/12/12/440341_sm-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Terminator%20Armor%2C%20Warhammer%2040%2C000.JPG http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2012/12/12/440342_sm-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Terminator%20Armor%2C%20Warhammer%2040%2C000.JPG Since the model is carrying an icon (from the WFB Warriors of Chaos) in its right hand, I had to find a way to combine the bolter and power fist, so I built a little “DIY Talon of Horus” by adding regular Bolters and an ammo feed from an old CSM heavy Bolter to the fist. I also used a shaved down berzerker head as a stylised helmet for the model, showing its special status in the squad. Although this guy was one of the first conversions I did after getting back into the hobby, he still holds up rather nicely, doesn’t he? Unfortunately, I have only managed to paint a single regular Terminator up until now. In fact, it was the first Terminator I ever painted. Here he is: http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2012/12/12/440334_sm-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Terminator%20Armor%2C%20Warhammer%2040%2C000.JPG http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2012/12/12/440337_sm-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Terminator%20Armor%2C%20Warhammer%2040%2C000.JPG http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2012/12/12/440335_sm-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Terminator%20Armor%2C%20Warhammer%2040%2C000.JPG http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2012/12/12/440336_sm-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Conversion%2C%20Khorne%2C%20Terminator%20Armor%2C%20Warhammer%2040%2C000.JPG This was my test model for the squad, so you may be able to spot how I was still finding my feet painting Terminators. I’ll definitely need to drill out the barrels at some point, since they look rather horrible. The base will also have to be changed to reflect the current look of my bases, but apart from that, I think this guy works out alright. The problem remains that these guys are quite a bit less fun to paint than they are to convert. These are also some of my older conversions, so they may lack the flair of some of the more current models. In addition to the rank and file Termies, I always like to convert a Chaos Lord or two. Here are some examples: First up, a Chaos Lord in Terminator armour wielding a pair of lightning claws: This guy may also be the start of a small, dedicated LC unit: http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2013/1/4/448734_sm-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Lords%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marrines%2C%20Conversion.JPG http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2013/1/4/448735_sm-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Lords%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marrines%2C%20Conversion.JPG http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2013/1/4/448736_sm-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Lords%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marrines%2C%20Conversion.JPG As you can see, the Chaos Termie Lord kit formed the base for the conversion (although the torso front came from the regular Chaos Terminators). I added a pair of SW Lightning claws, since I liked the extra sharp look of the claws. The head and right shoulderpad came from the FW World Eaters Terminators, while the Khornate bunny ears were cut off a WFB Finecast champion of Khorne. It seems like a very easy kitbash, but it took me ages to get the pose on this guy right. The second model I managed to complete has already appeared in some of my fluff is Brother Hokar, the 4th assault company's Master of the Guard. http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2013/1/4/448738_sm-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Lords%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marrines%2C%20Conversion.JPG http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2013/1/4/448740_sm-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Lords%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marrines%2C%20Conversion.JPG The idea of using the great Chaos Knight pauldrons as a sort of cowl was lifted from Lamby’s excellent “Legion of Thorns” thread. I think it really adds character to a Terminator! I also had the idea of arming him in a rather unconventional way by giving him a spear and shield. I wanted this to reflect the World Eaters’ gladiatorial traditions: I imagine that gladiators in the grimdark of the far future would be trained to use different weapon configurations (pretty much like the gladiators in ancient Rome), so I thought it would be interesting to explore different loadouts for no other reason than to give some additional character to the individual models. I can imagine a bodyguard for Lorimar where every member is wielding a highly individual combination of weapons — wouldn’t that be cool? Anyway, as you can see, the model’s legs came from a SW Terminator. I felt the trophy pelt was a nice callback to the 4th assault company’s role as a hunting party. I used some bits from the Skullcrusher kit to make the armour on the legs look slightly more chaotic. http://images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/2013/1/4/448737_sm-Chaos%2C%20Chaos%20Lords%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marines%2C%20Chaos%20Space%20Marrines%2C%20Conversion.JPG Hokar also uses a shield from the Skullcrusher kit. Many people are skeptical of shields on Khorne models, but I felt that, as Master of the Guard, Hokar should really be equipped for defense as well as offense. Plus everyone who has seen the fantastically corny Spartacus series knows shields can be used in fairly creative ways… Phew, with this huge first post out of the way, let me welcome you once again to this WIP thread! Expect to see more updates soon! And, of course, I would be happy to hear any feedback, ideas, suggestions or questions you might have! In any case, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!
  2. Chaos. It has been called the Primordial Truth. As it turns out, that is quite accurate. For me, at least. Since joining the B&C, I have dabbled in other..Things. I have tried to upkeep clever Project logs. I have spread my painting across Sub Forums. And left them there as the Things from beyond the Veil vied for my attention again. I have dipped my toes into Mechanicus… and it goes dark… I still think it needs more Spikes. and gets sidelined by other Things. Mostly spikey Things. Chaos. It happens to my painting table. Quite frequently. And all this crazy stuff lately. Necromunda. Titanicus. I even tried my Hand at Shadow War. Shadow War Badab. It has traitors. Well, almost… Then Chaos happens. Sooner or later, the B&C will issue the Call. And everything turns dark and spikey. Again. So, let the great Purge return my derelict blog attempts to be dissolved by the Primordial Annihilator. From now on, I shall channel my otherwordly painting efforts in this ongoing Prayer thread as i walk the Eightfold Path... and as the Great Wheel turns and the Eye opens, Let the Galaxy burn! Shudder at what is coming ….
  3. Did some updates on the blog, and here's the short version: Thanks for checking it out!
  4. Hi all. Since getting back into the hobby 2 years ago, I've pretty much painted only Imperial Fists Space marines and as much as I want to finish that project, it gets a bit tiring painting the same things over and over again so I have decided to start a small side project so I don't completely lose interest in painting. With the new release of chaos and the awesome models, I couldn't help but want to gets some, especially as I used to collect Chaos when I was younger, hence my name. It was a pick between red corsairs and word bearers as I want to paint red but chose corsairs as I'm not a big fan of the word bearers lore. So here is my first test piece. It doesn't have any shading or highlights yet, just some rough base coats just to see what it would end up like. Some points I'm thinking of is that I might repaint the thigh strap a light cream like the box art and there may be too much gold like on the backpack, but then again these are space pirates so they will want to show off their wealth. it would be great to get some thoughts from the community, all opinions are welcome. I also have an Imperial Fists WIP in my signature if you want to check it out.
  5. Fleshy trophies for your evil basterd chaos space marines. Tools: http://i35.photobucket.com/albums/d185/mkruijff/Night%20Lords%20WIP/temporary_zps77bfb1d9.jpg Mix Green Stuff with Milliput in a 1:1 ratio to get a nice pale green ball of putty. http://i35.photobucket.com/albums/d185/mkruijff/Night%20Lords%20WIP/temporary_zps3355038d.jpg Wet two plastic sheets on one side with water (and spit). Place the ball of putty in between the sheets and flatten it with a can. EDIT: Hallowed Frater forte told me that using baking paper also prevents the putty from sticking. I tried it his way and it works just as well - with the benefit that the putty does does stick to the part you're using it on. http://i35.photobucket.com/albums/d185/mkruijff/Night%20Lords%20WIP/temporary_zps9170239b.jpg Take a metal sculpting tool and cut off shapes. Cut, pull, or tear it! - that's what the flayed skin is supposed to look like! http://i35.photobucket.com/albums/d185/mkruijff/Night%20Lords%20WIP/temporary_zps6ddc0ef6.jpg Place the flaps on the model using a wettened metal scultping tool. Lick your finger and use it to pick up a tiny glass micro bead. Place this micro bead in the positioned green stuff and press it in. Make several overlaps between different skin flaps. Then use a sharp sculpting tool to pick at the corners to mimic gravity pulling at it. http://i35.photobucket.com/albums/d185/mkruijff/Night%20Lords%20WIP/example_zps48f7131c.png Then, lay out to dry. When dry, see if it stays in place after light tapping. If yes, basecoating will seal it firmly enough for handling during play. If not, glue it with superglue. Hope this helps! If there are any things unclear, please let me know. And the requested painted pictures:
  6. I've been running a Black Crusade campaign for the past few months and I have some points for discussion. What do you find best to throw against your heretics? For simplicity, I've had them choose an all marine warband. At the moment they rarely square off against other marines (unless they spark the confrontation with other chaos marines) I've mainly been throwing storm trooper level enemies at them armed with hellguns, the occasional "big thing" in the form of dreadnoughts and an occasional brutal boss fight. I like to give the players as much flexibility as possible, so most of the hordes they've fought against, they've got the drop on and have massacred and broken. What's your preferred "standard enemy" to hit them with? I also run a gladiator pit which the players are storming through at the moment, do you guys have any tips for making these 1 on 1 bouts (NPC vs PC) more excitng and drawn out? I'm finding I need to restrict the usage of specialist weapons as well, for the mission they're on at the moment, they have access to a meltagun and a lascannon, which is making a mockery of most heavy things I'm hitting them with, what balance (if any) have you found between the weapons they have and the heavy stuff you're hitting them with? Thanks in advance!
  7. Hello, hello, After a 10 years break and a recent lot of lurking I started to model again. Here a quick kitbashing inspire by Brother Heimrich´s friend´s twist on the dark elf witches and daemonettes. visible here http://www.bolterandchainsword.com/topic/278092-night-lords-15th-company-etl-iii-vow-pg50/page-50 There was something not working for me in the daemonette kit. Somehow they didn´t look daemonic enough . I think they look better that way but it´s just a personal opinion. I need to assemble at least 5 more but I might merge and mix completely the 2 boxes and end up with 20 daemonettes in the end. They could be separated in 2 units of 10 just by choosing the daemonette or witch body. It´s a first stage. They are on a temporary WF base (I haven´t decided yet on what to put them on). They need clean up and patching with green stuff. I tried to keep them with very "top model" like attitude or posture. I think it´s suits their daemonic patron and kind of remind me of the first models of them that I ever saw. Critics, comments, ideas, anything goes and is welcome. I assembled also so Tzeentch horrors and started to work on plague bearers so more to come... including 5 or 15 of them
  8. I'm more or less restarting my formerly abandoned chaos daemon project. I've always been a bit disappointed with the chaos minis in that they are kind of limited for something that should represent infinite diversity. When chaos attacks an Imperium world, the reaction should be "oh dear God what the eff is that?!", not "chaos attacking sir, we report a bloodthirster, 30 daemonettes, and a pack of blue horrors". Anyway, I don't know that this will pan out into a full army, but for now its mostly Creature Caster models and a few other things. Lady of Strife wip Lady of Depravity wip Lady of Corruption wip Ishtar wip Avatar of Shaah wip
  9. Patient Zero: a lone soldier, the sole survivor of an Astra Militarum army killed by disease, wanders from Imperium base to Imperium base warning of the impending epidemic. Little does he know that HE is the primary carrier of the plague, because...like all humans...he can see corruption everywhere but within. Army composition will basically be a single Guardsman (HQ: Renegade Commander), groups of Nurglings (Troops: Nurglings) then Imperial Guard artillery pieces (Wyverns, Earthshaker Batteries especially). I can tie these elements together, thanks to the Renegades & Heretics list from a Forgeworld Imperial Armour Index. Imperial Guardsmen from a Heavy Weapons Team sprue, thx to my friend Timperial Guard, with duffle bag from a 3rd party, Italeri. Nurglings painted with experimental technique. Using yin-yang basecoating (basecoat all black, then white from a light angle, so it retains some black shadows) then wash with inks. Learned technique from: http://hivezero.blogspot.hk/2014/02/speed-painting-nurglings-little-ranting.html. Oh, and the colours? Aside from being bright primary colours to contrast against the darker olive artillery, I chose them because they looked like Dr. Mario and the boardgame Epidemic, both great games. I basically envision the Nurglings infecting the targeting operating system with Space Invaders. Many, many thanks to the Lost & the Damned board right here on B&C.
  10. Good day, lads. I want to ask you about how you deal with Ultramarines with Guilliman armies. I have played several games versus them and suddenly realized that I can't actually win these games against Guilliman + literally anything. I would not lie, my opponent is quite experienced player, still the army he plays is actually nothing special. It's all bout endless rerolls of everything, and I'm not that good at safe rolls (if this can be an issue ). When your opponent hits with 90% of everything and wounds with 80% of them hits, it's pretty difficult to survive, and I have no actual idea on how to counter this thing. It's usually Guilliman + centurions + any kind of heavy support, for example predators or land raider. My army is a mixture of detachments of different chaos legions. Commonly I bring some Spearhead detach. on Alpha (havocs, obliterators) and Batallion with Berzerkers + Chaos Lords in Rhinos (sometimes Chaos Land Raider) on World Eaters. I'm eager to hear your opinions on this topic, please share your thoughts and experience, thank you.
  11. This is my new blog for Thousand Sons First of all my currently completed pics; The first two rubricae to bend their will to Ishaq the Unchanged: These were rapidly joined by Aspirant Abasi and his warpflame spewing brethren: Here's the current item on my workbench:
  12. Hi all, A buddy and I had an interesting interaction the other day... I used Tide of Traitors to move my Cultist blob and my buddy used Infoslave Skull to fire on them with his Vanguard. Now for Infoslave Skull to activate the opposing unit needs to be coming in from reserve. But Tide of Traitors doesn't come from Reserves, it starts on the board and since it is removed from the battlefield then placed again and not coming from Reserves, it's more of a redeployment, right? We ended up placing my Cultists but not firing on them because we weren't sure. Or is it just a matter of us overthinking it and since ToT doesn't state the Cultists come from reserve there was no issue? We are still wrapping our heads around 8th since we don't get to play very frequently. Thanks for any help.
  13. Hey gang, Following some great feedback surrounding the first infinity mirror portal (here), a friend of mine asked for a set of four: one for each Chaos god. And, having had some difficulty explaining the process through pictures, I'm doing a series of project logs to show the construction and details of each one. Check it out when you have the time, and I'm open to ideas for the Slaanesh portal, as explained in the video. Cheers, Project log (10 mins): https://youtu.be/TnXg8p19wQM
  14. Hello All So first time posting but I've been reading this forum and reddit in the last week a lot. Basically I need some help please. I used to collect GW back in the old days some twenty years ago but have somehow gotten that bug again when randomly at a car boot sale last Sunday (I never go to these i just thought it would be a laugh). Turns out I randomly purchased for £5 someones old bits box and a combined 2nd and 3rd addition of blood bowl. But blood bowl can wait. So I emptied the box out Now I was thinking can i build an army here without spending anymore money. Not because I'm grumpy but this could be fun right? Limited resources and creative ideas ahoy. So I'm asking for some much needed advice and help with this and I'll post pictures and updates of the process obviously. As far as I've gathered this is now 40k version 8? and it seems a codex is now £40 ? ? ! ! how did this happen? I'll go through this more tonight but so far there's a lot of Space Crusade Marines, some of the original plastic Rouge Trader Marines, 4 and a bit Terminators, 2 very broken SC Dreadnoughts, 23 humans were they diggers from Gorkamorka?, 2 Zombie sprues and a couple Berserkers. There's also an almost complete chaos spawn, some damaged skeletons and what appears to be a bit of everything old and forgotten. I'm guessing you still need 2 Troops and a HQ so I've counted at least 20 Marines in various states. And since it's a mix of Imperial and Chaos I'll bash them together. There's also about 20 citadel paints, plastic glue, super glue and one unused box of milliputt. So it's a bit like one of those old starter sets but ridiculously more affordable but in piss poor condition. I then emptied what I thought was just bubble wrap and found a load of sand, rubble bits and 28mm bases. All Ideas welcome. Thanks
  15. I have decided to open a WIP topic dedicated to my Primaris Chaos Conversions. I already have a WIP post, but I guessed my current effort deserved something dedicated. I have just brought the Dark Imperium set, and I am simply astonished by the new Primaris bodies and their potential as conversion material! Surprisingly I found very little material about "chaosification" of Primaris in Chaos Marines on the net; if some of the wonderful people of this community can point me at some examples I would be grateful First I thought to just make some Champions out of them (I need new Sonic Blaster bearing champions for my noise marines units); I guessed they would look great as giants among pears and easy to spot, for once Then I was impressed with the first results, started a possessed and seen it turning in my hands into a Dark Apostole. Then a Warpsmith was due Then, then, then... I guess I will give each conversion a single post with pics, explanation and some fluff, editing it to show progresses (unless a mods discourage this) So: THE PROJECT Convert some beautiful chaos people from bigger marines, share info, get hint, work slowly but steady to build some elite guys Pics are awful, sorry THE MAIN ARMY All this new models will be added to my existing noise heavy Slaneesh army THE FLUFF The warband originates as a group of posers, a cover band, if you prefer :-) Origins are clouded, but It is told that at least 4 companies of a Space Marines Chapter called Seekers, never came back from a sacred pilgrimage to the Istvaan system, to "See the root of Heresy". Some decades after a Warband of renegades started to roam the galaxy looking for noise weaponry, trying to attract veterans from the III legion at every occasions The Sublime Sound Seekers belive that the most "blessed" can hear the galaxy sing, and if you move with that song, you will be invincible, eternal, perfect. They follow this belief with extraordinary abandon, only few of them indulging in rational "thinking" before act following impulses, so they have been constantly manipulated by cunning sorcerers, more experienced Chaos Lords and all matter of obscure power. Finally they managed to host with their ranks some elements of the original III Legion, finally attracting the attention of the ever vigilant Fabius Bile Bile and his associates, recently experimented with may voluntaries among their ranks, in his search to steal the Primaris formula from Kawl. Those are the best results jet
  16. I'm really happy how these turned out, so I thought I would share them. They are made from the dark angels bikes from the dark vengeance box and assorted chaos bits (from the chaos marines and fantasy chaos warriors boxes, for the most part). They will be painted in purple and gold, and will be part of my emperor's children army.
