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  1. Index Imperialis The Holy Order of the Penitent Saint Order Name and History The Pnoabsterix sub-sector lies in the Ultima Segmentum, a bastion of humanity in the deep galactic northeast. For over three millennia, the word of the God-Emperor and the authority of the Ecclesiarchy have been defended by the sisters of the Order of the Penitent Saint. Originally a preceptory of the Order of the Valorous Heart, this Order Minoris has been a staple of Pnoabsterix since arriving on the cardinal world of Othellum in late M38. Communication and travel across the vast void of the galaxy is unpredictable and haphazard under the best of conditions, and in the Ultima Segmentum, these risks and impediments are only greater. When the first sisters of the Valorous Heart arrived on Othellum, they had their initial orders to enforce and defend the Ecclesiarchy present there. It would be more than a century before they received further contact from their Order Command and as such, the sisterhood had to be self-reliant. Over time, the preceptory on Othellum adopted more of the local customs and traditions, growing more and more distant to their founding order. The Order’s true genesis came after participating in the Cleansing of Pnoabsterix, a series of crusades made up of virtually all of the sub-sector’s military forces. The preceptory on Othellum had lent nearly every available battle sister to the crusades, determined to bring the God-Emperor’s wrath to the foul xenos. Over the decades-long conflict, the Sororitas engaged the greenskins in void warfare, defending ships from enemy boarding assaults as well as launching their own, driving deep into the enemy crafts to cripple the vessels from within. These grinding battles of attrition were well-suited for the Sororitas, and the excruciation suffered by the sisters only served to push them harder. When the Imperium limped out of the Ork realms victorious, the battle sisters were amongst the forces that had suffered the greatest casualties, as well as having earned the most accolades and honors. Upon returning to Othellum, the preceptory command held a vigil for their lost sisters. It was there, before the Sarcophagus of the Saint of Pnoabsterix that the sororitas present had a shared vision. They claimed that the God-Emperor’s light shone on the jeweled coffin, and the spirit of the Saint spoke to them, instructing them that only through great pain and sacrifice, much like what they had just experienced, could they find their Lord’s grace. With the backing of the Cardinal of Othellum, the preceptory established itself as the Holy Order of the Penitent Saint. After its founding, the Order rapidly expanded across the sub-sector, establishing missions and minor sanctuaries on many worlds. With the constant threat of Ork invasion ended, the sub-sector fell into a period of relative peace and stability called the “Pax Pnoabsterix”, and much like the regiments of the Astra Militarum raised from the worlds or the Skitarri legions of Alcrondre, the Order of the Penitent Saint was deployed to combat the God-Emperor’s enemies outside their domain. The number of Holy Wars fought by the sororitas of Othellum were tremendous, and with each victory, the Order’s reputation grew. In the sub-sector, the Pax was maintained in part thanks to the efforts of the sisters who worked with Ordo Hereticus agents to root out heretical cults and would-be traitors. Holy pilgrimage vessels were defended from pirates thanks to the Penitent Saints on board, repelling enemy boarding parties. Across the sector and the local segmentum, the Battle Sisters of the Penitent Saint were known for their steadfast conviction to their faith and their duty, at any cost. In the late 41st millennia, before being executed, the heretic-scholar Allexia Hrustis claimed that the Order was running out of enemies they could absolve themselves against. While none would dare to give voice to similar concerns, any such fear would be terribly cast away shortly after the heretic burned. The Order and the Wars of the Mega-Tyrant Pax Pnoabsterix came to an abrupt end in 936.M41 when WAAAGH!!! Tortoof emerged from the once-defeated Ork worlds. Caught off-guard by the sudden appearance of the massive and dispersed Ork horde, the Imperium quickly lost the initial battles, including the fortress world Wuhaeyr, which had been the bastion that had held back Ork WAAAGHS! In the millennia before the Cleansing. No Sororitas of the Order of the Penitent Saint fell on Wuhaeyar, as the order had recalled its last remaining mission a century before. The failure to be present for the battle was considered a great shame amongst the sisters of the Order, and the Canoness Superior, Gladisonia Vrebel, resigned and joined the swelling ranks of the Sisters Repentia. The Order redeployed to meet this new threat. On Pretlus Beta, the order took charge in the defense of two of the hives, and when the planet was abandoned by the Imperium after over twenty years of constant warfare, the battle sisters fought valiant rearguard actions to allow the withdrawal of material and personnel. In the jungles of Qingdal Septimus, the Imperium achieved its first major victory over the Orks behind the mass charge of Repentia, Mortifiers, Arco-Flagellants and Penitent Engines. After the fall