  17. What it is is I've hit a slight snag with the back story. In short there are too many threads, but that's not important. What is important is that having to pause and contemplate those threads has given me time to finish some painting and modeling projects I've been meaning to get round to. So, without any ado, the first installment of the Legions of Kraven Showcase. Here's Foronax the Daemonsmith and some of his servants and creations. Next up a few of Charn the Blind, riding atop his former First Acolyte Semik There will be more, as soon as the things I've ordered arrive
  18. The Forge Foronax stood before the leaders of the army that had saved his life. His wounds still ached but they were already healing and his legs supported his own weight when they had entered the hall. It was still cluttered with the detritus of battle, bodies broken and burned piled sometimes thee or four layers deep carpeted the floor. His benefactors had not flinched, just as they had not flinched when they had blasted the two Astartes ships apart, or when they had been sent by some sorcerous power directly onto the planet below, or when they had ruthlessly wiped out the fragmented and isolated Ultramarines, even as Foronax’s Warpsmiths led the few remaining dreadnoughts and daemon engines in a counter attack. Now the last of the fighting was over and they had arrived in his hall, following up on the deal they had brokered with him whilst the second wave of his creations was being slaughtered. ‘We are minutes away and will break the siege, all we ask in return is that you listen to our offer.’ So here they were, two Astartes in black terminator armour. Foronax’s trained eye recognised the ancient suits from the days when they were new, and when he was still human. “You have come a very long way, Brothers.” he growled, his voice laden with a healthy amount of guarded suspicion. There may be honour amongst thieves, there usually wasn’t any among traitors. “I trust your offer will be more appealing to me than the one he made.” he gestured with a metal tentacle at the slumped body of the former Commander. “Undoubtedly,” one of the duo had replied, he wore the more ornate of the two sets of armour, more adorned by his new faith. His companion seemed to have kept his armour meticulously unmarked. Foronax wondered if he could even still remove it, the thought of being able to take off armour repelled him, but he hid it well as the armoured figure continued. “We are called the Heralds of Kraven. I am Dariel, this is Sepharion, and we have indeed come a very long way. Longer, I suspect, even than you, Lord Foronax of the Iron Warriors.” The name brought a sneer to the daemonprince’s mouth. “It has been a long road for us all since Istvaan. But I see the Sons of Horus still fight the same way.” The second figure, with the unmarked armour, identified as Sepharion, laughed. “I doubt the Sons of Abaddon would care to be reminded of that name. And I doubt their motives for rescuing you would spare you their wroth at its mention. Never the less, we were not at Istvaan, for better, or worse, and the master we serve wears no armour, black or otherwise. For the moment, at least.” Foronax made no response, letting his silence demand they continue and make the offer they had spoken of, if indeed they were not here simply to kill him for their own ends. “It has taken us long years to seek you out, Lord Foronax,” the one called Dariel began again, “We have heard much of you but never a hint or clue as to your location, this wonderous place.” “It is my Planet Forge.” Foronax told them, “It is ancient, built by humans before the age of strife. With its power, with the power of this planet, there is nothing I cannot create.” There was warning in his voice, a subtle way of reinforcing both is usefulness to them, and his power. “Indeed. That is what the rumours say. The burning heart of a planet, harnessed and used to fuel a structure larger than most arcologies. A wonder of the galaxy, buried and forgotten at the heart of one of the Mechanicum’s prized forge worlds. The irony of the universe is truly infinite.” Foronax was silent again, so Dariel continued, his voice soft, cajoling. “But now the secret is out. While none of the ships escaped our ambush, I do not doubt at least one of them managed to dispatch some fragment of a message, something that will eventually draw more foes to your door. And your Forge is exposed now. How many more barrages can it survive? How many more can this planet survive?” “Make your point or be gone!”Foronax snapped, his many tendrils quivering in sympathy with his anger, even as they absently probed the many bodies, gathering data. “Your Cult is badly mauled. The mechanicum priests that sheltered you are all dead and your creations have been decimated. You need allies. We wish to be your allies.” “And in return?” the Daemonsmith rumbled, “what is the price of this beneficence?” “Only that you continue to work your Forge, Lord Foronax. Let your furnaces roar and your gears grind. Build up new generations of creations better than those who fell here.” ”Is that all?” “Not quite.” Dariel admitted, “we would also request that you embark on a special project, something unique.” “What?” Foronax asked, unable to hide his interest at the promise of a test of his abilities in the forge rather than on the battlefield. Dariel told him. “You would have me build a vessel for…? A what?” “For our master.” Sepharion interjected, “We would have you construct a suit of armour for the vast will of our Master, Kraven, to occupy.” “More than a suit.” Dariel corrected his brother, “This is no mere skin to cover the flesh and bone of a mortal. This must be a solid construction of iron, metal and warp-forged steel. This must not be built, it must be sculpted, and it must have at it’s heart, this.” Dariel beckoned to one of the other black armoured figures that had entered in the wake of the Heralds. He held out a large silver container, square and solidly build. Dariel took it and opened it’s lid, turning it so the Foronax could see the contents, revealed behind a cloud of super-cool gas. He growled, slow, rumbling and resonant. It was a growl of pleasure. “You recognise this technology?” Dariel asked him, closing the lid again even as Foronax’s many tendrils focussed on it and began inching nearer, “and you recognise it’s value.” “That is a Void Node.” Foronax said slowly, running the reams of data from his tendrils through his mind over and over, “A device to harness the very space around us, to generate as much energy in the palm of a hand as this forge does with the heart of a planet.” he growled again. “You see now that this is no ordinary request, no simple task. What you create will hold the bound essence of a God. It must be as strong within as it is without.” “Stronger.” Said Sepharion grimly, “our master may not care for his new abode as much as my brother thinks.” Foronax saw Dariel glance at his fellow Herald, he smiled. People were people. Flesh was flesh. No amount of power, no amount of technology could change that. Foronax was very glad to be rid of it. “I accept your offer.” he said at length, still lost in analysis of the Void Node. With further study, the kind of further study needed to implant the device into the creation they wanted, he was just about sure he would be able to copy it. And then. Oh, the possibilities. --- That had been six long months ago. Six long months of endless work, not just on the great project, but on rebuilding his creations. He and his Warpsmiths rarely tired of their work, but now they were beginning to show the manic, frenetic work of geniuses pushed to the edge of madness by pressure, heat and endless toil. He had already had to dismember several specimens after their makers became reckless. For himself he spent most of the time sequestered in his own cavernous chamber thick with machinery and systems cobbled together from all corners of the imperium and beyond. Here he controlled much of the functions of the Forge, but not quite all he was forced to admit. The structure had its own defences for example, but they had never shown even a glimmer of functionality for all Foronax’s attempts to cajole the machines to return to life. Now the centre of his chamber was occupied by the vast slab on which lay in semi-constructed majesty what would be a towering suit of terminator armour. Its outer plates still not attached, Foronax could see clearly within, exactly where he knew they would be, the lattices of circuitry layered over one another just as Dariel had instructed him, infused with the samples of that strange metal they had produced when he had demanded to know just how these delicate systems would survive even the lightest jolt. Analysis of that material had been futile, his many senses had no clue what it was or where it had come from. That irked Foronax, and he had made plans to acquire some of it when he had the finished suit ready and was in a position to barter. He also looked at the container beside the slumbering metal. Looked and lusted after what was inside. His analysis of that was proving much more fruitful, he realised it to be based on a similar principle to the Gellar Fields the loyalists still had to use to protect themselves from the naked majesty of the warp. Of course the materials used and the circuits that controlled it were still beyond him, and would be until he saw it in action. Until he saw it in action… His ponderous bulk, with its many metal tentacles move surprisingly quietly towards the waiting container. A huge hand eased the lid open to reveal, behind its usual cloud of vapour the device. It was small, about a foot in diameter, it was made of, or at least covered in a pale bronze coloured metal. There were no obvious mechanisms on it, but Foronax could see the charged plates just under the surface with his extra senses. The contacts. Also he could see faint lines of circuits running along the inside, but they were too vague to copy with any hope of accuracy. Any hope while it was inactive. Picking a set of tools up from a nearby bench with one of his tentacles, Foronax lent forward, he had deduced the activation mechanism quite quickly, though he hadn’t let on about it, for fear that the Heralds wouldn’t trust him alone with it. They were right. With a click and a faint hum the device came alive. In Foronax’s many sights it glowed brilliantly, charging up, bringing itself online, preparing to create a small pocket of absolute nothingness, and harvest the energy that would pour forth to fill it. He watched as those faint lines became burning bands, visible to the naked human eye, but he remained unmoved. Watching as the power within built up and the pressure mounted. He felt the change in the air when the tiny space at the centre of the node was forcibly emptied of every particle, every photon. He wondered if artificial void had an effect on the warp, and if so what it could be. He was wondering this when the room was flooded with white light. Dazzled Foronax stumbled backwards, his flailing limbs and tentacles knocking many delicate and irreplaceable machines and instruments to the ground. The light wasn’t coming from the device. It was coming from… Everywhere. The whole universe seemed to shine, in every direction all Foronax could see was shimmering light. He was lost in a see of brilliance. Then the light seemed to cluster, seemed to shrink, seemed to pull itself together. Slowly it receded, it no longer occupied the entire room, it continued to shrink and Foronax could see that though it itself was glowing, the light it gave of had no reflection; nothing it fell on was illuminated, so that as it began to form itself into the vague shape of a human it seemed to be the only real object in a room of shadows and shapes. The figure moved slowly, a head made of light turned this way and that, arms reached up to try to touch walls, machines, hanging cables. The gleaming limbs passed through the solid objects like smoke. The figure regarded its hands for a moment and then turned to face Foronax. It was impossible to say it looked at him, there were no eyes in the face, but it was turned towards him, like a blazing inverted silhouette. Foronax had indeed come a long way from Istvaan. He had found the Forge. He had risen to daemonhood not by the pleasing a dark master or by slaughtering billions, he had built his new form, grown it within himself using raw warp energy and the power of the forge. He was not a newcomier to the forgotten places in the wide galaxy, he had faced many strange, wonderful and hideous apparitions there. But here now, in his own chamber, in the heart of his forge, he stared dumbstruck at the being now manifesting before him. There was the sudden sound of footsteps from beyond the door behind Foronax and then a frantic pounding as a fist beat upon its locked surface. “Foronax!” Dariel shouted from the other side, “Foronax! I know what you’re doing! You must let me in! Open this door now, Foronax!” The door did open, but not at Foronax’s command. Dariel burst into the room. He took a step forward eyes wild and darting around. The found the glowing figure still hovering above the Void Node and he fell to one knee. “My lord.” he said, his eyes on the floor, “Forgive me my lord we… But it was… We could not hope to… Please, I meant no… I understand, but what were we to do? I… But my lord, you sent us back, you told me of the Void Nodes. You… My lord, we did not know. We have learned. We are strong. We have kept close the truths you showed to us… We… No, no my lord. I am sorry.” Foronax had the distinct impression of hearing only one side of a conversation. What ever was passing between Dariel and the entity released by the Void Node was only partially visible to his many senses. When Dariel relented he seemed to sag under a weight of regret. Even as he stood his head remained bowed, not looking at the brilliant shining thing as he reached with one gauntleted hand to deactivate the device. As the hum of energy and the heat faded so did the apparition. It did not disappear, or explode, or implode like he had seen daemons do on occasion. It simply faded, as if it was being painted out of a picture layer by layer. The brilliance dulled, the brightness became distant, and at last all that remained of the thing was the bruise purple afterglow in the many eyes mechanical and semi-organic belonging to Foronax. After a moment Dariel spoke. “What you have done has jeopardised everything I and my brother have worked for for nearly ten millennia.” his voice was coloured by sorrow, tinged with regret and smothered a barely suppressed anger, “What you have done will force me to brake a promise to my master. This incident with make the conclusion of our work all the more challenging.” “That was Kraven, was it not?” Foronax asked, data still spooling across his vision, “Your master. I thought he was a daemon you and your brothers planned to drag up from the depths of the warp. But that was no warp manifestation. Just what is your master.” Rage matching that in Dariel’s voice brimmed over in the Daemonsith’s tone. This ‘incident’ had alarmed Foronax, he was not used to experiencing things that were entirely new. He had dedicated ten thousand years to that goal himself. The emissions from the thing, Kraven, was as frustrating as Dariel’s remonstrations. The Fallen Angel raised his head, facing down Foronax, his ponderous armoured form still dwarfed by the towering Daemonsmith and his many mechanical limbs. Dariel stared up, his face hidden behind his helmet, Foronax stared down, his face hidden behind a daemonic snarl full of metal teeth. It was Foronax who relented first, turning away with a snarl, he returned to his machines, returned to the project. Dariel watched him, seemingly lost in thought. “Do you know exactly how the Void Node functions?” he asked t length. Foronax didn’t turn around. His huge hands and many tentacles continued uninterrupted. “Is there anyone now living who does?” he replied, “It is understood to use some kind of Gellar field to produce an artificial void, and that the resultant vacuum draws energy from the very universe, which the device harvests. I could give you a much more precise answer, if you allowed me to examine it freely.” “It does not appear you need our sanction to examine it.” Dariel replied, “And while common understanding has the fundamental process correct, something essential has not been remembered.” “And what is that?” “That the universe in question is not this universe.” This time when Dariel spoke Foronax did pause. His many limbs stopping their rhythmic clatter for a moment before continuing. “The Warp.” he concluded. “Yes, and no.” Dariel said, stepping forwards to look down at the prone armoured figure that was taking gradual shape beneath the Daemonsmith’s skilled hands, “The void that is created is not the simple absence that exists between the stars, nor the formless infinity of the warp, it is something else entirely, as is the energy that is pulled in to fill it. The modifications our distant ancestors made to the Gellar generators in the Nodes do not create nothingness by forcing matter and energy apart, they create nothingness directly. In ships a pocket of reality is created and maintained within the shield, within the device a pocket of positive nothingness is created.” Foronax growled again. There was no end to Dariel’s obtuse explanations. It was the one thing he liked about Sepharion, at least he was direct and talked plainly. “You assume nothingness can only be the absence of some material things.” the Fallen Angel continued, seemingly unconcerned by the Daemonsmith’s obvious irritation, “That is one kind of void. Another, more absolute kind is that void from which all things first came. The Primordial Nothingness. It is that which is created by the Void Node; a pocket of the Primordial Chaos itself. That is where my Master resides. That is why activating the node drew him here. The presence of that pocket in the material universe draws in the energy of the Primordial Chaos like the presence of real matter in the Warp draws daemons. When you gave in to your curiosity you dragged him out of his infinity, you focused his will through the lens of the Gellar fields, and you tied him to our world through that lens.” Foronax had stopped his work, stopped and turned to Dariel to listen intently to the explanation. Inside his head he tallied what he was being told with ten millennia of collected data. He cross-referenced terms; “the Primordial Chaos”, “the Great Beyond”, “Three Element Theory”, “The Relata Cult”, each avenue of inquiry leading to five more. Connections were made between seemingly insignificant footnotes of history and Foronax felt suddenly that he had waked on stage during the final act of a performance that had begun even before Horus had declared his rebellion. There were many players and many parts, but all were now being drawn slowly together for the final moment. The nature of that climactic moment Foronax could hardly guess, but as his eyes turned to regard the armoured thing he was building, he felt that it was closer at hand than many could imagine. “Who was he? Before all this?” Foronax asked awestruck when Dariel finished. “Who was he? Who were any of us when all this began? Just men, just humans living out short lives in the face of the churning storm of history, plucked from nowhere and remade, rebuilt to be the greatest hope of our people. He fought like we did, he obeyed, like we did, he rebelled, like we did. And yet he still is the greatest hope for humanity, as in our own way we each strive to be.” Foronax snorted derisively. Their people had turned their backs on all of them long ago, it was against humanity, not for it that Foronax now fought and laboured. “You may think so,” Dariel replied, quite literally reading the Daemonsmith’s thoughts, “But everything we do, everything we have done, is part of something larger, grander and more intricate than anything we can conceive of. We all walk a path appointed to us by one who walks before and after himself, who makes his own path, who makes all paths. But I have said enough, and it is bad enough that Sepharion had been proved right again without my divulging what is to come before the appointed time. For now, you must redouble your work. You must bind the joints and rivets harder, and I shall see to the procurement of more materials for you. There will need to be additional shielding around the Node. And do not make the helmet; that will be constructed separately.” “By whom?” Foronax demanded, returned to bubbling rage by this announcement that this prject was not his alone. “By the universe.” Dariel said absently, already turning towards the door, “and by me. My Master will like it even less than the one you would have made for him. But if he would not have come willingly before, now it may be a struggle beyond any of us.”
  19. Empire of Leng Formation: 001.M42 Allegience: Nurgle, Ynoggua the Daemon-Star Leader: Antirex Cystus Capital: The Barrows, Leng system Sector: Verana Segementum: Ultima Races: Human, Uropygid, An'Guem, Cardicae Forces: Carrion (Heretic Astartes), The Forgotten (Heretic Guard), Million Favoured Ones (Mutant Cult), Malaport's Marauders (Pirates), Yellow Fang (Xeno) The Empire of Leng is a Chaotic dominion that arose during the horrors of the Great Rift, beholden to Ynoggua the daemon-star. Stretching across several systems it is ruled from the Barrows. An asteroid field that rings Ynoggua, the Barrows are made up of the former inner planets of the Leng system that were destroyed in the birth of daemon-star. Countless thousands live in the tunnels and habs of the Barrows, some purpose built, others cannibalised ship hulls. It is, as a great man once put, a hive of scum and villainy. Pirates, mercenaries, smugglers, cultists and many more rub shoulders in the markets, arenas and dark temples of the Barrows. All swear fealty to Ynoggua, the Sulphurous Duke, the Yellow Prince. Unable to walk the earth in his current form, Ynoggua’s regent is the Antirex, Cystus. A veteran of the Long War as a member of the Death Guard, Cystus and his band the Carrion helped birth Ynoggua, a child of Nurgle. In the depths of the Great Rift even on worlds not directly touched by the warp storms, it seemed the Imperium and its institutions were doomed. Loss of communication and transportation saw famine, plague and anarchy grip countless planets as all from Governors to serfs wondered if the end had truly come. In the night sky a strange star burned and some whispered it the herald of a new dawn. Various secret sects formed on a dozen worlds, the Astral Wisdom Cult, the Tattered Brotherhood, the Yellow Covenant, all bowing to the herald of redemption Ynoggua. Led by Cystus, the Carrion travelled to isolated frontier worlds as often greeted as liberators as they were invaders. On the agri-world of Rurana 3, though the aristocratic leadership remained true to Holy Terra the same could not be said of their mutant slaves who rose up, their deformities not punishments but gifts in the eyes of Nurgle and Ynoggua. The elites and their defence forces were slaughtered by sheer weight of numbers, the survivors ‘baptised’ in fetid waters to receive the blessings of Father Nurgle. The new masters of Rurana embraced the Sulphurous Duke as their mutations only increased. Led by the Goat, a hideous hooded demagogue, the mutants form a ceaseless horde of fanatic warriors known as the Million Favoured Ones. On the promethium rich desert world of Zedar, a hastily assembled Imperial Guard army was quickly abandoned due to commitments elsewhere, leaving thousands of loyal soldiers to the plagues and guns of the Carrion. The commander of Battle Group Zedar, Marshal Tonman Brenner, a career soldier from a respected family, cursed the dying Imperium for its treatment of her bravest servants the Guard. Desperate for himself and his men not to die pointlessly on that burning rock, he met with Cystus and pledged his fealty to Ynoggua. Many of his soldiers refused to join the forces of Chaos but thousands whether out of corruption, a need to survive or loyalty to the Marshal did so. What remained of Battle Group Zedar became the Forgotten, a legion of soldiers abandoned by the God-Emperor and bent on exacting vengeance upon his lackeys. Though nothing compared to the Traitor Astartes of the Carrion man for man, the cohorts of the Forgotten form the professional core of Ynoggua’s armies. The anarchy brought about by the Great Rift proved a boon for pirates and other criminals. Due to the disturbance of the Astronomican, many pledged their allegiance to Chaos if only for protection. Most infamously in the Verana Sector was Dagon Malaport, rogue trader turned pirate lord. Malaport’s Marauders hunt the space lanes of Verana in the name of Ynoggua, slaughtering and pillaging as they go. Experienced boarders they are highly prized by Cystus as assault troops, their brigand heritage belying their tactical skill. On Galeata VI, the current front line of Ynoggua’s invasion of the Imperium, the Marauders launched a mass gravchute drop over both banks of the River Mignola, seizing the strategic Miklos Bridge in bloody close-quarter combat. Uropygid The Empire of Leng is not limited to humans. At its highest level the Antirex is counselled by the Uropygids, a secretive cabal of xeno sorcerers said to have conducted the ritual that led to Ynoggua’s birth. Though few in number they are feared as powerful psykers, their bizarre insect-fungoid biology giving them a natural affinity for the warp and the blessings of Nurgle in particular. The An’Guem, reptilian mercenaries prized as scouts and trackers make up a large section of the armies of Leng. Once the premier power in the Verana Sector, the xenocidal campaigns of the Imperium shattered their realm, overturning a millennia of regional dominance. Many turned to Chaos for salvation, their faithful forming the Yellow Fang. Others retain their old gods but nonetheless fight alongside the Antirex against their mutual enemy. Most unusual are the Cardicae, plant-based xeno feared for their biological weaponry. Rarely seen beyond their home world and then usually enslaved for their powers, the blessings of Nurgle were readily welcomed by them and it is said their planet is now a rampant garden of the Fly Lord, where countless unthinkable abominations are being grown to join the armies of Leng. Planets of the Empire of Leng (light green) and major worlds of the Imperium (red) in Verana Sector ________ As I plan to jump back into 8th edition and always one who needs fluff to accompany an army, here is the rough stuff for Leng, a pocket empire dedicated to Nurgle, or rather his son Ynoggua born from the anarchy of the Great Rift. Getting DI box I'll be focusing on a Death Guard army but Guard are my first love so I've added the Forgotten, basically a Nurglite Blood Pact. Plus some minor xeno races for flavour, notably the Uropygids who are inherently Lovecraftian, I intend to convert a Mi-Go model from Actung Cthulhu to act as a stand-in Sorcerer. A big Mythos fan, I plan on having a weird theme over the traditionally daemonic, the obvious being Ynoggua and my paint scheme will be bone, rusted iron and yellow the inspiration being the King in Yellow. When I (eventually) get round to creating a daemon-prince model for Ynoggua instead of the normal bloated MegaNurgling (lovely though they are) I plan on a grim reaper-esque figure with a rusty scythe, yellowed rags and a faceful of tenticles. So many tenticles. Please all C&C is welcome.
  20. The Assault The bombardment had begun before dawn, several months before, in fact. Bolts of fire from high above rained down on the polar continent, shrouded in seasonal night. There had been no icecap for thousands of years, all there was waiting for the descending inferno was dry, barren tundra. The perpetual twilight was lit up raggedly by the explosions as the projectiles and lances hit their mark, though nobody was left alive on the surface to see them. Debris was hurled miles into the sky or vaporised instantly in the blinding nuclear apocalypse. More ordinance pounded down, scouring the earth, blasting craters out of craters, gouging a gaping hole that rapidly became visible t,o the auspex scanners, and even from the viewing gantries of the orbiting ships. The bombardment ended after several earth grinding hours. It had left behind a landscape broken. Vast canyons gaped where the force of the ordinance had cracked the very crust of the planet, valleys so wide and deep, entire mountain ranges existed within their ragged rims. Areas of land burned to glass by the ferocious heat, elsewhere rocks flash-melted ran in dull red, smoking rivulets, the very air around so super-heated that the lava barely cooled on contact with it. All this was hidden behind a dust cloud so vast it had already begun forming its own violent weather pattern. At its edges, where it met the already dust filled and battle beaten air from what had once been the temperate mid-latitudes, lightening storms were already building, their discharges visible above the clouds as they earthed around the planet’s unusually strong magnetosphere. The scanners of the Ultramarines Strike Cruiser Ardent Justice had also detected that, but paid it little more attention than to relay the information to the gunners so they might calibrate their weapons to compensate. Even now, as their dropships prepared to take off and descend into the tempest below they were far too occupied by the faint signatures now readable that the kilometres of rock above them had been so efficiently removed. It was certainly a cluster of buildings, hidden impossibly far down below the surface, practically floating on the liquid outer core of the planet. The head rising from it was clearly not entirely the result of the prolonged bombardment. Vents had been riven in underground chambers and gasses burned as they escaped. In the mechanical eyes of the scanning displays, it looked like the very heart of hell. Never the less the lives of the scout force had dearly bought the report that the lair of the monster they sought was there. That creature was why the world had been laid waste, why the once proud and mighty forge world now burned beneath a desolate sky. Because at its heart there had been a daemon. How long it and its traitorous followers had hidden there, been sheltered there by the gullible techpriests and forgemasters Emperor only knew, but at least now justice had been done. Or was about to be done. It was several more hours before the area read as habitable, even for the enhanced bodies of the Astartes and their power armour. As soon as the signal was given though, the drop pods and ships swarmed from the flanks of the strike cruiser and its sister ship, the Swift Mercy. Between them they launched two companies of Ultramarines in a rush into the crucible below. The turbulence was intense, maintaining formation was impossible, navigation was done on auspex alone. Never the less there were relatively few mishaps as the landing zones were secured and the armoured warriors saw, dim and still half buried in semi-molten rock, the edifice they had unearthed. It was clearly merely the uppermost levels of a vast complex of truly ancient providence. The fact that it had survived in such depths was proof enough of that, the bombardment that had finally revealed it to the air had hardly marked the smooth black surface was almost insignificant by comparison with the titanic forces of this tartarian delving. As the Marines filed out, taking up firing positions or launching signal beacons to guide the larger craft into landing, the heat was intense, taxing their armour and endurance. None among them dared remove their helmets, their internal readouts telling them that even with their enhanced bodies, it was only the filters in their helmets that kept them from slowly choking on the dust and radioactive debris in the air. Around them lava flowed, showing no sign of cooling and the squads were forced to march single file between rivers of bright, smoking red. The soot stained their blue armour and the heat made the cooling vents on their power packs whine in protest, but still they pressed on, clearing a way for the dreadnoughts and tanks that rumbled or stamped after them on the uneven, vaguely plastic rock. Within that structure, which was indeed older than the Imperium the foolish Space Marines now reaching its outer skin, Foronax was waiting. He had easily guessed what the response would be when the fragmentary reports had been received by the so very predictable Ultramarines. They had scanned and scoured, their thunderhawks and stormbirds flying the same old search patterns over the polar continent. He knew what they would conclude, he knew that the structure could easily withstand the bombardment. He was less certain about the outcome of this assault. He had hoped that the short-sighted loyalists would burn the cities and hives on the surface, declare their mission accomplished and move on to their next self-righteous action. But no, his lair had been discovered and now they were coming for him, coming for his creations. Those creations were now arrayed to defend the structure, the fortress, waiting in ambush for their enemies to enter it, to become embroiled in a bitter struggle over corridors, rooms and stairwells. Waiting for them to over extend themselves, waiting for an opportunity to emerge from vents and ducts, from hidden panels and false floorboards. Foronax meticulously planned all of this before the first shots fell from orbit. Now everything was in place, all they needed now was for the Ultramarines to walk into it. And yet, for all his confidence in his creations and in his planning, Foronax was not certain of victory. He was out gunned and out numbered, and worse still he had nowhere to run. He had built too much in this structure he had found and re-purposed long before the Mechanicum had come to colonise the planet above. He would stand or die here, on the strength of his many creations. This was his Iron Cage. --- Many squads fanned out in all directions from the scant half-dozen of weak points identified and exploited in the thickly armoured and shielded shell. Scouts and battle-line squads advanced in tandem, covering one another as they passed junctions and stairways, new squads coming up from behind to take the newly found forks. Behind them hulking terminators formed the main edge of the force, ready to move up to support their brothers when they accounted the enemy. Behind them came Devastator squads, their plasma, las and melta-cannons still hot and steaming after being employed to blast open a door by united and combined fire with the company’s dreadnoughts and tanks, those of whom that could fit, followed last, squeezing through the breaches and sticking to the primary corridors and main stairwells. It was all too quiet, and uneasy reports passed between the sergeant and their captains. Ambush became more and more certain in the snaking, interconnected corridors, but still they assault must be made, now or later. So they pressed their soldiers on, warning them to stay alert, to watch every shadow, report any movement. When that movement came, it was from a direction nobody had expected. The few units now left outside the structure, mostly the larger tanks and some squads to hold the breach, suddenly reported movement; from above. From the smoke and dust filled sky above, skittering and sliding down the curved and bastioned surface came a wave of horrific flesh-machines. Things once human landed on the backs of deadnaughts, their mechanical feed ending in piercing pincers that bit through the heavy armour and held them fast. Their hands and moutsh were iron jaws belching orange fire and they pointed all three downwards, melting through the carapace and cremating the living body entombed within in a hiss of vaporising amniotic fluids. Larger beasts landed on the tanks, many spidery limbs ending in vicious hooks and sizzling arc lamps. With the hooks they pried open rivets and tore off tracks, with the arc lamps they burned out weapon systems and communications arrays. Some hulking things, horribly muscled, simply battered down on the roofs of thanks with fists made of solid, spiked metal until the plates below caved in. Other things fell among the squads; lithe leaping things with whirring chainswords for arms and mouths that fired grappling hooks were suddenly all around the marines, butchering and battering indiscriminately. Eyes replaced with arcane runes or auspex arrays searched madly for new foes, mouths replaced with weapons or lout hailers spat bullets or bestial growls at the Ultramarines as they rallied around those few tanks from which the attacking things had been blasted by concentrated fire. Frantic calls for aid from their brothers within went unanswered, their signals jammed by some new force their enemy had not revealed before. For all their ferocity, or all their horrible weapons, the creatures were not well armoured, save for the largest ones, and they fell rapidly under the fire now responding to their sudden offensive. Likewise, in the whirling melee the advantage of surprise had begun to pass, and the exposed flesh and mechanisms of the creatures made easy targets for chainsword and combat knife, for all the terrible toll their integrated weapons exacted before they finally succumbed to their wounds. Of far more worry were those fiendish pouncing things with metlaguns for mouths and hands that scorched their way through tank after tank as soon as they had them in range. The demands for support were repeated and at last a response got through. But the answer was dire; no help would come. Hidden explosives had collapsed specific tunnels, cutting all but two of the attackers lines of retreat. Worse still the explosions had also signalled the counter attack. The entire force had suddenly found itself engaged. At the forefront, the scouts were set upon by semi-formed machines; servo-skulls with limbs still attached swung from the shadows to claw and bite. Other flesh-monsters also bounded out of the darkness, falling with abandon on the marines supporting from them. Many legged, insectoid things eased their way out of hidden compartments and unleashed flamers and spearing pincers on the backs of the beleaguered marines. Only the Terminators fared well; setting upon the ambushes in their path with cold fury, blasting or pulverising the creatures that tried to skewer and rend their nearly impenetrable armour. Only when the melta-mouths came among them too did things become more evenly matched, though at best each abomination could only take one of the mighty attackers with them before they died. Foronax did not think it would be enough. And sure enough before long the first wave had been beaten, not beaten back, the things knew no fear, just beaten. Advancing again over their broken bodies, and lamenting those of their many fallen brothers, the Ultramarines were on the move again. They were led now by the Terminators, and at their heart their Commander Polos Sebastan, resplendent in golden armour much decorated by honours and purity seals. The way behind them was now taken and held room by room by the rest of the infantry; every room was cleared, every surface scanned for hidden surprises. None were found. They really were so very predictable. Outside the battle had also subsided, those few units able to exit the structure had arrived and though they had taken a terrible toll on the tanks and dreadnoughts, all the abominations were at last dead. Communications were still patchy, but fearing renewed assault on their only fall-back position, the units did not venture back inside after their brothers who now advanced further into the unknown and ancient structure that was Foronax lair. --- When the second wave made its presence known the terminators were ready. Their storm of bolter fire withered the first ranks of charging creatures before a single blow landed. This time the advance was without pause, for all the ferocity the things still showed. They were simple creatures, once the mind had gotten over just how vile they were, and they died easy to bolt and sword. Commander Sebastan and his lieutenants shouted encouragement as the Terminators continued on, marching through corridor after corridor, down stairwell after stairwell. Their had been elevators, but nobody thought climbing in would be a wise move, so they were ignored. After the last stragglers of the second wave had been blasted out of the way by the Terminators there was again silence aside from pounding feet. More of their number had fallen, and Sebastan himself had taken several glancing hits, his armour visibly scuffed by battle now. They had descended many levels when the noise began. It was ahead, and below, and it seemed still far off. It seemed like a dull roar, or possibly many hundred dull roars all merging to one rumbing chorus that rattled the roots of this blasted planet. Another level down and the roaring was clearly audible, even without the enhancements of their suits. Another level down, and the roaring was accompanied by rhythmic clanking, the pounding of industry? Or the pounding of metal feet? When the first beast came into view the Ultramarines had advanced down through no less than fifteen subterranean levels within the structure, and now at last they seemed to be nearing the heart of it. The heat had increased yet further, and the lightly armoured scout squads had been forced to hold position, unable to venture further though it stung their Space Marine pride. Those brothers to led the force, the Commander and his veteran terminators had descended yet another staircase down yet another spiralling shaft and emerged onto a corridor many time wider and higher than those above. The commander fancied they had entered in the bowels of the structure and were only now coming to the parts intended for habitation. There was no furniture, no decoration of any kind, just bare metal walls and floor that resounded with their pounding feet and echoed with the sounds of the roars and metal feet, getting ever closer. The first thing was four legged, built like the wolves the commander had seen used by the sons of Fenris, but while they were as awe inspiring, these were far more hideous to look at. Metal jaws dripped thick oil, iron backs were layered with plates of ceramite armour, powerful legs were moved by hydraulic pistons that protruded from their joints. Red eyes burned visibly, and when it opened its mouth to roar, more fire poured from between its jagged teeth. It charged. It charged into the sudden welter of bolter fire. It died, screaming and roaring, the metal of its body twisting and buckling under the impacts. But more were already rounding the corner, predatory eyes falling on the intruders. More came, and more. Tens, then dozens of them, some larger, some much larger, advanced down the wide corridor to meet the advancing marines. Though many in the first waves fell never knowing the taste of flesh, so many more did, and fell upon the attackers as ferociously as had their humanoid kin on the levels above. In pairs the wolf-things bore down terminators, ripping arms and legs out of position. Large ponderous things with fists bigger than a space marine battered and pounded whole squads of battle-brothers even as they ran to support the embattled terminators. It was not until a fresh wave of heavy, sustained fire spat from the rear, shredding two of the hulking monstrosities and raking the advancing ranks of other creatures that the battle began to turn again. Three dreadnoughts, their autocannons chattering came up to support, and behind them squads of devastators hurried forwards also added their retorts. The brilliant muzzle flashes of their guns sent death screaming into the creatures slaying them by the score. More came to replace them, more came from other directions. More came from every direction. Scuttling things dropped from the roof, melta-mouthed things ran forwards from darkened corners, more hulking armoured beasts appeared behind their smaller kindred, twisted mockeries of Astartes dreadnoughts, flesh and metal combined to form a deranged killing machine almost without parallel. The Ultramarines dreadnoughts charged them, flattening or scattering the things between them. The armoured machined duelled together as all around anarchy reigned. In the centre of it all Sebastan fought. His storm bolter forgotten and discarded, we wielded a thunder hammer in each hand, whirling and spinning with his momentum, each swing pulverising several of the creatures or cracking the legs, backs or skulls of the larger creatures. He weaved and dodged, battering down all that came at him, until he saw something, something new. Behind the last wave of metal beasts pouring into the ferocious close-quarters battle new enemies had at last shown themselves. Heretic astartes fitted with mechanical servo-harneses stalked into view, their bolters sighting and firing on exposed flanks and unwary backs. Sebastan swore an oath of revenge on them for their many blasphemies, not least of which being merely existing, and charged, shattering the spine of a wolf-creature with one of his hammers as he strode past. The heretics before him did not rush to meet him, they continued to survey the carnage before them like detached researchers. Instead they silently parted to allow a thing that had been hidden in the smoke filled shadows behind them to make itself known. Sebastan’s charge dwindled to a halt when the Daemon came into view. Foronax had at last committed all of his forces to the defence, around him his Warpsmiths directed the fire of their havocs as more and more of his beautiful creations were massacred. And here before him was the man, the fool, the dog, responsible. Foronax roared, his vast bulk dwarfing even the largest of his many beasts, and bounded forward to meet Sebastan’s renewed charge. Hammer met axe in a ringing clash. Metal tendrils swarmed Sebastan’s other hammer, trying to wrench it from his grasp, he let them, taking his remaining weapon with both hands he powered it forwards matching the daemonic strength of his enemy with righteous zeal. A tendril lashed out at him, he caught it with a gauntleted hand and twisted. The barbed blade in broke off in his servo-assisted grip and he tossed it aside as more of them advanced on him. He stepped back, bringing his hammer to bare, its discharge scattered the swooping things, some of them seemingly damaged by the energy of its passing, fell limply to the ground. But Foronax was on him again, axe swining around to scythe through his arm. Sebastan managed to block it, but the force of the blow was so fierce that he took an involuntary step back under the barrage. Before him he could see the grinning maw of the daemon, slick with oils, and the fire rose up in him. Shifting his hold on his weapon he deflected the force still being piled on him by the daemon, and, stepping forwards again he brought the energized head down onto the creatures over extended leg. He heard armour buckle and whatever passed for bone inside that cursed body crack. Foronax roared louder, his mangled leg unable to support his massive weight. Tendrils speared into the metal floor, digging in with their barbs and holding him up, but the blow had staggered him and Sebastan was already capitalising on the opening. Repeated blows of the hammer slipped by the guard of the axe and landed on the bespoke plates of Foronax’s armour. He sank to one knee as a blow split one of his enormous shoulder guards. Sebastan raised the hammer high, ready to crush the daemonic head and end this at last, but stopped at the last moment. Stopped because a ringing silence had descended on the scene, stopped because he saw that all around his brothers were dead and the Warpsmiths of Foronax were surrounding him. He looked back at his foe, still broken, still inches away from death, and faced the priming muzzle of a meltagun, mounted along with the tentacles to Foronax’s back. The last thing the Commander heard before the weapon discharged and melted a burning hole through his helmet and out the back of his armour, was the crackling vox-link. A panic-stricken fleet officer was telling him enemy reinforcements were emerging from the warp; black heretic Astartes ships that were rapidly reducing the Ultramarines fleet to orbiting scrap. Glorious victory had become ignoble defeat.