of the crown world of Caivengh, the Order of the Penitent Saint gave in to mounting pressure from the Departmento Munitorum to focus on defending several key worlds instead of the sub-sector at large. The Sisters of Battle could not defend the forges during the Looting of Alcrondre, but were instrumental in preventing the xenos from capturing an Ordinatus that was unearthed during the conflict. Ultimately, the wars for the sub-sector came down to the Ork’s assault on Othellum, a world unprepared for such cataclysmic battles. Churches and chapels were converted to bunkers, and brutal urban combat was waged in the streets made for the procession of the faithful. Knights clashed with Gorkanauts under the vaulted ceilings of cathedrals, crushing pews underfoot, and seraphim dueled with stormboyz in the minarets high above. The warlord Tortoof led his biggest nobs and warbosses to sack the Basilica of the Emperor’s Righteous Glory, making three assaults upon the main doors. The first was rebuffed at great cost to the defenders. The second managed to knock down the massive doors before finally being forced back. It was a foregone conclusion to all present, human and ork alike, that the third would push past the threshold. While the guardsmen present were on the brink of shattering, the resolve of the Sisters of Battle could not be shaken. If it was their ultimate fate to spend their lives in the same place the Saint had died, then they were prepared to go down with the God-Emperor’s name on their minds and his glory on their lips. As the third assault came, a golden warrior appeared, wielding a flaming sword, bathed in pure light and borne through the air by wings of bloodied chains. Those present swear it was the face of the martyr Vrebel who led that final defense, and buoyed by the presence of one of the God-Emperor’s personal angels, the sororitas of the Order of the Penitent Saint sallied forth to meet the green tide. In the middle of the swirling melee, the golden saint dueled with the ork warlord, preventing him from smashing the defenders himself. Ultimately, Tortoof shattered the holy sword and crushed the winged warrior, only to see his hardest and best nobs and warbosses slaughtered around him. With his forces in a clear rout, Tortoof was forced to abandon his ambition for sacking the great cathedral. The ork’s fate would be decided off-world, but the Order of the Penitent Saint wouldn’t be present for that final battle. Othellum was cleansed of the Orkoid menace just as the Cicatrix Maledictum opened. Half of the sub-sector had been devoured by the greenskins and new threats were taking advantage of the discord sown across the once-prosperous realm. Cut off from their Sanctum and the Imperium at large, the Order of the Penitent Saint is poised to be the light in the darkness, in the God-Emperor’s name. Homeworld Othellum is a temperate world, a garden that exemplifies the Holy Terra of old legends. The world is nearly 80% ocean, with one massive continent and dotted by thousands of isles. The world has been a Cardinal world of the Ecclesiarch for millennia, covered in cathedrals, chapels and churches. Originally an agri-world called Beta-Sigtum IV, the Ecclesiarchy overran and renamed the planet after discovering the tomb of the Saint of Pnoabsterix. The capital city of Thellia lies in the middle of Othellum’s central plains, vast waves of amber and green surrounding the largest cathedrals in the sub-sector. On the north side of the city is the Basilica of the Emperor’s Righteous Glory, which houses the Chapel of the Penitent Saint, which in turn is the final resting place of the Saint of Pnoabsterix. Stretching out from the Basilica are various other magnificent, architectural wonders that espouse the word of the God-Emperor, but there is no more holy place in all of the sub-sector than the Chapel, a former Munitorum depot that the Saint was buried beneath. After the Ecclesiarchy arrived, the saint was exhumed and placed into a magnificent sarcophagus, memorable for the vast quantity of turquoise and precious gems inlaid and adorning it. This extravagant display of wealth and affluence isn’t unique on Othellum. The prosperity of the sub-sector during the Pax Pnoabsterix was heavily tithed by the Ecclesiarchy, who bedecked the cardinal world with gemstones and rare minerals. That is not to say every inch of the world is a jewel; many billions live on Othellum, and holy pilgrimages from across the sector draw many more souls to the world. The impoverished masses of humanity who live in the shadows of the great cathedrals are suppressed and pushed out by the Ecclesiarchy, who strive to present the world as an idyllic bastion of the God-Emperor’s glory deep in the darkness of the Ultima Segmentum. In contrast to the lavish extravagance displayed and enjoyed by the agents of the Ecclesiarchy, the sisters of the Order of the Penitent Saint live a far more spartan lifestyle. Their armor, icons, symbols and emblems may showcase the wealth of Othellum, but the battle sisters themselves rebuff the pampered and excessive waste. Their sanctuaries are marvelous facades, the exteriors decorated by the Ecclesiarchy to maintain the world’s jeweled look. On the other hand, the sparse and mundane interiors would seem out of place to a visitor, if one were allowed to view them. Several fortresses dot the cardinal world, far from the cathedral cities, where the Order can train and drill without impeding on the world’s pristine image. Despite their aversion to the extravagance on the Eccliarchy’s displays, the Order command is housed in the Chapel of the Penitent Saint, below the sarcophagus. Greatly expanded, it is from these subterranean levels that the Holy Wars persecuted by the Order are planned and organized. Beliefs and Dogma The Armor and Colors of the Order The titular Saint has served as an inspiration for the Order in all things. Much as their dogma is drawn from the Saint’s life, their colors come from the Saint’s death. Drawing upon the ornate sarcophagus of the Saint, the majority of the Order wears turquoise armor. Gold symbols adorn their pauldrons, with silver filigree decorating various elements. The white and red vestments represent the purity of their purpose, and the life blood they are prepared to give. In this manner, each sister goes to battle knowing they are encased in their own sarcophagus, ready to lay their lives in the name of the God-Emperor and His Faith. The Order of the Penitent Saint takes its name from the Saint of Pnoabsterix, a figure of incredible importance to the sub-sector. As the long millennia have gone by, the true story and details of the life of the Saint have been forgotten, misremembered, or, as whispered amongst the foulest heretics, fabricated. Much like every other institution in the sub-sector, the sisters of the Order have their own version of the Saint’s saga, as given to them in visions by martyrs and living saints. What is generally agreed upon across the sub-sector is that the Saint’s long-reaching effect on Pnoabsterix was in three parts. During the flames of the Horus Heresy, Pnoabsterix was besieged by traitors. The Saint rose to prominence as a brilliant military leader, who eventually led the defense of loyal worlds. To the Order, the Saint was once a humble ground-soldier who stepped up to fill the void when her regiment’s command was wiped out. Against overwhelming odds, the Saint won a heroic victory, throwing back the tides of darkness. It is proclaimed a golden light surrounded the Saint afterwards and in short order, she assumed command of most every Imperial force until she was the Grand Commander of the sub-sector, imbued with the Emperor’s righteousness that none could deny. Near the end of the Heresy, the Saint committed their greatest sin. With victory for the loyalist forces of Pnoabsterix all but assured, the final battle occurred on Ghreylis, a productive agri-world that the Administrum was eager to hold. The Saint deployed forces to the world, a vanguard that was made up of her dissenters and rivals. In an act that served as a mirror of the actions that had started the Heresy, the Saint ordered Exterminatus on the world. In only a few short hours, all of the Saint’s enemies were dead, as well as the bounty of the world. What happened in the aftermath is lost to time. What is known is some time later, the Saint re-appeared as a humbled, contritious figure. For the rest of her natural life, the Saint gave up all worldly possessions and spread the holy word of the Emperor across the sub-sector, helping lead cults out of the darkness. It was on Beta-Sigtum IV where the Saint passed away, and was buried beneath a local Departmento Munitorum depot. Eventually, this depot became the Chapel of the Penitent Saint, and millennia later, the Saint’s body lies inside an ornate sarcophagus inside the chapel, which is housed by the Basilica of the Emperor’s Righteous Glory. To the sisters of the Order of the Penitent Saint, the Saint’s saga of a righteous warrior being susceptible to the sins of their humanity is at the root of their dogma. Alongside the martyrdom of Saint Lucia, the sororitas of the Order believe that only through great suffering can they find forgiveness. The Saint spent their twilight years trying to atone for the massacre of Ghreylis and the betrayal of the God-Emperor’s values of loyalty and selfless sacrifice. The sisters defend the Ecclesiarchy of Othellum and the sub-sector, but they believe that they are the only true inheritors of the Saint’s legacy. As such, they believe that the Saint’s sins are their burden to repay. The Scripture of Penance Owed One of the Order’s most important relics is the Scripture of Penance Owed, a catalog of all the crimes, sins, failures and transgressions of their past. These misdeeds are passed down generation after generation amongst the sisterhood, the sins of their forebears becoming their own. Over the long centuries, some acts have been lost to the passages of time, but the punishment owed is never forgotten. The Scripture is the authority as far as the Order’s absolution is concerned. And it isn’t just the Saint’s sins that have been passed down to the Order. No organization in the Imperium is without its black marks, and the Order of the Penitent Saint is no different. Each failure, betrayal or other transgression is remembered and recorded, and the Order believes it is their collective duty to search for their diety’s forgiveness. Repentance is the greatest virtue for the sororitas of Othellum. The need to seek absolution in the hellfire of war is so ingrained in the sororitas that there is never a lack of volunteers for the Repentia. They each