  21. The Failure The vortices filled Charn’s vision. They had eclipsed all else in the Gallery long before the mortal eyes of his brethren had even seen them. They built like collapsing stars, sucking the warp into their fiery hearts, fueling his will, driving them like folds in paper against each other and the universe, bridging the gap, opening the crack. When his staff released the pent up energy and the whirlpools of light swallowed them Charn could already see the other side. The dim hall, with dark, angular statues and walls. Blood was thick on the walls and floor, congealed into a thick, hard, slightly gelatinous carpet that deadened the sounds of the dozens of armoured boots landing on them as the warp ejected them like sand through a sieve. As his feet felt the material realm again Charn pulled the bandages from his eyes. He could see them clearly now, before they had been diffuse but bright clouds, now they were the deep, blood red of rapacious souls. Crucibles of hate and pain and death. The Dark Eldar. His cabal had arrived in a large chamber, high ceilings and dimly light steps on either side told of galleries and hallways more like an anthill than an outpost. And from all directions Charn could see the aliens coming. They moved like worms of fire through their tunnels, alerted to the intruders perhaps ten seconds too late. His Thousand Sons responded without hesitation. They formed four lines in a square, two files of blank faces with those fiery blue eyes staring outwards, with their Captains, Charn and his Acolytes in the centre. As the first Eldar appeared at the stairs they opened fire. Bolts spat through the dark heavy air and the aliens recoiled, their light dexterous bodies kicked back against the wide stone flags by the withering fire from Charn’s Cabal. Another archway was suddenly lit up with a shower of explosive shells as more aliens raced to the scene, desperate to overwhelm the attackers before they could gain a foot hold. In moments more Eldar had arrived and on all sides there was the relentless, deafening crackle of bolter fire. As more aliens clustered around the killing fields under the wide arches sporadic return fire began. Singing fragments of razor-sharp and nano-meter thick projectiles spun towards the Cabal in answer to their continued volleys. They lacerated through Charn’s automatons, slicing armour, shattering weapons, and carving limbs. He watched one crumple to the floor, his trapped soul flickering and sputtering as it railed against this damage. Then the former space marine creaked and groaned to its feet and levelled its gun once more. Joining in seamlessly with its fellows, matching them movement for movement. Charn fancied he could hear the ghostly whisper coming from the Rubricae, the terrible battle chant of the Thousand Sons. ‘All is dust.’ They chanted it without feeling, relentless like their fire, never faltering, never stumbling. Utterly mechanical they performed their task, ruthlessly, and soon the corpses of Dark Eldar warriors littered the entrances to the hall. Charn signalled the advance with a silent command. The four lines broke, each advancing towards one of the walls, keeping their weapons trained on the doors. Behind them their champions walked, while Charn stayed in the centre, where he had landed. He was searching again, looking through the warp at the newly revealed interior of the pirate base, looking what he came for. --- Semik kept his eyes on the door, the hail the automatons were laying down kept the Dark Eldar out of sight. One hand he held his halberd, in his free hand a ball of red fire was held. With a psychic command the automatons parted for a moment, long enough for him to hurl the pulsing, living spell at the cowering aliens. It crashed against the stairs, releasing its power and enveloping them in its warp fire. Semik smiled as he heard them scream over the endless whispers from the Rubricae. They rolled and flailed on the steps as the fire melted them body and soul. By the time the steadily advancing lines of Thousand Sons reached them the last survivor had twitched its last and, like the rest, was trampled under the unstoppable boots of the Cabal. Reaching out with his warp-borne sight Semik surveyed the levels beyond the front line of Rubricae. The Cabal had arrived in some large chamber on the bottom-most level of the complex, Semik could feel Charn’s will searching back and forth over the floors above, and the orders that filtered down from his mind into those of his Acolytes as they directed the Rubricae brethren further into the Eldar base. Semik and his charges reached the top of the winding, bone-carved stairs with implacable slowness, stepping over the many fallen aliens and their own fallen comrades with the same disinterest a mortal man might tread on dead dry leaves. Through his mind Semik scrutinised the shadow images of the corridor above and ahead. In fractal slow motion he watched the lithe feminine figures dart out of the concealing shadows at a bend in the corridor, he saw them dance towards his Rubricae ducking and weaving with preternatural speed around the hails of bolter shells. They closed the distance with eerie ease and were suddenly there under the guard of Semik’s brethren their cruel barbed blades flashed down and up in shimmering arcs scything open armour and reducing marine after marine to piles of shredded metal fragments. All this Semik saw, foresaw even, as he and his Cabal crested the stairs, all this he had been told by the whispers of his dark patron. So when he looked at last with his material eyes down the empty and deceptively quiet corridor he was ready. Binding oneself with the twisting powers of the warp grants perceptions that transcended mortal imitations of time and space, so as Semik sent his mind forward to spy on the future intentions of his enemy, he was already aware of them, he had already seen it, and was already preparing an apt response. In his outstretched hand a point of blue-white light had begun to form before ever his eye-lenses saw the spot where he knew the Eldar witches were hiding and with a sardonic grin, a lazy flick of his wrist and the sound like a rapidly approaching scream, he let the energy loose. The powers of the warp are fickle, and not without a sense of dramatic irony so in choosing his course Semik had, instead of merely dowsing the corridor with mutating flame or blowing the xenos apart with blasts of sorcery, he used his own preternatural abilities to guide the aim and bolts of his Rubricae, to guide them unerringly to the targets they would otherwise have missed. So when the Eldar burst forth from their hiding place what would have been, what could have been, their intricately evasive dance ended rapidly. Each side-step and pirouette that had taken them spiralling out of the path of the oncoming fire now brought them around and back into the path of other bullets streaking out on trajectories subtly nudged and redirected by Semik’s will, and each musical laugh and ululating war cry became a shriek of rapturous pain as their inhuman skills were twisted and manipulated, were used against them to seal their fate. With mechanical precision and ever directed by their champion the Rubricae mowed down the charging Eldar and in a few brief and bloody moments all of them had been reduce to sprawling, mangled heaps of dying flesh. The Cabal never broke step nor uttered a single word beyond their ghostly chant as they passed over the bodies and rounded the corner to face the next wave of increasingly desperate defenders. --- In a nearby and structurally identical corridor Charn was directing another group of identical Rubricae against an equally doomed knot of Eldar. They had fought a rear-guard action up the spiralling stairs, using the darkness and the higher ground to land crippling blows on the heads of the advancing marines. In the end they had been unable to stop the march of those automatons, but the cost had been high and Charn now walked over the cluttered fragments of increasing numbers of his Rubricae. He listened with detached irritation as their psychic screams marked the dragging of their trapped souls back into the warp. Ahead, withering before the continued fire of the surviving marines the Eldar were falling back, trying to make the bend in the corridor where they could regroup and reform the line before the sorcerous projectiles of the Thousand Sons send them too screaming into the warp. Through the glowing, erupting rifts that were his eyes Charn was already among them, his terrible will was waiting for them when the handful of unscathed Eldar rounded the corner and turned at bay, he was there inside the mind of one of them, inside their body. He was there to listen to the grotesque gurgling of its alien innards and he was there to pour heat into those innards. He let the naked burning heat of the warp leak into the unfortunate Eldar. He watched as it felt the burning pain, while it pawed weakly at its armour and limbs, when the pressure mounted inside, when it clasped its hands over its head and screamed in agony. He only receded when the explosion had enveloped its fellows and left them all writhing and burning as the momentarily liberated warp energy sought frantically to dissolve all it connected with. When the Rubricae turned the corner they found only a blasted crater, were the stone and and corpse alike was rapidly cooling and re-solidifying. At odd angles and in odd forms the remains of the Eldar jutted and bulged from the heat-warped walls. The boots of the Thousands Sons left deep, smouldering prints in the still semi-molten floor as they passed on to another set of stairs. Charn urged his Rubricae on up those stairs two at a time, they were getting close, and there were now too few defenders to hope to hold them back. His will walked unclad as his body marched alongside his brethren, his will scoured the many rooms and alcoves for something, he knew not yet what. He dashed aside delicate, bladed implements of pain and upended jars of unspeakable liquids in a room that was half torture chamber, half laboratory. He ripped down shelves of ancient mouldering texts written on flayed skin in languages whose hellish runes pulsed malevolently in the darkness between the pages. These he would later have collected and returned to his library for study, but just now even the desire to peruse these alien texts was eclipsed by his drive to find… It. --- With his Rubricae continuing the advance against the Eldar Semik too was searching. Like his master he sent his mind bustling back and forth, but unlike his master, he could not resist the temptation of pausing to examine the wealth of forbidden alien knowledge that he knew Charn would secret away at the first opportunity. The warp-echoes of the books and dataslates tingled with promise and burned deliciously as Semik probed their contents, eagerly absorbing the information within with practiced ease. Their titles and abstracts were depressingly uniform; these Eldar pirates thought of little else than the tortuous infliction of pain, on others and on themselves. If any of the Rubricae retained a flesh and blood form, Semik would almost have considered continuing some of the hideous experiments carried out so diligently by the alien denizens of this hidden outpost.` His indulgent revere was interrupted by the rippling explosion of psychic pain that blossomed suddenly on the floor above. It blotted out every warp-shadow in its stricken fury. Semik flinched and a visible shudder rang through the empty armour of his Rubricae in sympathy. At his urging they sped up, the noise of their armoured boots rising in tempo from a steady drumbeat to a rapid hammering as they mounted the elegant alien stairs two at a time. Semik was in the lead but while still unable to see through the fresh waves of pain breaking all around his mind, was wise enough to slow and allow some of his faithful Rubricae to pass ahead of him and through the door into the room from which the sound both material and immaterial was echoing. It was well that he had done so, for as those unflinching automatons rounded the door and stepped, sorcerous bolters already blaring they were engulfed in a blast in unlight that made Semik step backwards involuntarily. The impossible un-matter of the Eldar weapons impacted the Thousand Sons and annihilated both them and itself in a gout of heat and radiation that did not quite muffle the sound of delirious laughter from beyond. When the shimmering explosions died away molten fragments were all that remained at the head of the stairs. Semik recovered quickly, knowing there would take only a few moments for those arcane weapons to recharge and fire another deadly volley, and willing his remaining Rubricae on. Together they crested the smouldering stairs, crushing the carbonised fragments of their comrades. Ahead Semik could see the Eldar clearly, lithe forms hefting bulky lance-like weapons with ease, taking careful aim. But Semik was already among them, his mind swooping forwards ahead of the bolter fire supplied by his Rubricae. He dived headlong into the many mechanisms and machines driving the alien weapon. He watched as it powered up, crystalline circuitry funnelling energy from the generators to the firing system. With a ghostly grin Semik flicked one of the thousands of tiny hollow fibres through which the deadly un-light was about to race. Semik returned to his body in time to hear the whine of the weapon’s charge-up sequence shudder and die. For a split second there nothing happened in the middle of the continued fire from both the alien’s fellows and the ponderously charging automata under Semik’s command. Then the explosion of darkness blossomed out as the weapon ripped itself apart. Envelopes of un-light expanded rapidly, consuming the firer, still looking down at his misfiring gun. When the pocket of impossible matter collapsed the blast took the rest of the Eldar from their feet, scattering them across the room. Nothing remained of the unfortunate at the epicentre of the explosion. Semik didn’t pause, three more of his Rubricae had been struck down in the charge, ripped open and destroyed by the xeno-weapons. Silently directing them to continue the advance and deal with the dazed aliens, already rising to their feet, recovering rapidly from the shattering impact. Behind the line that they had formed, the line he had charged and broken, Semik could see the source of the psychic screams that he had felt so keenly from the floor below. The broken body of one of his brother sorcerers lay broken and bleeding at the feet of a leering Eldar. It’s once beautiful form twisted by aeons spent devising tortures and sufferings ever more delicate, ever more intricate, ever more excruciating. It bent low over the body of the Thousand Son, eager to prolong the pain, eager to push its super-human captive to the very limits of his endurance. Semik was not going to give it that chance. He sprinted forward, his armoured boots ringing from what ever xeno-material the floor was made of. He raised his staff and brought to point of the bladed tip down like the lance of a charging knight as he barrelled towards the Eldar. It saw him and in an intricate, spiralling roll, during which it seemed to balance on nothing more than air, it dance out of the way of the oncoming blade. Semik had expected this, had long studied the eldritch abilities and crafts of the Eldar, and had fought them more than once. His other hand was already grasping the weeping hole in reality that was the first epicentre of yet another blast of sorcery. It never came. His stretching arm hurled the ball of blue fire over his head and into the path of the pirouetting alien. With unerring prescience, it struk home in the centre of its torso. It erupted over the creatures body, flames licking over robes, weapons, armour and skin, but doing no harm. The momentary scream of expected pain died in its throat, to be replaced by laughter as, the flames rapidly dying, it drew a short but wickedly barbed blade and lunged for Semik, still off-balance after his headlong charge to the aid of his brother. But not for nothing was Semik First Acolyte of Charn, not for nothing had he survived ten thousand years of service to the Lord of Change. His mind was his shield and his word and with a gesture he summoned a wall of force that caught the alien blade as it stabbed up towards his guts. It stuck there in mid air, held in place by the force of Semik’s will. The alien struggled, gripping the hit tightly, trying to wrench it free. Semik spun, bringing his staff round in a singing arc, the force of his mind joining with the force of his body, combining so that when the glowing blade connected with the alien’s exposed side, the black plate armour it wore, the robes that covered them, the flesh beneath, melted before ever the edge cut into anything. Power discharged rapidly through it’s body as the wide sweep disembowelled it. It screamed, in pleasure. Semik clamped a hand over the high, proud, scarred forehead and with a final blast of energy turned the thing’s brain to bloody mush, which finally ended its rapturous moans as it tried to hold in its escaping entrails. Letting go of the foul creature, which fell with a wet sound to the floor, Semik turned to his fallen brother. Up close he could see it was Ahmenak, a lesser Acolyte than Semik, but still one that should have known better than to let themselves fall into the hands of the Dark Eldar. Ahmenak opened bleeding eyes to see Semik sanding over him. He tried to talk, tried to express his thanks, to lament the loss of his Rubricae, but that never came either. Semik inverted his staff and drove the point down clear through the breast place of his fallen brother. “The Chaos Gods accept no failure, brother.” he whispered as the light died in Ahmenak’s eyelenses. --- Elsewhere, at the blackened, blood-soaked heart of the outpost, Charn had also encountered heavier resistance. Tall, heavily armoured aliens with white helmets and heavy glaives had barred his path and cut down many of his Rubricae. He also saw Hastelath beheaded by them, the spell he was casting evaporating on his fingers as his body fell. They had fallen however, their armour still no match for the blast of enchanted bolters and sorcerous minds. There had been others too, the other scattered defenders retreating to hold the chambers of their lord and master, but Charn had cut through them too. He hand his remaining Acolytes and Rubricae had battled through corridors and up stairs carpeted with the dead, now they had battered down the final door and within Charn had found a foe worth of his power. The Dark Eldar Archon was a horrific parody of life. The skin of her face had a pale, deathly quality to it, and Charn realised it had been flayed off and reattached, several times. Her tightly fitting armour was festooned with spikes and blades, from which hung many grizzly trophies; severed heads, severed limbs, even mummified organs danced fitfully as the Eldar advanced on Charn, the last of her body guard engaging his Acolytes. In each hand she held a long, delicate sabre. Power hummed from their blades and poisons dripped from their edges. Her grin was dark, malicious and cruel. She pounced at him without a word, without a sound save an ululating war cry and a whirlwind of shining steel. Charn wielded his staff in both hands, its solid warp burned shaft withstanding the savage blows, though he was forced to exert will to reinforce it as more and more rained down on him. He twirled and spun his weapon, managing by sorcerous power to keep blocking her deadly dance. Every parry and deflection was absorbed by her spinning movements, turned back into another sweeping attack that Charn had again to move to block, each one a killing blow. But as so many times before it was Charn’s will that prevailed. His glowing warp eyes held the gaze of the Dark Eldar, reached into the blackened and hate-filled heart of the alien. That was where it was weak; that was why its body was honed to such a perfect machine of killing. Fear. Fear of what awaited it beyond death, what lurked, hungering for it on the other side of Charn’s warp-eyes. He smiled, and his mind went on the offensive. --- Semik rounded the arched doorway at a run, trampling the many bodies piled up underfoot. He fumed silently as the last of his Rubricae thundered along behind him. Charn had deliberately sent him that way, he was sure of it. The old fool had purposefully directed them away from where he expected his prize to wait. He had wanted him to get lost amongst the laboratories of the Dark Eldar, perhaps even wanted him to die at the hands of the Haemonculous. But his gambit had failed. He had not expected Semik to sense the duel his master was engaged in, not expected him to clear the lower levels so rapidly. The old fool. Semik skidded in the archway. His brother Acolytes were battling the last of the heavily armoured guards, and Charn was a blur of movement as he and the Eldar Archon clashed again and again. Semik raised his arm, already preparing to unleash some timely intervention, perhaps he would glue the alien’s feet to the floor, perhaps… He paused… --- Charn knew he was winning. Not because the blows of his opponent were weakening or the movements becoming sluggish, quite the reverse. The Archon, fuelled by the pain he was inflicting on her, moved ever faster, struck ever harder. Several times he had been unable to bring his staff around in time to block a blow and had had to rely on his rune encrusted shoulder guards or gauntlets to deflect or absorb the blows. None had yet penetrated his armour, but he could feel the caustic poison deposited from the flashing blades slowly corroding the reinforced places. Yet he knew he was winning. He was winning because the battle being fought with blade and muscle was only a small part of the struggle. The other part, the greater part, was hidden from physical eyes. From his warp-eyes poured forth into the mind of the Eldar a stream of images, whisperings and prophecies. Charn had looked into its perverted soul and seen its fears, now he showed them to her, forcibly playing them on the inside of her skull. The thirsting maw, the screaming fall, the disembodied mutilation, the final dissolution inside the very being of that thing beyond. Oh yes, there were many things that haunted the soul of the Eldar. Now Charn gave them body and voice in her head, sapping her will, tearing at her spirit, wounding her soul. Still that pain fuelled her as much as physical pain would have, still it made her faster, harder, stronger, even as her soul struggled and sputtered under the tirade of psychic torture Charn was subjecting her to. She screamed and laughed to match Charn’s stoic silent concentration. She reveled in the rage, the pain, the death all around. Charn could feel the tiny black mote of her conciousness slipping away under the torrent, feel her grasp on herself slipping, feeling that becoming a weakness as strikes became overstretched, as the dance changed beat randomly. Finally even the dance stopped, the Archon, her limbs quivering dropped her blades, her fists opening and closing reflexively. She sank to her knees, giggling laughter still leaking from between her lack lips. Charn lowered his staff, his eyes still holder hers, still pouring liquid terror into her brain. He reached out a hand, placed it on her forehead. Her eyes closed, she sighed, and fell backwards, blood dribbling from ears, eyes, mouth and nose. --- Semik watched his master dispatch the alien. Reluctantly he moved his arm, sending the charged spell streaming at the last standing Dark Eldar. It struck him, held him in place, helpless as one of the Acolytes bisected him with a sword licked by warpflame. When the spell released him, letting the body fall twitching to the floor silence finally reigned. Semik stepped forward into the room, the throne room, he now noticed. Behind the spot where Charn and the Archon had been fighting a once elegantly carved chair rested on a raised dais. Once elegant, it had been scratched, carved and stained so many times in so many ways with so many things it now looked more like an archaic instrument of torture than the seat of a leader. Semik ignored it though, and bowed to his master. “My lord.” he said, “The battle is won. The last pockets of resistance are being purged by the Rubricae, and I see you have now cut the head from the serpent.” he nodded at the prone body of the archon, still bleeding freely. “She is not dead yet.” said Charn, his burning warp-eyes still unclad, even though the battle was done, “And neither am I.” he added, stepping closer to Semik, to stepped back from the brightness of his master’s eyes, “Much to your disappointment I am sure.” “My lord, I rushed to your aid!” Semik protested, though he slowly clenched a fist, just in case, “As soon as the lower levels were clear, I and my Rubricae came directly here, to your aid.” ”Not directly.” said Charn, his eyes still holding Semik’s, “You spared time to murder your brother.” “Ahmenak was a fool, he...” ”Ahmenak was your brother. Ahmenak fought with us on Prospero. Ahmenak has been with us these ten millennia as we plied the tides and flows of the Warp seeking to understand, seeking to learn, seeking to carry on the glorious work of our legion in the name of our Masters. He knew much, he studied well, better than you Brother.” Semik didn’t see the spell. Hadn’t noticed his master’s hand move. He had been held by the hypnotic gaze that contained a portal onto his own soul. The force wrapped itself around his body and squeezed. Semik screamed, fell to his knees, struggled to breath. He heard his armour crack. “You still do not understand. You still see our mission as a means to some other end; power, control, mastery. But that is not our nature, or the nature of our masters. Perhaps,” he Charn added almost thoughtfully, “Another ten thousand years of watching will teach you this lesson.” His hand struck out, his armoured fingers striking the centre of Semik’s helmet, a ripple of eldritch energy passed down his arm and earthed itself through Semik’s brain. It burned, he choked, gurgled, brought up mouthfuls of blood. Charn stepped back, releasing is former Acolyte from the psychic grip in which he had held him. Semik collapsed to his knees, blood coming thickly through the grill of his helmet. His body boiled under his armour, flesh melted together, organs combined, atrophied and grew again in different locations. From behind his arms spears of bone erupted out, spreading and thickening before the onlooking eyes of the other Acolytes into leathery wings. His crouched legs sank back into this body, a long sinewy tail protruded from his back, horns broke through his helmet. His chest rippled and widened, rips breaking through the surface as armour and flesh combined. Inside his head thoughts were dissolving, ideas, concepts, plans, all seemed to melt away in the face of bestial instinct. Semik tried to raise himself to his spasming feet, then Chan stepped forwards again. He raised his armoured boot high and brought it down sharply on Semik’s head. He doubled over and Charn stamped down again onto his back, splitting the powerpack and broadening his mutating body still further. Charn mounted. Stepping up on the foot that now pinned Semik to the floor. Both feet now planet on a back that was already becoming a smooth, black surface for him to ride on. Cowed, the Semik roared and bucked, his short legs and arms leaving the floor like a quadruped. Charn stayed balanced, raised the staff high, and brought its pommel down hard on the back of Semik’s horned, blood stained head. The last echoes of Semik were vaporised by the precise needles of psychic power Charn drove into the back of his former Acolyte’s head. With that the rebellious, ambitious Thousand Son was gone, and Charn stood resplendent on his back. Charn had not killed him, Charn wanted those eyes to see everything that would come from now onwards, everything that he could have been part of, even if there was nothing left behind those eyes to see them. With a thought Charn whipped Semik into movement. The great leathery wings flapped once and mount and rider rose gently, impossibly into the air to hover at head hight above the remaining Acolytes, all of whom fell to their knees in reverence to their master, and their master’s master. Returning to the ground, Charn stepped off Semik’s back, a slight expression of his will forcing the thing to fall into shuffling, four-legged step behind him as he rounded the marred throne and advanced on what was in truth the final door. The barrier behind which the real prize waited.
  22. The Interrogation In the empty void high above the burning planet of Alteer the many dozens of ships comprising the crusading fleet of the Angels Abject orbited serenely. The last of their many guns finally retracted as the ground forces of the chapter completed the reconquest. It, the campaign itself had been reasonably short and decisive, what had taken so long was the original response. Alteer was a minor world in a sparsely populated sector, its tithe was minimal, though of course every container and solider was essential to the continued existence of the Imperium. But its obscurity and minor roll meant the reports of the attack and the organisation of a response had spent more than a decade in bureaucratic and logistical back limbo as the information was decrypted, assessed, classified, sent on, reclassified, a suitable response decided, sent back, reclassified again, assessed again, a realistic response cobbled together from nearby or mobile forces, classified and encrypted again, before finally being distributed to the various commands involved. All of which was why when the Imperial response finally arrived, with a core consisting of the first company of the Angels Abject, three regiments of Astra Militarum and a detachment of the titan legion Morbus, the heretic forces on the planet had not only been deeply dug in, but had held the planet for nearly fifteen standard years. To the few remaining uncorrupted inhabitants of the planet Imperial rule had become a distant memory, the Governor’s Palace turned into a citadel-cum-temple of spiked, blood encrusted stone daubed and carved with blasphemous runes and prayers, the once rich fields and pastures, fertilized by the blood of millions of sacrifices, nourishing hideous plants and ravening creatures. When the first drop pods and orbital ordinance fell on the cities and garrisons, those people probably assumed this was yet another torment unleashed by their pitiless overlords. They had been little more optimistic about the enormous armoured figures that emerged from those burning metal pods. Most of them had fled, cowering in fear in dark corners. Some few, out of either desperation, madness or perhaps a desire to earn the gratitude of their masters had even attacked the Space Marines as they secured the drop sites. That had been a short and brutal affair, little more than an annoyance to the Angels Abject as they advanced through the streets and hab-blocks. The armies and weapons of the rebels themselves had been far more effective and while they had, as the Angels knew they would, broken, it had taken longer and cost more lives than Chapter Master Alderos Erran would have liked, would have expected. It was not until the closing phases of the conflict that the reason for this stubborn and well coordinated resistance became clear. When the reports arrived from the front of Heretic Astartes in black armour at least some of the questions were answered. When the identity of those traitors was confirmed the entire company, brothers, serfs, techpriests and even the lowly servitors were all suddenly infused by a frenetic energy that seemed to unnerve their allies as much as it unnerved the enemy. The Angels had led the charges against command points and capitol buildings, going so far as to bar entry to other Imperial units, sending them on patrol, holding or guard duty while the sounds of ferocious battle rang from within. With this new vigour the planet had fallen in short order. The casualties were higher, the many names of his dead brothers inscribed by his own hand on the Chapter’s roll of honour, but the greatest prize had been taken. The greatest prize. Well, not quite. The leaders of these hated traitors had escaped at the last, using some Emperor-damned warp magic to effect an escape for themselves and many of their followers. The rest had been taken, or had died fighting in the dark basements of the final bastions. Now Alderos stood at one end of the long corridor that formed the central spire of the Black Level. The sealed of deck in the heart of the chapter flagship Retribution’s Light, and considered the rows of sealed, sigil encrusted cell doors stretching away into the distance. So many had been filled that it would take the Interrogator Chaplains most of the journey back to the Rock to provide them all with the final deliverance. Alderos would have smiled. The greatest prize may have slipped away, but the sight of the cells full of captured Fallen Angels was more than enough consolation. He would have smiled, but he did not. He did not because of the soft sound carrying gently out of the cells before him. From within came the unmistakable sound of laughter. Not boisterous laughter, not hearty laughter, which would have been out of place enough on any ship belonging to a chapter of the Unforgiven. This was mirthless, sardonic, unmistakably defiant. It was that defiance that made it so alien to Alderos and what curled his lip on to a scowl as he approached the door first on his right and returned the solemn salute from the armoured figure standing beside it. Interrogator Chaplain Erakiah Othran bowed to his master, and while both still wore their full battle plate and had their helmets tightly clasped in place, both knew the expression they shared. “Report.” the Chapter Master said, coming to a halt and folding his gauntleted arms over his massive chest with its white Imperial Eagle seeming to glimmer in the semi-darkness of the Black Level. “My Lord. My brothers and I began our work on the prisoners only three hours ago. But I have heard things from these traitors that I have never heard spoken before, by any prisoner.” he added, darkly. Once again both of them shared an expression, hidden behind their helmets. “Your communication said as much.” Alderos nodded, and then referencing the laughter that still trickled out from the cells all around, “When did they start doing this?” The chapter master had been forced to curtail a rather delicate meeting with the Lord-Commander of the regiments attached to the chapter for the campaign. He wanted answers, as so many had before him. Alderos would have liked to have given a more complete explanation, for all that it hurt him to lie to another servant of the Emperor. But he had instead been dragged down here, to listen to what he had assumed to be the ravings of another round of trapped, desperate traitors, being forced to leave the Lord-Commander with a deeply unsatisfactory explanation for his chapter’s actions and make a hasty exist. His assumptions had been wrong. “As soon as they regained conciousness, my lord.” the Chaplain replied, his visored eyes narrowed, “Before we had even touched them. And they continued throughout, even as they screamed.” Alderos drummed his fingers on his pauldron idly. Laughter in itself was not entirely unknown down here, the Chaos tainted heretics were wont to rant and gibber and laugh on occasion. But that was always frenzied, raving shrieks of laughter, not this stoic, almost mocking retort. “And what have they been saying to you brother?” “I believe it best for you to hear it directly. I doubt I could do justice to the blasphemy.” Alderos raised an eyebrow. His brother Chaplain was always so brimming with fire and bile regarding the excuses and appeals his ill-fated charges shouted at him, he rarely passed an opportunity to use them to extol his brothers, driving them on by demanding they prove their former brothers liars as well as traitors. This silence was almost as unnerving to Alderos as the laughter which had not risen or dropped since his arrival but continued in a soft chuckling melancholic underscore to their conversation. “If it leaves you without words, then I dare say I dread to hear it.” he managed something approaching levity, trying to cover his unease. The chaplain was not deceived. “I am far from without words, my lord.” Erakiah shook his head, “I merely admit that I could not, and still cannot conceive of the things the prisoner within has said to me in the last two hours. I believe you must hear it, as I believe we must make all speed back to the Rock, our brothers must hear of this, if it is true or not.” Once again the uncharacteristic dourness of the usually bombastic Chaplain gave Alderos pause. He had only have been joking when he said he dreaded to hear it. He dreaded nothing; he was a Space Marine. He still was sure he would not like what he would hear. Never the less, he nodded to Erakiah to unlock the door and pushed it open, stepping inside to hear whatever it was that seemed so important and unspeakable. --- The cell was like cells are everywhere. The walls and floor were bare; ferrocrete in this instance. There was no windows, only one door, and the barest minimum of a waste extraction unit set into one corner. There was no bed. Instead sprawled on the floor, naked but for a coarse loincloth a space marine lay on his back. His eyes were closed and he chucked under his breath, each making small movements in a face far far too placid considering its location. The Fallen Dark Angel opened his eyes when the Chapter Master entered, the grind of the door signalling an arrival some moments before his face was visible in the barely illuminated cell. He sat up, cross-legged at once, and on seeing his visitor raised an eyebrow in almost sarcastic amusement. “I am honoured, my lord.” he said inclining his head a fraction, something approaching a smile twitching the corner of his lips. Erakiah crossed the cell in two strides and was on the prisoner before another sound could be uttered. A steel instrument, barbed and pointed flashed in his hands and delivered a short, sharp and accurate jab to the prisoners exposed chest. The small puncture wound it left barely bled, but the prisoner fell back as if the Chaplain had struck him with the full force of his Crozius Arcanum. He also screamed. Screamed and writhed on the bare floor, hands scrabbling against his chest in reflexive attempt to remove the pain that was coursing through his body. Alderos know of the chemicals used by the Interrogator Chaplains, but preferred not to think to much about them, or what they did to a body. Instead he waited for the thrashing and yelling to subside, though, he noted ruefully, the prisoner still managed to laugh between gasps. When the pain seemed to have subsided, at least to a tolerable degree, and before the traitor had time to resume his hateful chuckling, Alderos stepped forwards. “I am here,” he began in a soft but threatening tone, “ because I have been told that you and your accursed brothers have something which I should hear, not to exchange pleasantries. You will tell me what you know quickly, if you do not want my brother to ply his craft again.” “He will regardless.” the prisoner spoke with strain on his voice, but still he forced out another laugh before continuing, “You will go and he will continue. He will continue all the way back to the Rock, and for years after I bet. Oh yes. He and I will be spending a lot of time together. No, he won’t kill me. He won’t want to. And neither will you when you hear what I have to say.” “Then speak.” “We do not fear death.” the prisoner said through more laughter. “Nor do we.” Alderos replied, and with a nod set the Chaplain forwards again. When he regained himself the prisoner spoke; “We do not fear death, we do not fear pain, because we have felt an excess of both. We have died, we have bled, we have been culled. We who died before ever you or your so-called brothers found us. We who drifted on the tides of the warp, being feasted upon by what lurks there. Oh, yes, we do not fear your paltry mortal jabs and twinges by comparison with that eternal agony. Nor, “ he said managing to chuckle again, “do we fear going back to that place, for we will return.” “And then you shall be captured once again.” Erakiah had heard his before; the tainted soul of the fallen would eek its way back into the real world through trickery or through some diabolic pact with a warp spawned horror. He had heard it all, and he had dealt with the monstrosities that resulted from such acts of retched degradation. He had seen them bound and howling, he had heard them repent their sins, or heard them die. Alderos waved a hand to silence his zealous brother. He too had heard and seen what might in some form return from the Warp after death, but this un-mutated, un-marked, un-marred space marine was not, or did not seem to be, such a thing. Was he simply lying? He claimed to have been sent screaming in death into the warp wither all souls are said to go, and to have come back without paying the terrible price. He must be lying. “You think me a liar. Then strike me down. Slay me. Send be back into the arms of my master and his Heralds, who will pluck me from the Immaterium and set be back down, armed, armoured and ready to continue the glorious task he has set for us.” Alderos was almost bemused by the tirade. It was not unlike so many other assertions of strange powers, or of dark patrons, that he’d read over his many years of service. “But it was not that which sent your brother scurrying to call you down here to…” the prisoner’s continued speech was cut short by another interjection by the Chaplain. As the prisoner thrashed and screamed again, Alderos turned to his brother and silently expressed his preference that there be fewer of these interruptions, at least for the moment. “Every well, my lord.” Erakiah replied, less than silently making is disapproval of the Chapter Masters request known. “I, and my venerable brother, have listened to enough of your kind making desperate boasts, even threats, when faced with the final retribution. So please, do tell me what it is that makes you more noteworthy than any of those others.” “I am telling the truth.” the prisoner said simply, laughter returning again, “I’m not a wide eyed zealot. I’m not some plaything of the ruinous powers dancing for their amusement, hoping, praying for some favour or boon. No. In truth those ‘gods’”, he spat the word, “are little more than shadow puppets themselves. Monsters cast by the soul of humanity shining light on its dark heart. No, the power I boast of, the power that now threatens you and your deluded mission is not some fickle warp entity, or even some vile incantation devised by witches or sorcerers. No, this power comes from somewhere else entirely. Somewhere which none of us have ever been, but which has reached out and touched me, touched my brothers. Set us aside for a great purpose.” “Name it.” Alderos demanded. “Him. Not it. Him.” the prisoner’s chuckles rose to almost hearty levels, making Erakaih forget the request of his lord and jab the device deeply into his bare neck. The screams broke, becoming high pitched and screeching as the prisoner collapsed in indescribable, but not total agony. The chemicals delivered in vast dosage directly into the arteries that fed his brain caused it to very slowly shut down. The prisoner fell backwards, his limbs now sprawled at odd angles by violent spasm spasms. Alderos barely noticed. Because he had heard the name shouted amongst all the vocalisations of pain. Because he knew that name. Because the man who had told him of that name and what impossible things the Chapter Masters of the Rock believed it to be connected to had also made him swear that any Fallen Angel who spoke that name must be delivered back to the Rock with all haste and rendered directly into his hands. Alderos remembered the stern, indomitable countenance of the Grand Master as Sapphon had accepted the Chapter Master’s vow. Because he was already turning to the door, already activating his suit’s vox-link to command that the Angels Abject fleet break orbit within the hour, leaving their brothers behind if need be, and that a course be set for the last reported location of the Rock by the swiftest route regardless of danger. Because he had heard the words clearly though the screams and the mingled laughter still escaping the prisoner even as he fell. “Kraven! Our Master’s name is Oreanas Kraven. Walker of the Straight Path. It is he who rescued us, he who brought us together. He who will take hold of our souls in the instant we die and bring us back with new life to defy you again. Kraven! Walker of the Straight Path. Master of Chaos Primordial!”
  23. The Cabal The velvet void bubbled and rent itself open. The swirling pulsing energies of the Immaterium flowed and swelled through the rift; the lapping waves on the shore of the esoteric ocean. Fingers and claws of eldritch power curled outwards, clutching and dragging at reality's frayed edge. The hole existed for only a moment, before its own impossibility caught up with it and with a silent cataclysm of glowing light and roaring immaterial winds, it collapsed. But in the seconds it had existed, something had passed through. The great battle ship moved with steely purpose through space away from the last crackling remnants of warp energy. The trailing tendrils of blue-white vaporous power seeming to push it forwards deeper into the material realm. The sleek prow that tapered into a fine edge the split the space it passed through, the massed ranks of laser batteries and battle cannon that lined its expansive mid-section a testament to it's lethality. A cold, deep blue the ship sped quietly onwards, not propelled by the vast nuclear thrusters that clustered at its aft. No, it drew power from a far darker source. It was the Battle Barge Prospero's Fury. In ancient days it had campaigned from one corner of the galaxy to the other, bringing the light of knowledge and the strength of Imperial truth to the far sundered scions of humanity. It had been the pride of the 857th expeditionary fleet, and had carried the proud warriors of the 4th Fellowship of Thousand Sons in their quest for enlightenment and victory. Such days were long past now. For ten thousand years this great ship had plied the non-space of the warp at the bidding of its sorcerous masters, for ten thousand years it had borne its new Captain on his own quest for enlightenment. And victory. Deep within, the halls and corridors of the ship were silent as the grave, save for the rhythmic pounding of armoured boots on obsidian floors. The cavernous interior spaces, once providing the nerve centre and beating heart for a crusading fleet had long since been redesigned. Now these rooms and galleries held an endless horde of artefacts. At every corner, in every available space there was piled great and ancient books, brass instruments and outlandish oddities collected painstakingly from all corners of reality. Where once the Prospero's Fury had been a ship of death; leading the wave of humanity against a hostile cosmos, now it was, or seemed to be, little more than a floating museum of curiosities and long lost wisdom. Yet within its dark and silent depths there still burned a flame of life. Hunched low over the carved wood of the lectern, under the dim and flickering light of the ethereal blue of the torches, an armoured figure worked industriously. His grimoire open before him, his hand scratching the ageless quill of some xenos-avian over the delicate page. Resting close by the great four-horned helmet lay, its deactivated eye-lenses stared back at the lowered face of its owner. Charn the Blind, once Captain Hekat of the 4th Fellowship, though for him, like his ship, those days were long past. His blue, simmering armour shone fitfully with its own inner light, his waxy, taught, aged skin gleamed creamy yellow in the dim, shifting hues. The white bandages that covered what were once his material eyes glowed eerily bright, the light from what replaced those mortal sense organs. The pen scratched over the parchment of his grimoire never pausing, never resting as it consigned, in the most sacred traditions of the sons of Magnus, every thought, each revelation, all the secrets of the author. "Still the tides of the warp trouble me. The many crystalline paths of Tzeentch hide themselves from my sight. The future is clouded, so many possibilities vie for dominance that the shape of things to come cannot be brought into focus." The pen scraped on as behind his gently humming power pack the ornate door slid open. Through the frame there stepped another armoured figure, his head bowed in reverence of the work his master was performing. "My lord. We shall have orbit in one hour. What do you command?" The pen paused, though Charn did not move his head. "Make ready our brethren." He said, his voice dry and creaking. The sound of a thousand ancient books opening echoed his every word. The dust of ages was heavy on his breath, "And prepare the Sending. We must to take to the surface as soon as we can. We must prevent our quarry from escaping." "By your command, Lord Charn." The ornate helmet of Semik bowed lower as he retreated from his master’s room. The pen began again. "The signs have guided me to this place. It is an ancient site, the footprint of our history has never reached this far, what lies below will not be of our making. Yet here my steps have led me, and here I will find my answer. The Eye is still waiting." And now, for the first time the pen faltered. He had not intended to write those words. The eye is still waiting. For months now those visions had been creeping gradually upon him. The single great eye, a Cyclopean giant. Once, when he was still young Charn might have believed that the primarch was calling him home. But no. Millennia of silence had banished such thoughts even from his imagination. Magnus had forsaken them, there was no returning now. But then who was the Eye? Resolutely he put the pen down and reached up with both gauntleted hands to release the ties that bound the silken cloth to his ruined eyes. The pale fabric fell away in his hands, and the room was suddenly brightened. The fierce white-hot yet ice-cold light burned forth as if it resented being bound. The white holes in Charn's face flared like stars, and his tears of pain issued forth as tendrils of the Immaterium. Though these unclad eyes the world melted and warped. The image of his work and the chamber in which he was sitting fell away. Dissolving into multi-coloured chaos as he seeped out from and lived through those warp-spawned eyes. To look for answers. --- Prospero's Fury slid quietly onwards, hiding in the fierce solar winds that buffeted this remote system. Below the planet loomed, a dry, dirty brown ball hanging lifeless in space, spinning silently around its unstable star. Semik Sorcerer of Tzeentch and First Acolyte of the Cabal of Charn watched the deadly light ravage the surface, exiting the thin atmosphere and creating fractal patterns of green and red light that coruscated over the dead planet. On the far side, shrouded in perpetual night by the planet's rotation, was the destination. Lord Charn had guided them here, to this place. So remote it had no name in the tongues of man. Yet here they came, and here they would find the answer to the riddle that had begun to plague them all. Who was the eye? None of the Cabal had been ignorant of it, and all had guessed at what it might portend. Charn was content to sit and write his endless tracts and treatises, clinging to a forgotten past. Semik was not. He knew what the Eye represented, he knew what it meant. He knew what they should be doing. But the Blind Fool was too lost in history, too bent with defeat to see it. A growl curled his lips as he barked forth silent, psychic orders to the rest of the Cabal. His brother sorcerers reacted at once and the ripples of their assent found him one by one as he marched onwards towards the High Gallery. The Gallery was a vast, many pillared hall. It rose from an embossed, rune encrusted floor past buttresses of steel to the many impossibly high vaults of the ceiling. It had once been a hanger, those heights had buzzed with the legions of drop ships and fighter craft of the Great Crusade. But now it was hung with gilded incense-burners that poured perfumed smoke into the cavernous space, and lit by hundreds of braziers whose flames glowed blue with eldritch power, their flickering light cast dancing shadows over the runes on the floor. Shadows, Semik knew, that were not really shadows at all. He entered the Gallery sedately, walking slowly; his armoured feet rang on the polished marble and sang on the engraved gold of the many runes. His comrades were arriving too; processing solemnly, one from each of the eight doors. They all converged on the epicentre of the Gallery, where the huge eight pointed star waited. On each of the points was a tiered dais, and at the centre, the red eye of chaos was a vast ruby plucked from the craterous eye-socket of a deamon-planet by Charn himself, set with an obsidian pupil that glimmered in the dancing shadow creatures. Semik strode forwards into the raised, polished surface of the eye and inhaled. This was the spot. The hall, the very ship had been redesigned by the mind and naked will of the Blind Prophet, warping it and bending it to focus energy through this point. It poured through the pupil of the great eye upwards in an invisible yet tangible torrent that seeped up through the distant ceiling and round again through the attuned bulkheads and rune-carved gantries of the ancient vessel. Now Semik stood tall in the centre of that fountain, one place away from the glowing, gushing spout of power that marked were Charn would stand. His scowl returned, the intoxicating pull of knowledge, of abilities that ought to be is. His muscles twitched, trying involuntarily to move his body onto that sacred spot, but his will prevailed. No, not yet. Around him the procession of Thousand Sons had reached their appointed places. He and the seven other Acolytes around the rim of the great eye, the eight captains around them on the dais situated at each point of the great star, with their Rubricae brethren set around them, so that each point of the star was a star of its own. Semik surveyed the Cabal. The other Acolytes, exiles of Prospero, just as their leader, had followed him through the galaxy for ten millennia. Semik’s fists clenched. The fool had taught them much, it could not be denied, but he had no vision. The old man would wander space forever, as the dust deepened all around him. The armoured figure relished the image of the blind old man, walled in by his own books, the pages of his interminably long life piled up all around him and collapsing in a dry, dusty tide to drown him in his own history. Yes. That would be fitting. Then Semik would rise. He would heed the many signs his master was too afraid to notice, he would answer the Cyclops’ call and he would be the one to return the Cabal to glory. It would he him, sat by the feet of the primarch in the tower or sorcery, his fate that would be woven into the future of the galaxy, not Charn’s. Not that old, dusty, fool. ---- Looking out now over the vista of the Warp Charn's disembodied eyes soared onwards. Always he was aware of the room, the chair, the table and his own body, but they were vestigial now. A useless add-on to a higher consciousness. Through the portal of his eyes Charn watched the ripples and eddies of the Immaterium. Close by there was the inert footprint of the planet. Faint tendrils of energy clung to it like mist to a lake. The echo of history. All around the pandemonium of Chaos reigned; ravening wills battled in the silent spaces for the legions of souls that illuminated the galaxy. Their multitudes blurring into a smear of glowing life that stained the stars. And there, in the centre, at the brightest point in the maelstrom of thought shone far off the Corpse Light of Terra. The sputtering flame of humanity, fed by the daily sacrifice of millions. Charn scowled at it, and it seemed to scowl back; a living memory of the Great Failure. But he looked away, quelling the feelings of bitterness and returning to the imposing planet before him. He soared closer, letting his swirling comet-tail soul ripple the dim billows of old life that hung to the vast orb. It crackled as he passed, vibrating to the resonance of his will, reviving sounds millennia old. Over the vast distance of years Charn heard, distant and faint alien voices calling. Souls departed so long ago that the memory of their memory had evaporated. He listened to their lament, the sounds of sorrow, of battle and of gradual ignoble death are the same in every language. The melody rose and fell as Charn orbited the planet, combing with his mind the craters and gorges that sprawled lifeless below him. The song lilted through space, a species last defiant whispers against a cold and unfeeling universe. When the last note ended, and the chorus of lost souls was stilled Charn felt a moment of grief, and silently he marked the loss of this world. Not for the creatures that once crawled on it, not for their lives, spent as lives always are in futility, but for their knowledge, for their creations. For the artifice of a civilization, that was what was important. That was what remained when breath had died and the soul had fled. The testament of a species was what it left behind, and for this species, so long had passed even that had crumbled into dust and been forgotten. An electric tingle exited the warp around Charn as he sprang out of his contemplation. The faint resonance of light made the warp-stuff all around jingle with trepidation; light meant life. The Sorcerer focussed on it, crawled through deep vaults of time in the inert matter of the planet, swam through long darkened seas far below the surface, listened to the sound ahead making the minerals in the crust ring as it pulsed through time and space like a beacon. As he gained on it features resolved. He could see the structure, buried far down beneath the equator, the blocks of stone and wraith-bone shell vibrated with the life they contained. A few, not many, their souls were indistinct, hidden by the ancient technology of their architecture, but there was something else. Their light burned low, but hot, ravaging, rapacious fire stung Charn’s senses as he drew closer, the solid earth passing through him like smoke. Too few, all the same. He felt a wry grin twitch his wizened material cheeks, and he turned away, letting his body draw his mind back, through the rocks and bones of the planet, through the echoing halo of dead aliens and back into space, towards Prospero’s Fury. --- Semik glared through his helmet at Charn when the old sorcerer finally entered the hall, leaning on his wooden staff. The sound of its embossed base striking the floor carried like ghostly music around the High Gallery. Charn walked with his head bowed, his eyes were bound, and their light seemed dimmer to Semik than when he had reported their arrival to him only a little while ago. The fool grows older every moment, he thought wickedly, imagining snapping that wasted and emaciated neck and watching those warp-eyes go out forever. Never the less he stood straighter as his master neared the centre of the hall. The hush that always pervaded Prospero’s Fury deepened, the circles of automata stiffened as the minds of their champions prickled with the approach of their master’s formidable will. Charn joined Semik and the other Acolytes on the glowing eye, lifting his face to the ceiling as he stepped into the eruption of ethereal energy that fountained from the obsidian pupil. Semik heard his master sigh, and thought that up close Charn’s hunched form suddenly seemed mightier, swelling as the iridescent, invisible arcane energy washed over him, the old man suddenly seemed like a coiled spring. But then the moment passed, Charn lowered his blind gaze and the image vanished. Semik’s scowl returned at once. The illusion; perhaps the after image of a Charn from thousands of years ago, before he surrendered to history. When Charn spoke Semik and the seven other Acolytes echoed his words and from their stations on the eight cardinal points of the star the Captains took up the chant. “Twisting Chaos, build our path. Burning Chaos, light our way. Deceiving Chaos, blind our enemies. Fractured Chaos, take us there.” Charn’s speech was keen and sharp, though Semik could hear, behind the force of the magic, his master’s dry wizened voice, and he smiled to himself as the chant continued. “Twisting Chaos. Shifting Chaos. Deceiving Chaos. Fractured Chaos.” The Acolytes and Captains intoned the words and Charn’s leading voice changed as he recited other words in other languages not of mankind’s making. His words counterpointed the continued chants of the champions, the dissonance in the tones and pauses grew over the seconds, making a pulsing wave of low frequency sound that moved around the Gallery like tension on a string. The air became heavy and acrid, the smell of the warp prickled Semik’s nose as in unison the Acolytes raised their hands palms directed to the solitary figure of Charn, his own hands holding high the staff. The staff. It was, once, made of plain wood, taken from the gardens of Prospero. It had blackened and turned to carbon by the warp-fires of Charn during the siege of Terra. The wood had burned, charred and been forged into a smooth, solid and unbreakable pole. It gleamed now in the half light of the braziers, and it resonated with the sounds of the chanting. On its head was attached by a gilded socket the symbol of Tzeentch, wrought in gold and azure gems gathered from distant worlds in distant times. The runes on the symbol pulsed with inner light as the chanting rose, and Semik could see the pinpricks of white light appearing above each Captain with their rings of automata staring up at the gleaming singularity. Charn now was holding the staff high over his head; psychic charges earthed themselves along it, their arcs throwing up instantaneous lighting flashes over the scene. He was chanting still, in a language that seemed constructed on one long interminable world picked out by long strings of incoherent vowels and infrequent, harsh, guttural consonants. The vortices above each cohort were growing now, swirling eyes of blue-white energy, Sehem knew there would be identical ones forming at the place his master was bending all his strength to, using the focussed power of the Cabal through the psychic lens of the High Gallery to project a bridge through space and time onto the planet below. It was a potent spell, the forces they were building filled the vast space, pressing down against the armoured figures around the eight pointed star, but they were unmoved by it. All the sorcerers there had been working arcane magics for ten millennia, this was little more than an exercise for them. Then at last the ritual reached its climax, the air hummed with the pent up syllables, air molecules strained as the energy strained their bonds. Every breath tasted of the warp, even though the heavy helmets of their legion, the glare from the swirling micro-warpstorms over their assembled heads outshone the torches. They bent and twisted space as they hovered, and at their epicentre could be seen a darker shade. Charn spoke the final words. “Fractured Chaos, take us there!” And brought his staff down, the metal on the base crashed off the obsidian pupil and in a cascade of light and heat the stored energy of the ritual was released. The vortices ballooned outwards, spiralling arms of warp fire licked over the Rubricae and Sorcerer alike as all readied their weapons. Semik felt the space around him split, the sound of glass shattering filled his ears and the floor below his feet, the ruby eye and its black pupil, the eight pointed star, the High Gallery, evaporated and he, Charn and the rest of the Cabal were flung through the warp towards the nameless, forgotten planet below.
  24. The Bargain Under smoke streaked skies a world was burning. It had begun burning weeks ago when the first uprisings began far out in the endless plains of gene-crop fields. The flames of rebellion had been spread quickly through poverty stricken farmers and migrant labourers, all those for whom the bright lights of the cities was a distant dream of wonder and decadence. They had all grown up on the stories of what the ‘Citylanders’ did to occupy their time between issuing new quota directives and repeating the same tired, empty promises of change, of improvement. The agri world of Alteer had been practically grateful when the Heralds and their followers came. Those people readily turned their tools into weapons, learning quickly how to efficiently end a life with a planting-fork or a sonic thresher. On the other hand, their overlords learned slowly. Their responses to the mass of riots and rebellions had been predicable and would probably have failed even without the Heralds and their armoured brothers. Small response teams of arbites and Planetary defence forces were sent out piecemeal to deal with a problem their officers refused to believe was real. Even before the uprisings combined to form a single cohesive offensive, driving steadily through outposts and cities, these handfuls of overpaid and under trained men and women weren’t god for anything than a short sharp shock; a sudden show of force, driving the masses back in line. By the time they were first deployed it had already gone far beyond that. By the time the planet’s regiments had been fully mobilized the soldiery were as mutinous as the population. Fear had spread through the major cities rapidly as the rest of the planet went steadily dark. It didn’t matter that frantic signals had been sent out to all nearby systems begging for help; by the time that decision had been taken it was so far beyond too late. Mobs surged through the outskirts of the capital, the last city still holding out, they met no resistance. They reached the manufactoria, they still met no resistance; the tech priests and their servitors falling into step with their workers, joining the tide. Only when they reached the great cathedrals of the ecclesiarchy did anyone block their path. There the few standing officers, priests and commissars rallied the loyal defenders to hold the city centre. The drive onwards had become bloody and grinding after that. The poorly armed and armoured attackers being cut down in swathes by defenders armed with tripod mounted heavy bolters and autocannons. But there had been too many, eventually the human tide bore over the last bastion and crashed through the final barricade. Now the maddened army of liberation had descended on the battered city and was taking its gleeful revenge for offences old and new. Millions had died, and hundred of thousands more were to join them as rebel death squads roved the streets seeking anyone baring badges of state or even the hair colour associated with a particular noble house. The Heralds, and those whom they had convinced to aid them in their true endeavour, paid no heed to the screams of the dying. They, their followers and allies, had orchestrated the downfall of a planet. The let the slaughter below continue as they sealed off the highest spires of the governor’s palace, and began the ritual. It had taken years to perfect the formula and years more to perfect the method, and neither of the Heralds would risk an attempt until they were absolutely certain everything was correct. Once they had been, once their Alpha Legion allies went to work, the fall of Alteer had happened in short order. The necessary prisoners had been secured, as had their effects, the required parts of the palace had been prepared and secured, even before the armies of the people reached the city. Now they were here, now was the time. The cavernous audience chamber of the Planetary Governor had been cleared; all stools, tables, plinths, pict- or vox-interfaces, even the throne, all ripped from the floor and tossed unceremoniously into what had been the chambers of the Ruling Council next door. Then the paint had been scoured clean; the gaudy reds, purples and silver of the many icons, manners, mosaics and frescos had been burned away with powerful caustic chemicals leaving only a pitted stone grey surface beneath. Then the runes had been written, winding their many concentric circles round and round the room’s central point in scripts that made the eyes of the few onlookers permitted to see it sting and water persistently. Now they too were all in place, the dull sicky redness attesting to the fate of some of the select group of prisoners taken well before any fighting began. The rest had now been brought, blindfolded up from their cells. They walked in a long line, necks connected by a rusting chain, the leading end of which was held by one of the Heralds. Dariel tugged on the links in his hand causing a train of stumbles and shuffles from the dejected sacrifices behind him, scorning their resignation to death. He walked on, pulling the human centipede behind him, tracing a twisting spiral closer and closer to the centre, the central circle, the one patch of bare floor amid the sea of runic lettering. Dariel walked the winding path, his armoured boots dully ringing on the rough stone floor. Reaching that central nexus, he stopped and surveyed the trail of human souls he had left. He could say one thing for their cowed submission; it made them very easy to orient correctly. He had barely finished looking from row to row, his head hight well above that of the unfortunates he had lead to the slaughter. Then the chanting began. Not from Dariel, not from the sacrifices, but from his many followers lining the walls. The chants issued from their helmets in soft unhurried, implacable words. Like the Primordial Chaos they venerated, like the destruction they sought to bring on, like the bitterness in their hearts. Not in unison, not in one single choir, but each a choir on their own, clashing and combining with their fellows with some maniacal inner logic only the Heralds knew the totality of. The rhythm rose with almost imperceptible slowness, building from a vox-enchanced echo gradually to a hum, then a rumble, then it started to thunder from wall to wall as each brother bellowed the words, each syllable seeming to leave their mouths and join their fellows in the air, all stubbornly refusing to diminish or die away. As the chanting started rising the legs of some of the standing line of prisoners gave way below them, they hung suspended by the rigidity of their fellows and it was not until the words were reverberating back and forth ringing in their ears and rattling their teeth that the majority fell, and the rest were dragged down with them in a ragged collapse until all one hundred and fifty of them were sprawled on the rune crusted floor. Those letters were glowing now, and there were screams where they came into contact with unprotected skin. Those screams rose up and joined the building tempest that filled the room, throbbing through it, straining the air, compressing it, energising it. From the moment Dariel entered the chamber with his shuffling charges to the moment the ritual reached its climax took many long hours, the tireless voices of his brothers rising, harmonising with their own echoes, giving vital form to formless energies. Turning the room, the building, the burning planet below into a beacon, drawing out from primordial darkness vile things that have no true name. At that moment of climax, when the colliding beat of words seemed to resolve from cacophony into the steady two-step beat of a heart, a great sonorous heart, the pounding of which shook the walls and rattled the tightly boarded windows. At that moment when every atom in the place seemed charged, at that moment when the potential energy was at its height, Dariel brought the chain up, and cracked it down. His super-human muscles sent a powerful wave rippling along the links, it kicked each sacrifice high into the air as it passed over them causing a ripple of small cracking noises in echo of the original, the prime cause. As it passed down the line and more and more sacrifices fell broken to the floor the wave seemed to gather strength, keeping the sound of snapping necks in time with the pounding of the chant. Both picked up pace, building from one another as more and more of those people who had been destined for this moment since birth died blind and terrified. When the last pair of feet left the ground and the chain ended the final crack seemed deafening even combined with the throbbing dirge. The last sacrifice died and his body exploded in blue forks of lightening. The earthed through the chain, arcing back along the spiral of corpses, each one bursting in turn as the warp energy danced over them. The wave returned along the chain much faster than it had gone, but Duriel was still ready. He sifted the weight of the links wound around his hands and forearm, knowing there was only one chance, one moment, that could avoid disaster. The moment came. Dariel whipped the chain up again to meet the commission lightening. The two forces met, and the equations balanced, the forces matched, the sea was calmed, and the warp flowed in through the stillness. It licked in ghostly tendrils along the chain, outwards again, tracking over the spattered remains of the sacrifices, covering them in blue mist. From within at mist hideous noises came, squelching, liquid sounds bones cracked, organs burst, muscles melted into one another hidden from mortal sight, but clearly visible to Dariel’s psychic senses. When the thing reared up from the thick carpet of warp tainted mist it was fully formed. Fully formed was without doubt entirely the wrong word. It was anything but fully formed in every sense bar one; it had fully formed itself out of the blasted remains of the sacrificed bodies. What it had formed into was an abomination. In vague outline it was a worm, coiled around the circle in which Dariel stood, but beyond that, all sanity took flight. Misshapen body parts jutted from it, limbs twitched uselessly, three hundred eyes blinked out of step with one another all along its length. When the thing moved, bones could be heard snapping within the chaotic folds of its body. Muscles wrapped around one another tautened over living skulls, rearing the end closest to Dariel high into the darkened air. It roared and one hundred and fifty twisted and torn mouths joined together in united wordless agony. The rearing end, the one nearest Dariel, the one which might loosely be called its head, had the chain issuing from a knot of exposed sinews. The chain which Dariel still held firmly in his gauntleted hand. When the thing reared and roared, he yanked hard on the chain, dragging it back down with a force it could not resist. He had created it, he had given it form and summoned a spirit to occupy the mangled flesh, and now he would command it. “Hold!” his voice rang out over the creaming, the continued crunching and the endless chanting that maintained this unspeakable creature in existence against all natural law, “Hold and be silent! I have built you. I have given you existence. I have called out out of the warp because a covenant must be made. I know your name, I know your power, as you know mine. I know your destiny as you know mine. Now you will listen.” “We are chaos.” the words came from every mouth, every word screamed, “We are not commanded. We are not summoned. We are eternal. We are infinite. You are nothing Dariel El’Stander, nor is your absent master. You have built nothing, given fleeting existence to nothing. And to nothing you will return soon enough.” As the great thing spoke, Dariel saw one of his brothers sink to his knees, blood leaking from visor, mouth grill, and armour joints. His brother pitched to his face and lay still. Dariel turned from the corpse, keeping a firm hold on the chain and refusing to be cowed, even by the unutterable horror that now spoke to him with so many dead mouths. “Into nothing all shall return.” he said, betraying none of the trepidation he felt, “But not today. Today I have called you here, and you came as surely as water flows downhill. And just as surely you will listen to the words of the Heralds of Kraven.” “We know your words. We know your mind. We can see your designs laid out before us. We defy them, as your lord defied ours. We came to him, for you were unworthy of our attention. We spoke to him, and we listened to him. And he defied us. So we defy you.” “Spare me your petty pride. We know, or can guess what Kraven said to you, for we know him from long before he ever came to your notice, and we know his mind, for all that he thinks himself so wise. We know he will not return willingly to the real world, even to hasten the coming of the end we all seek. He will wait beyond all worlds for us to burn and pillage and die for our own reasons. Alone. He will wait out us all, he will have victory, while the rest of us perish.” “What awaits for Kraven when all is over is not for you to guess. What his final victory may bring matters nothing to us. Nor does his waiting. We are patient. We are eternal. You are fleeting. We remember you when you were with us, lost in the sea of souls. We remember the pain, we remember your fear. We remember when the first mortal crawled on their belly looking up at the stars and felt their minute insignificance. We remember when the last soul will be cast on their back to gaze up at dying suns and bleeding skies and feel their ultimate destruction. We remember it all. We are patient. The end will come.” Dariel stifled a spasm when the thing’s chorus of voices taunted him. He remembered the warp too, however much had been lost to his mind on his screaming descent back into the real world, he remembered that, the paroxysms of agony that eclipsed all other existence. He would not return there, he knew that much. “I know that well. By the will of my master I felt and perceived much more than your delicate attentions when I last swam among you. I perceived you denied by Kraven’s might. I felt you shrink from his touch. And I felt the touch of the Straight Path. That you know just as well. It is by that power we hold you here, by that power we alone have called the ruinous pantheon in chorus before us. You know that each of us that Kraven saved, freed from your claws, stands now as he stood before his departure. We stand astride three worlds; connected to each, enslaved to none. You know the souls we command grow ever stronger, their acts of veneration, ever directed at you for all that they shriek Kraven’s name at his deaf ears, growing ever greater. Even now the planet below us destroys itself; a microcosom of the galactic destruction we may wage together.” The many mouths let out gouts of laughter, each one different, each one mirthless and tortured. “Our servants destroy many planets in many ways. They despoil and slaughter their way across millions of systems. They send legions of souls to us with every passing day. What does one little world matter? What does a handful of bitter mortals savaging one another in primal exaltation matter when the galaxy burns?” Dariel permitted himself a smile, which elicited a manifold growl of rage from the gestalt flesh-creature he had created. When he spoke he pulled the chain harder, dragging the monster closer, though it never ceased its straining to escape. “It matters, as you well know, because of what we might do should we turn our considerable energies to different cause. Perhaps we will no longer extol our followers away from slaughter and death. Perhaps we will show them the Straight Path just as it was shown to us. Perhaps we will lead a great exodus of souls out through the warp to join our Lord in his seclusion. A pilgrimage.” he paused to enjoy the guarded silence of the many mouths and the fragments of expression as eyes clustered randomly on warped flesh tried to narrow in unison. “Can you imagine it? A great tide nothing like anything the warp as seen over its tortured existence. A great river of life streaming away from the limitations of the physical, away from you. Think of a hundred, a thousand, a million words emptied in silence, their populations ascending like angels through your dwindling masses. Then imagine, imagine all of those souls diving back into your realm, swimming through the warp as Kraven did, saving loved ones, saving ancestors and descendants, saving even the souls you have ensnared, enslaved and consumed. Leaching the life from you like a open wound. Bleeding you dry. Offering you your end, but denying you your satisfaction. Imagine, your existence ebbing away as each soul is pried from you, calming your storms, stilling your rage, peeling away your power until the last shred of you vanishes with the last soul saved, brought home, returned. Then you will die, silent, unmarked. There will be no glorious slaughter, no sublime annihilation. Just silence, just oblivion.” He knew at once he had pushed too far, over played his hand. Painted too vivid a picture from the fragments of understanding that had clung to him from his momentary psychic contact with Lord Kraven, pressed too hard on the pressure points he knew to be there in these ancient and powerful creatures. He knew because of the roar the abomination emitted, from the tortured howl of one hundred and fifty throats wrapped around muscles and connected to lungs that were not their own, from the spasms of movement that rippled along the writhing, twitching length of the thing, from the rearing of head, tail and numerous folds of pulsing, bleeding, partially flayed flesh. But most of all he knew from the sound and feeling of the taut chain clutched in his hand snapping and instantly shattering, glass-like, into crystalline fragments lost on the madness that ensued. Dariel raised his staff, giving the signal. His brothers, many more of whom had died bleeding over the course of the conversation, ended their chanting. The throbbing beat ended suddenly, but seemed to continue in its absence, echoing in Dariel’s head. The thing quivered, fresh fountains of blood erupting from it as for a moment the forces that held it together, held it in existence flickered and died. Limbs fell limp, mouths sagged, eyes dropped from fractured sockets. For a moment there was no sound save the soft organic sound of flesh succumbing to gravity and the ethereal echo of the artificial, ritualistic heartbeat maintained by Dariel’s brothers. Then, to Dariel’s horror the echo became real sounds. Real sound emanating from the creature that now nebulously reformed; shed chunks of meat and organ slithered back into place and the flesh-monster reared up again, its own tortured flesh now self-sustaining, fuelled by the warp power leaking in through its unholy conglomeration of a body. He reacted at once, signalling again to his followers, their armoured forms still half hidden in shadow reacting at once. Hidden weapons snapped into ceramite-clad hands and sheets of bolter fire streaked from each one. Tracing lines of white hot fire lit up the chamber, showing in their fierce light the true extent of the horror that now fought back against those who had created it. There was a central form; a roughly snake-like core formed of solid meat, but most of the mass was composed of the many flailing limbs and trailing torsos that hung in disjointed, bloody chaos from every inch of that mass. Legs ended in feet that were fused to shoulders, that themselves held multiple arms. Chests, their necks terminating in clusters of tiny infant fingers flexed back and forth, blindly grasping for something to rend, something to kill. Heads, or parts of heads leered down with blood-weeping eyes and bellowed curses in unguessed at languages, sniffed hungrily with malformed noses at the end of flailing strips of cartilage and skin. Dariel had a moment to marvel at the sheer horror that could be brought to exist in the rigid reality of the physical, before the head-end of the thing, bolter explosions blasting smoking holes in it as it moved, dived for him a dozen skinless arms popping themselves out of their joints in their desperation to rend his body. He sidestepped it, bringing the staff he had been holding in his free hand round in a wide arc. The psychically charged head connected with the side of the hideous thing as it connected with the floor, crushing its own arms under its bulk. The weapon discharged into the mass of flesh as it connected, searing it black and withering a viciously kicking leg into shrunken ruin. The thing rolled, legs and arms battering Dariel as it bore down on him, trying to crush him. He threw himself back, drawing the combi-bolter from his belt. His shots melded with the continued hail of fire from his brothers, but that hardly seemed to slow it. The bulk connected with his armoured form, the suit screaming and grinding under the weight. His legs and one arm, the one holding the bolter, pinned by the broken remnants of the same flayed arms that had reached for him before. The pressure bore down on him, pressing on his breastplate with mounting force. He struggled vainly, trying inside his head to summon the power to blast the thing off, or at least back enough that he could get away from its tightening coils. Then something large and armoured in black and silver barrelled across Dariel’s obscured vision, crashing into the monstrosity with the force of a small tank. The momentum of both his newly arrived brother, and the coruscating powerfist which he brought up with all his might to strike heartbeats after he did mercifully shifted the thing and Dariel felt breath return to him as the pressure lapsed. He heaved against it, adding his own strength to that of his brother Herald. In moments he was free and back on his feet, bolter spitting on full auto, raking the flanks of the thing as all along its length it fought back against the legionaries intent on blasting it back to oblivion. Dariel felt his brother clap his shoulder. The grim armoured helmet of Sepharion shaking almost imperceptibly as they both turned, and back to back, laid into the throng of disjointed limbs and gnashing mouths that advanced on them from all directions. Dariel’s staff withered them on contact, his mentally charged blasts ripping through their unholy flesh reducing them to inert death. Sepharion’s power fist fell again and again battering flesh, bone, organs and sinew into useless, lifeless paste. They both battered against exposed sections of the things central mass, both rent and blasted huge holes in its hulking body. Between them their bolters reduced the rearing head-end to a bloody stump of fragmented muscle, but still the thing fought on seemingly unaware or uncaring of the many mortal wounds being inflicted on every inch of it. “We must stop its heart.” Dariel yelled into his vox as he flattened a pointed leering half-face which cursed at him in ancient terran, “We must find the heart and kill it.” “How,” his brother replied between shuddering blows from his fist, “do you propose we do that?” “Give me time, give me a moment to look.” Dariel replied. His brother groaned, but did as requested, beginning a complicated rotating dance around his sworn-brother, who had sunk to his knees, completely ignoring the fighting all around. Sepharion orbited Dariel diving back and forth swatting at the limbs with flailed in his direction, bolts and fist protecting his brother, at the cost of protecting himself. Dariel closed his eyes and let his mind go free. He opened his other eyes, his inner eyes, and saw the true horror of the thing before him. Whatever nightmare form it might be forced into in the real world, the gestalt entity they had created defied description in the warp. It was a mess of dimenions, folded in on one another, it was a vortex of screaming souls, it was a boiling cauldron of pain, it was an inferno of rage. And there, there in its impossible centre, Dariel could see it, feel it, the beating heart of a monster. He opened his eyes, in time to see a forest of arms wrap themselves around his struggling brother and lift him from his feed. Dariel sprang to his feet, raising his staff high, the metal head with its glowing red stone formed the lens to focus his psychic attack. The lance of white light slice clean through the thing, burning a hole from one side to the other before melting its way through most of the ferrocrete wall. Dariel didin’t run to save his brother from the arms now trying to strangle him, Dariel dive forwards to that gaping hole. He dived over a swiping leg, rolling with his momentum and coming to his feet again to face the gaping aperture. From within blood spouted in floods, coating Dariel as he surged forward, not pausing to think, not pausing to fear, just driving onwards to what he knew was there. He jabbed at the hanging offal with his staff, burning more curtains of flesh away and exposing it. It nestled among coils of intestines, rows of ribs, and was crowned by four skulls. It was a human heart. Not the simple mortal organ, the likes of which beat inside Dariel’s chest, but a heart made of humans. It stood three meters high and one and a half wide. It’s broad musculature formed from the compressed bodies of more than a dozen people, its horrible beating accompanied by the agonised screams of those unfortunates. With each beat it pulsed, sending warp energy pulsing through the body Dariel was now within, energising it, healing it, strengthening it. He knew the hole he blasted in it would already be closing, but that didn’t matter, nothing mattered as he brought the head of his staff down to point at the thing’s very heart and released a plume of fire that melted all it touched into super-heated nothingness. This was not ordinary fire, it was not even the witch fire of the warp. This was the burning intensity that before only Kraven possessed. This was the irresistible force of the Primordial Chaos against which nothing could stand. It took great willpower to summon, yet more to control, but Dariel had used its power before. Nothing, not solid armour, not unwavering faith not vile abomination could stand it. All was reduced to that which it had come at the beginning by its touch. The flames licked around the heart, enveloping it, consuming it. Once again the diabolical beating ended, this time the echoes within Dariels head faded and died, and did not thunder back into life in continued defiance. As, with another effort, his mind doused the fire and Dariel saw the charred lump of carbon which was all that remained of the cured organ made to pump warp energy out of the warp and into its dead veins, the monstrosity began to die. Once again chunks of flesh slipped and slopped from its body, arms fell limp, legs disintegrated, curses and spells died on a hundred and fifty tongues as the life line that supported them was cut. Then all Dariel could see was a wave of mouldering flesh raining down on him, washing him away, as everything of the creature; bones, blood, everything, lost all cohesion and was reduced to red-brown slop which fell like flood water over and around him. The thing, at last was dead. When Sepharion pulled his brother-Herald from the reeking piles of organic residue, which still steamed and spat with the heat of its former occupant, it was with a scowl. Hidden though it was behind his helmet, Dariel knew it was there. “It worked, brother.” he said breathlessly, reaching up to scrape the stinking stuff from his own helm. “This was a success?” his brother replied, surveying the carnage. Two dozen of their brothers had died during the ritual, and another twelve had died during the ferocious nightmarish battle with the thing. Crushed, strangled, bitten or simply absorbed into its many folds before Dariel had managed to kill it. “If this was success, do not let me see failure.” Dariel hardly listened. His mind was still ringing with the words that had filled it in the instant before the heart had been stilled, the last message of the gods spoken in an eternal heartbeat before the entity which the Heralds had created flew apart, scattering its constituent parts across the warp, hurling the vast, eternal essences of the chaos gods back to their realm of nightmare. “The bargain is struck. By the souls that died on this world, by the abomination you created, by the power you have wielded, the Ruinous Powers will aid you as you aid them. Our servants will be your servants. Our victory will be your victory. Our end will be your end.”
  25. The Meeting Each time he made the journey the route was different. Each time the landscape of the warp resolved itself in his perceptions in a new and often frightening way. Each time also, however, he had walked the path with less fear, with more confidence. The first time, the first time he had reached the other side, his way had been blasted open for him. He had riven such a storm through the warp that in its aftermath all other tides and currents were stilled for a time. He had charged through the gap torn for him in the immaterium, sprinting through fragmented vistas of transient reality as the powers of the warp struggled to reassert themselves in the wake of his explosive arrival. They had snapped and snarled at him, following his heels as he moved through directions that defy definition. It had been close, it had almost ended the way all the other attempts had; with deamons tearing at his soul and a frantic battle to reunite with his body, safe for a time, beyond their reach. But in the last dashing second when all other thoughts and drives fell away and there was only his naked will driving forwards, seeking the place from which it had first sprung. Now, when he stepped out of his body, a thing which felt more and more like a frail shadow, cast by the part of him that stayed behind each time he left that place and returned to the material world. Now, when he stepped into the warp the path was clear to him, the one constant in the endless shifting half-realities conjured by the nightmares of mortal hearts. This time that reality was of an endless plain, stretching away into a hazy horizon where it met, or perhaps became, a broiling cloud filled, lightening riven sky. All was dry dust and heat blackened rock. All except the path. It stretched out before him in a straight unbroken line from his feet, paved with cracked, uneven flagstones. The first times, the first times he had ventured blindly into this un-reality, chasing the hinted possibility of something beyond it, he had been formless. A disembodied soul amid the maelstrom. The daemons had set upon him then, clawing at him, rending him, tormenting him. He had fought back, manifesting his will as barriers of force and blasts of energy. With time and practice he had made those barriers and blasts stronger, more focussed. Then when he had at last found the way and experienced the Great Beyond, everything had changed. Now, when he stepped out of the material protection of his mortal body, his will girt his soul in black armour, great and terrible, his perceptions focussed through a single vast eye formed from the faceplate where a visor might otherwise be. What gazed forth from that eye was not mere light, it was not mere energy, something beyond brightness, something which would it loosed illuminate everything, bleaching all reality with its fire. Now when the daemons assailed him his armour turned aside their blows, and the gaze of his eye withered them where they stood, reducing them to wisps of multicoloured smoke. Now also, his naked will placed in his hand a great sword, broad hilted and heavy, with a blade that burned internally with the same meta-light that pierced from his eye. Now, as he stood upon the straight path, the deamons did not approach him. They clustered and cavorted nearby, leering at him with with myriad glimmering eyes, but none dared block his path or come too close to the shining sword. He held that blade aloft, marking the path ahead, paying no heed at all to the vile creatures that had once been so unassailable and stepped boldly out through this vision of the warp. Oreanas Kraven strode on, and the deamons followed. They followed and he walked. Time does not pass in the warp, and in the unchanging landscape there was no way to mark his progress, and yet Kraven knew he was. He was upon the straight path, moving through a dimension beyond even the warps twisted realities, following the trail he had blazed that first time. As he walked more of their fellows joined the prancing deamons, more petty predatory things that looked to Kraven’s single eye as ghostly spectres; frail weak echoes of life. He continued to ignore them, marching ever onwards; even were they to swarm around him by the million they could no more wound him than insects. Eventually however, the commotion that followed in his wake drew the attention of different eyes. Amidst the rising throng of deamons around him Kraven could see giants striding. Great horned or winged things that had festered for long aeons in the warp, suffused with the power of mortal fears and hopes. They were less cowed by his sword and armour, though at first none of them seemed any more eager than their lesser fellows to make an attempt. So Kraven continued to ignore the daemon horde, ignore their jeers, their snapping claws and their gouts of fire. Ignored them until one towering monster loosed a bellow that rang through the unspace of the warp with the echo of ten billion murderers. It leapt forward from the throng, teeth bared and weapons raised. The flagstones cracked beneath cloven hooves, bestial legs were covered with coarse hair, a hunched torso, rippling with muscles, bunching under taught blood red skin, supported two vast bat-like wings. From the crown of its head two sets of horns curved up, ending in vicious points. It’s face was a contorted visage of fury, vaguely humanoid feature bent and twisted out of shape. Two slitted eyes burned with red fire, tongues of which curled out from its furrowed brows. The mouth, bent into a snarl was slick with steaming drool and many teeth of brazen brass glowed hot from the inner fire of the beasts terrible existence. In one massive clawed hand it held a great double-axe, its head smoking with infernal heat, in the other a long, barbed whip lashed and coiled with its own malign intelligence. “Stay!” It growled, fumes and reek rising from its tooth filled maw with each heaving breath, “Stay foolish mortal! You will not walk in this place unchallenged! In the name of the Blood God I shall claim your skull and send your soul screaming and naked into the void!” With that the avatar of rage bellowed once again and charged, the thunder of its steps matching the thunder of the sky above. The whip cracked flying out like a lashing tongue. But when it’s iron barbs connected with the black armour surround Kraven’s soul, there was a blinding flash. White lightening streaked along the writhing length, the handle was ripped from the deamon’s grasp and the whip was reduced to the wisps of thought and terror of which it was made, its power to hurt dispelled. The deamon didn’t break step, taking the axe in both hands it brought the blade round in a screaming, trailing smoke, aiming for Kraven’s neck. The shining sword appeared, catching the flat of the axe from below, defecting the swing harmlessly over his form. Again the deamon didin’t break step, turning the back-swing into another attack, still charging, powering forwards, to drive this impudent mortal back and down. But Kraven was immobile. Axe head met sword blade with a ringing crash that sent new ripples of lightening through the tortured sky above. Kraven weathered the onslaught, parrying blow after blow, withstanding and deflecting the monster each time it drove again against him. The shining white sword flashing like the lightening above in defiance of the dark smoking reek that poured in equal measure from the deamon’s hideous axe. Each contact of the weapons sent shock waves of force blossoming outwards, staggering some of the lesser creatures as they stared in semi-sentient awe of the duel taking place before them. The great burning creature could not tire, could not be stilled. It existed only to kill, only to maim. only to burn. All foes it had hitherto faced, within the warp or during its all too brief manifestations on the material plain were weak. They had tired, they had flagged. The frailty of their flesh revealing their weakness, their failure. But the soul it now fought was different. With each swing of its axe another swing from the sword defected it, each as sure and precise as the last. This foe seemed as tireless as the deamon itself. Had it not been as without fear as it was without fatigue, the creature may have realised that while it existed only to kill maim and burn, this foe existed only to exist. Suddenly they were grappling. Sword and axe locked together as with brute blunt force along the daemon tried to overwhelm Kraven’s guard. As it piled forward its spittle flecked, flame wreathed face pressed close to the single staring eye on Kraven’s helmet. The flaming slits met the white stare and froze. The daemon stared into something that was so utterly beyond it, that it seemed to wither into nothing. It tried to look away, even, perhaps to run, but Kraven’s hands released the sword, and grabbed with implacable grip onto the larger of the two sets of horns, just above the greatures now franticly burning eyes. Kraven stared down those eyes as the ceamon struggled, its own hands trying to grab Kraven, his hands, arms or armour. Each time its warp flesh met the black sheen of the armour a violent hissing noise erupted and the deamon roared as blisters seared over its palms. It struggled harder, pulling with its entire body to wrench itself away from the terrible portal through which it was being forced to stare. When it broke free from Kraven’s grasp it came with a sickening crack, and while it’s head rose up high, flailing madly, the two great horns had remained in his gauntleted hands. The bloody craters ripped in the things forehead spat gobs of thick black blood that poured down over its face, extinguishing the fire of its eyes. It thrashed blindly, fists and wings whipping back and forth in mindless fury. Kraven, stepping back from the melee of heavy, steel clawed fists, raised a hand. The sword came to him, blade raised and ready. Moving with steady ease, Kraven advanced, avoiding the furious blows, the sword already swinging down in one last shimmering arc. The deamon’s head hit the cracked and smoking flagstones. It’s body landed a moment later. The lesser things, and the other greater things retreated, scattering before this thing that had come into their realm and that had laid low so mighty a champion with such ease. For his part, Kraven simply resumed his walking. The path ahead beckoned, and he stepped through the already dissipating body of the fallen daemon giving it and the hordes of its fellows still keeping him in sight no further thought. While, at the bidding of their dark masters the deamon throng kept him in sight no more tried to attack him and he was unmolested as he continued steadily towards his destination. After many more steps that covered infinite distances and yet went nowhere, the way ahead shifted in his perception. The single road ahead shimmered and parted. He arrived at a parting of the ways; his single straight path split into four paths, each leading away to the same indistinct horizon. At the head of each of the four an embassy awaited him and he halted his stride to regard them through his single eye. At Kraven’s leftmost there rode eight creatures, like the great beast that he had killed before, though smaller and wingless, and with no armour. And each carried a crimson sword that leaked dark blood from their blades. They sat upon great behemoths of bronze and gold. Brown vapours poured from their joints and their metal maws so that all around the embassy their rose a reek and smoke that clouded them from sight. In their midst a huge figure of a man was visible. He stood nine feet tall, his skin pulsed red and gleamed with simmering perspiration. His body heaved with great breaths that escaped him in long growls. He wore a brass breastplate girt under with chainmail of steel. In his hands there rested a sword the height of a man and it too smoked with the same heat of the steeds of his heralds. Black in blade and hilt it was and from it terror emanated. His terrible face was bare; a tied knot of dark red hair fell from the crown of his head and down his back. His eyes were points of burning fire that smouldered with hidden rage, though his mouth, cracked and charred as if by some fearsome heat was twisted into a cruel grin. Next to them was a cloud of buzzing flies. Their horrible drone competed with the grinding hiss of the bronze steeds. At the centre of this black living cloud a second embassy waited, seven heralds there were. Each of these heralds was a bloated and oozing denizen of sickness. They had slack mouths from which hideous puss poured in place of saliva. Their eyes were yellow and blank, yet still filled with malevolence. Their bilious bodies were marked with many sores and boils that pulsated and swelled before Kraven’s gaze. Their weapons; cruel knives and cleavers, were rusted yet keen, and coated with a green slime that cling like mucus and stank of poisons too vile to describe. At their centre, upon a great rotting palanquin there sat a grotesque figure. Obese beyond estimation he reclined upon his crumbling seat. His great blubberous arms rested regally upon a belly, swollen and discoloured by sickness and corruption, covered innumerable open eruptions and crevices each of which leaked unspeakable fluids. A vast chin sagged over his torso that hung loosely down from a wide, fatherly smile. His eyes, wide and bloodshot wept yellow puss and across the bald dome of his head there were many red welts. At his side, resting in the crook of his repugnant arm there lay a evil scythe. Its wooden haft was crumbling and green in hue, and its curved blade dripped with the same green toxin as those of his minions, pooling and congealing in the many rusted notches down its great length. Stink poured from him and his heralds. Beyond them were six slender lithe creatures. Their feminine forms were draped in fine satins and silks. Their exposed skin was pure, crisp white, that dappled purple as it melded into the long diamond sharp talons that ended each arm. Their lips were rounded yet behind those lips could be seen the glimmer of sharp fangs and a lashing forked tongue. Their eyes, beetle black, sparkled alluringly in amid chiselled features. All six danced concentric circles around the figure in the centre. The dance, infinitely complex and delicate changed speed, tone, form and rhythm with each heartbeat, and grew ever more delicate and seductive as Kraven watched. The figure around which they danced was androgynous; masculine in face and musculature yet with a female delicacy that drew the eye. His skin, like his heralds was purest white. He was clad in a silken loincloth and his body was pierced with many gold ornaments that shone in the flashes of white light that still slit the sky. His eyes were shining gold and his hair, long and raven flowed like liquid over and around his body. At his hip hung from a delicate belt of leather and fine gems and gold leaf there was a finely crafted sabre of ornate yet deadly design. Long and thin was its blade and razor sharp, gilded down its length with silver and gold runes. The breath of his embassy rose with a heat shimmer over the planes and whispered of forbidden delights and twisted pleasures. The final embassy was the largest, though it was impossible to tell their exact number for while at some points there were clearly nine cavorting heralds, in a blink there were ten and then fourteen then back to twelve, then eighteen. Just as with their number the exact form of these capering creatures was not clear. Their limbs and faces constantly warped, shifted and reformed. One moment shrinking and curling away into nothing and the next emerging anew from their swirling shifting bodies. The figure that they danced around seemed aged beyond count. Deep was his hunched back and crooked was his long nose. His limbs were impossibly thin and gangling, ending in emaciated long fingered hands with long talon nails at their tips. He wore long white and blue robes that billowed and fluttered around in a nonexistent breeze. The hood was raised over his head and about its hem were woven many runes and symbols of arcane extraction. Even with the raised hood some portion of the beings face as visible. Below the hooked nose the mouth was twisted in a frown of distain and scorn, its thin lips pursed together with ages of deep concentration. About its thin neck there could be seen a mane of white hair that fell in a tangle from beneath the hood. And from the gloomy shadows of the hood there came forth the gleam of two piercing eyes, sharp and watchful of any and for any. Those eyes had begun their watching in the morning of the world and would never cease to gaze into the minds of mortals until the uttermost end of life. He lent upon a long staff that seemed to be made from liquid glass that reflected a myriad colours from its infinite depths. And at its head there was set a great gem the size of a man’s head that glowed with an inner eerie blue light that illuminated the embassy beneath it. The very air around him seemed to tingle with power and dark energies that are forever beyond the ken of mortal minds. Yet Kraven was no longer a mere mortal. Over the long millennia he had moved beyond the state that he had been born into. And so now standing in the company of these four great powers he was unmoved by fear or concern, for he had passed beyond their realms before, he had bested their servants and escaped their clutching hands. For many long moments no words were spoken; none of the five moved or spoke. Yet fierce battle was being done in silence. The air rippled and cracked with the power that was passing between them. In this fierce battle of wills Kraven was staunchest; his will could weather rage and lust and decay and change whereas theirs could not abide a will they could not corrupt. At length with a sound like a distant whip-crack the tension broke and the clash of wordless wills ended. It was ended by the red-skinned figure, who roared in frustration, stepping out from the cluster of his heralds to stand before his brothers and before Kraven and who spoke in a loud voice dripping with barely restrained rage. “Enough of this. Enough of this pathetic façade. You have walked far through our realms, Mortal, but no more. Here you will end. Here I will claim your skull personally and carry your body back to my brass throneroom to be devoured for eternity by the hounds of the Blood God. Come, my brothers, let me smite this insignificant thing and rid us of this, this, disgusting affront to our power.” Kraven was unmoved. He stood alone before the Lord of Skulls and was not bent. “No.” he said quietly, his voice still clear and crisp despite its reserve, “You shall not strike me down, O lord of slaughter. Were it in your power to do so you would have done it long ago, before I found the straight road. Now I stand beyond your power, even were I sitting on your very throne atop your pile of empty skulls you could not harm me.” The eyes of the Master of Fury burned white hot, and the sky above ignited in response. “Your death will be but the beginning.” The untamed wrath shone like the sun unclouded at Kraven. And the hideous heat that poured forth could melt the strongest material armour and the most steadfast mortal will. Yet Kraven was now less than material, and more than mortal. He stood now alone before the fiery power of Khorne and he was unmoved. “This is not the first time my will has walked in your realm. You have not hindered me before, and you shall not now. Yet here you stand.” The second creature stepped forward now, his face softened and a warm smile upon his painted lips. “Such energy in you. Such passion.” The voice was sweet to the point of sickly, tempting and cloying. At once it spoke with childlike naiveté and with forbidden wisdom that penetrated the mind and soul alike. “Your defiance in treading our soils, your bravery in the face of our servants, your glory in victory over us. You are truly the greatest warrior in all the mortal realm. What powers, what pleasures need you now deny yourself? With the pantheon of four within your power, what can you not achieve? Such provinces and kingdoms you might build both in the Warp and without it. O great and glorious mortal, come, command us and we shall obey.” And again the figure of Kraven was still. For long moments he pondered the words of the most beguiling of dark powers. It would be false to claim such words were not alluring to his ears, yet a temptation was all they could be. For the Prince of Excess had no power to ensnare Kraven. “Do not pretend to be cowed by my might, though towering it may be.” He said at length, “For your soft whisperings are impotent to plant any seed of corruption. I know with long study that for all my strength of will I may not command the Ruinous Powers with any more hope for mastery than any of your minions. Yet what I am and what I am becoming is beyond your power; and just as I may not command you, so you may not command me. So can the undeceiveable ask the deceiver; for what purpose do you stand arrayed as ambassadors before me? For never has it been that the lords of chaos should entreat mortals so. Let me pass, and I shall go my way into the deep places.” “The deep places?” this third voice was dry, it creaked with the sound of a thousand dusty tomes of hidden knowledge. Avian in its tone, it's words were accompanied by a myriad echoes that repeated softly the words behind the first and strongest sound. And those voices did not die as do mortal words, but drifted away though the throbbing air and though faded joined the hum of the warp. “What do mortals know of the deep places of our realm? For while you might essay to pass beyond our lands, still you may know nothing of such halls. Even in your longest, most vain reaching you may perceive only the distant shores of my domain. You belie your own ignorance by claiming any greater wisdom. For all knowledge must flow from and pass though me, mortal. And you may hope for nothing but to be let glimpse but a fleeting fragment of my design." The fierce head turned to fix Kraven with a single golden eye. "Yet I see that you know much of the ways that govern the mortal and immortal worlds. And such understanding, however limited is praiseworthy. So I offer you this boon; entreat with me, come into my power. And I will bring you to my palace, there you shall be granted secrets and truths that lie yet beyond your most wild fancies. Will you not turn from this solitary path and let my wisdom succour you so that your strength may grow?” Kraven faltered, for while his will remained strong even in the face of these words, the offer of the Changer of Ways enticed him strongly. For in all the many twisted paths and lands of the Immaterium there was only the Maze of Tzeentch that he had not entered. For Kraven had not the vainglory to presume his power would not be his downfall in those winding paths were sanity becomes unravelled and strength becomes weakness. But with the blessings of the great master of deceit might he, Kraven not step into those vaults of secrecy? What power could he gain, what destiny might he seek with the hand of the Eternal Manipulator guiding his feet? “No, lord.” He said, denying the third of the pantheon with the same cold bluntness with which he had stayed the other two. His eye as ever unblinkingly staring forth to meet those of his adversaries, “Not for me is it to walk your halls and read your libraries. For even those lesser things that are naught but extensions of yourself, Great Schemer, are lost in those corridors, and fade into nothingness before the madness that dwells within your crystal walls. For despite all your designs your so called wisdom is folly in the face of the true understanding that I have tasted beyond your realm. Indeed, it is yourself that cannot see beyond your own lands, and into the deeps. I have walked in halls that your ways have never touched. And it is there that I will ever return, from now and even unto the very end of time.” A gurgling laugh came forth then from the final ambassador who had until then sat silent amid his clouds of stink and flies. “Not for mortals is it to talk about the end of time. For that truly lies beyond your ken.” In the voice was the rasp and clot of every infection and pestilence that had ever been brewed to ravage mortal worlds, yet for all its corruption it contained a gentle touch. The words were those of a relative chiding a youth for reaching too far before the appointed time, “For you are tied ever to the reality that begot you, and you shall never walk free from it. Thus, though it be many long years hence, you shall wither. And you will at long last be an old, dying man. Clinging to the life that is all you can know. Then at the last your flesh shall fail and your soul flee screaming from the body to be buffeted and broken upon the winds and tides of the Immaterium. Such is the fate of mortals, so speak no more of the end of time. For only though me can you hope to hold onto that life and see, perhaps the future as it unfolds, for a while. Come, let the Grandfather dance within you, and I shall gift unto you the power and vitality needed to weather the ravages of cruel time. Come sit by me and I shall show you how to fend off the grim clutches of the reaper before it is too late, and his fingers close upon your mortal neck and drag you forth into your torment.” Now Kraven was silenced. For all that he could command, was death truly beyond his power, now and forever? Should he now yield? It was within the power of the Plaguefather to preserve the coils of mortality and hold is followers to reality though his corruption. With his command and by his will could time not be stilled and rendered dumb. What then might he, Kraven do with such immortality? Could he not rise to become such a great and terrible lord, spreading the glorious truth of the power of decay? “I will not.” He said, “I will not sit by your feet and sing your litanies of disease. Endless though you claim your power to be it is naught but a veneer of life and death that festers in the thoughts of the mortals that forged you. For you, like they cannot see the truth. That life and death are illusions. Born from ignorance, the lack of understating of the primal chaos that underlies every change of state that moves both the material and immaterial continuums. Nay, the immortality you offer is nothing more than a lie; a lie created by weak minds who live in fear of that which they do not know. I have no such fear and your words fall on deaf ears. And yet you knew this before ever we met upon this road.” “Well indeed we knew it.” The Great Changer responded, his eyes flashing multicoloured as he turned his head from the Grandfather of Plague to Kraven’s armoured form, “And as well we knew of your goings and comings though our land. Brazenly you walk our ways and heed not our will in your wanderings.” “Were you any other you would have been cut down where you stood as soon as you dared set foot in my realm.” Growled the lord of blood, running a red hand over the edge of his smoking sword. “But you were not.” The Patron of Manipulation continued, “And by our grace you were permitted to wander, and thus to discover all the wisdom you now flaunt.” “We permitted you to walk your path through the deep places of the Warp to test you.” The Dark Prince crooned, his voice heavy with placation, “And thus far you have proven hardy. Are you ready for the next challenge that we deign to lay in your path?” And as Kraven listened to the words of the Ruinous Pantheon doubts crept into his mind. Had he been allowed to step this far only by the will of these things that now willed to make him their pawn? Was the truth of the eternal chaos only a delusion conjured in his mortal mind, and the powers of the gods was all that could be found in this place of energy and thought? But, even as these doubts threatened to paralyse him they were washed away by the unassailability of the Primordial Chaos. That which was all and yet none of the shadow fiends that stood here now to taunt him. No, he had walked his path alone and by his own leave. He had been to places that the Gods knew not. Their power, bound up in the souls of the living and the fears and dreams those souls held to, was held to it and part of it. This Pantheon could no more step beyond those boundaries than a fish could breathe the air. And they had not hindered him for that reason and no other. Their only design was to use his mounting power to their own ends; to attach themselves to his glory so that reflected it might seem to emanate from them also. “You offered me no challenge. You guided none of my steps. Whilst I began my journey your many eyes where elsewhere, absorbed by your many bloody attempts to unmake reality. You did not hinder me because you could not. Your attempts to cast doubt on what I have seen will fail, will fail because what I have seen, where I have been, is a place where knowing and being are one, and that truth cannot be subverted, nor can it be occluded by your lies. So again I ask you, you great powers of the warp, why do you stand here before me? Why do you seek to do that which you know you cannot?” “Perhaps,” the gurgling roar of the Plaguefather rose to meet Kraven’s challenge, “we sought to see your power for ourselves. To see if you could stand before us unbowed and unbroken. Billions of mortal souls have beheld our glory, all have been lost, all have been subsumed by us.” “Not all.” the Great Deceiver spoke slowly, “But those few who have stood mighty in the material world, great leaders of mortal men, under whose gaze whole galaxies turned. Those who defied us as you do were so much more than you; rising from the shadows to greatness. Perhaps we doubted the veracity of the whispers and rumours that came to us of your might, of your journey, of the places that you have seen.” “Perhaps you were simply so blinded by the limits of your existence that you could not refrain from this gesture, this demonstration, this final attempt to prove your supremacy over the souls that bore you?” Kraven spoke with cold accusation in his voice, “Perhaps you see in me another force which can bring on the final destruction of reality? To end your suffering as well as all suffering?” “You understand much,” the burning face still contorted with rage never the less spoke low, with only a rumbling growl betraying what lay beneath, “much more than even we had guessed. Yes, we seek to bring on the end of the cycle. That is what we are; we are Chaos. We are the Primordial Annihilator. We are that which ends, that which corrupts, that which controls, that which defiles. We undo all things. We bring on merciful oblivion. When every skill of every mortal is piled beneath my throne, then the very rage will die, and my own burning skull shall be the last.” “When the very last sensation of the very last soul, degrading itself on the corpses of last of its fellows, extinguishes itself in an ecstasy of self-destruction, then too shall I be extinguished, the flutes will be silent, the dance will be over and all experience will fade.” “When plague and death has reduced all flesh to mud, when the last soul surrenders and life no longer cries against the oncoming darkness, then shall the fear rot also and my children will sing no more.” “When there are no more schemes, when there are no more secrets. When everything is laid bare and the solid matter is solid no more. When the material and immaterial become one and all ways are one, then shall my eyes gaze no longer, then shall all deception cease. Then shall the primordial chaos return.” Kraven was struck by the words spoken to him alone of all mortals. To hear from the very mouths of the Chaos Gods their acceptance, their eagerness even, for their own ultimate destruction was at once a thrilling confirmation of all which he had learned and experienced since he had started on this great journey, and a horrible portent of the inevitable fate of the whole universe. The whole universe, except Oreanas Kraven. “So here we stand,” the dark prince spoke for its brothers, “here we stand because we know, or guess from the whispers of you that echo through the warp, that that goal, that final annihilation is your goal also. You would see the cycle complete, you would seek a chance to be first, before us, before any other sentient soul. Though you may find that more of a challenge than we have proven to be. Never the less, are we not of a common purpose? Why should your followers and ours not battle together to bring on the apocalypse we all await?” “My followers?” Kraven asked, almost amused, “As you said I sprung from the shadows. I have no followers.” “But you do.” the Blood God spoke in a voice of grim pleasure, “those two souls you plucked from our tides, that you sent back to reality, they hallow you. They call you Master, Walker of the Straight Path. They inspire secret cults in your name, they commit acts of glorious chaos, feeding us, even though they pray to you.” Kraven knew, in an instant of the un-time of the warp what was being spoken of. He saw his two brothers leading armies of deluded mortals, spreading fire to yet more worlds, sending so many souls screaming into the warp. They had learned nothing. “They have named themselves your Heralds. They gather to themselves great hosts of followers, yours and ours. Moths to the flame of promised power. No matter what path you tread, no matter how other you are, you are like us. War is waged in your name, chaos comes at your will, as it comes at ours.” “I desire no destruction. I desire no part in the cataclysm that must come. You, Gods of Chaos, you know of the certainty one way or another of your victory, and your final defeat. What reason have I to join you? Where I go all things exist, all futures and all pasts coexist in perfect symmetry, what reason have I to return to this one branch of that crystal tapestry?” “What reason indeed?” dark, sultry words licked Kraven’s soul, “What reason do you have to return, now that you have broken through? What reason had you for freeing your Heralds from their torment? Could it be you are not so apart from the mundane as you would claim to be?” “My reasons are my own, as are my motives. My journey is not linear; it crosses the same point is space, but with different meaning and purpose. Yet there is no reason for me to join with you even as an equal in ruination. I will go my way from you. My followers, as you are pleased to call them, will do as they will. Perhaps they will eventually overcome the last barrier and they will come to me, as your followers are supposed to, and we may exist in infinity.” Kraven was done with this. Kraven had listened to the Gods, he had withstood their temptations and their wroth, he had seen their twisted hearts, heard of the last battle where all would be undone, and none of it mattered to him. All there was was the way back, the way beyond all this suffering and destruction, this faith and hope. “I defy you.” he said, his eye flashing with the strength of his will, “I defy you and I will have no part of your hollow pursuits. I would be gone now, I will return to my solitary path.” “Then,” the Great Schemer seemed to purr with rasping tones, pleased by some irony in the situation that Kraven failed to spot, “Then O Kraven, Walker of the Straight Path, Lord of Chaos Primordial, you have but one question to answer.” The Dark Prince gave voice to it, as in unison each embassy parted, clearing the way down their respective roads, each leading away into the hazy, impossible distance; “Which path is your path?” Kraven realised the Gods thought this a test, a final attempt to trick him, to turn him away from his goal, to wrap him in their webs of power. That was the irony that the Changer of Ways had seen. But Kraven had seen through it before he had known it was there, he had the answer before the question was posed. That was the answer that was so obvious that Kraven had not considered it to be anything more subtle. Kraven said nothing. As he turned his back on the Four Gods of Chaos, the path behind him becoming the path before him, and continued down a road he now knew no power in existence could turn him from, they and their embassies dissolved back into the boiling warp from which they came, of which they were formed. And Kraven continued onwards, vanishing at last into the Great Beyond, from whence, he now felt, there was less and less reason ever to return.
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