bear the transgressions as listed in the Scripture of Penance Owed, and as such, each are capable of qualifying for the Repentia. Those sisters who are forcefully inducted into the ranks due to crimes of their own are given brands on their faces, marking them as having increased the Order’s list of sins. The need for penance is so deeply engraved in the Order’s collective psyche that often willing sisters have to be turned away from serving in the repentia, lest entire commanderies dearly sell their lives too quickly. It is their deepest belief that the God-Emperor will walk again once all of humanity has paid for their transgressions, and that the terrors of the galaxy and the incessant wars waged are the Imperium’s punishment. For the battle sisters of the Order of the Penitent Saint, those who are engaged in the Imperium’s battles are all martyrs, doing their duty to mankind and the God-Emperor. Combat Doctrine As an Order Minoris descended from the Valorous Heart, the Order of the Penitent Saint favor warfare centered on brutal battles of attrition, scorched earth, and measured advances. Grinding out painful victories and exacting extreme and total devastation of their enemies is how the sororitas of Othellum measure their accomplishments. Each warrior knows that they must endure, must absorb as much punishment as the enemy can give, in order to defeat not just their foes, but to achieve the repentance the Order seeks. It is no wonder that the Order is always capable of fielding large numbers of Sisters Repentia, Mortifiers and Penitent Engines. Mass formations of Repentia are deployed at every opportunity, and alongside the engines of penance, these crazed warriors have led many a vanguard for the Order, delivery crippling blows in the form of wanton slaughter to foes unprepared for the fury of the true faith. The success of entire crusades have swung on the charge of these sisters and warmachines, and the engine and eviscerator are as much a symbol of the Order as their turquoise power armor. When a foe is too implacable to be ground down, and too resilient to be battered by the repentant, the Order turns to its avenging angels. Drowning the enemy in a hail of bolts, plasma, holy fire and blessed blades, the Seraphim and Zephyrim of the Order are deployed in mass to shatter the resolve of the enemy. These righteous demi-goddesses of war are often at the center of many reported miracles, and have ended the tale of many a xenos warlord, slaver, heretic and traitor. Above all else, the Order of the Penitent Saint seeks to constantly be waging the God-Emperor’s wars. They will answer any call for support, will fight in any environment, and will mercilessly and tirelessly hunt down any foe on any world. The Order has persecuted many crusades, being the driving force of the Imperium on lost worlds as weapons of faith. In the sub-sector, it is not uncommon for missions to disappear into the hives and underbellies of Pnoabsterix, only to emerge years later, diminished and battered, having rooted out and eliminated traitors and cults. Wherever conflict can be found, the battle sisters of Othellum are often in the midst of it. Organization Despite being based on Othellum, the Order of the Penitent Saint has missions on every major world in Pnoabsterix, and a presence on nearly every other occupied one. Prior to the opening of the Cicatrix Maledictum, the Order received its recruits as every order did. But since the appearance of the Great Rift and the loss of communication with the Convent Santorum and Ophelia VII, the Order has had to take a more proactive hand in the local Schola Pregenium. Fortunately, in the wake of the Mega-Tyrant’s invasion and the subsequent wars, there are a rapidly growing number of orphans who can be indoctrinated. Constrained by dogma to maintaining only six preceptories, each one is often much larger than their typical counterpart in another Order. On occasions where the warp has cut contact between a preceptory and Othellum, it is the custom to found a new preceptory with the designation, duties and traditions of the lost one. When the God-Emperor has blessed the Order with his mercy, calming the warp and bringing the lost sisters back into the fold, the new and old preceptories will be merged, with a ritualistic combat held between the two canoness preceptors for the right to lead the joint force. The victor is the one that stains the ground with their lifeblood the most without losing consciousness, signifying the burden the canoness is capable of enduring for her sisters. Each preceptory represents one of the 6 Acts of the Saint’s Repentance. For example, the fourth preceptory is dedicated to void-warfare, serving aboard the Order’s ships as well as the vessels of the Ecclesiarchy, representing the Penitent Saint’s service feeding the ratings onboard an Imperium warship. On the other hand, the 2nd preceptory is dedicated to hunting down heretical cults and false prophets, a dark mirror to the Saint’s act of bringing the God-Emperor’s cults out of the shadows and into the light. The angelic host of seraphim and zephyrim are called “the Companions of Lucia'', named after the patron saint of the Valorous Heart. The Order of the Penitent Saint only recruits Companions from sisters who have survived the rigours of serving in the Sisters Repentia. They are marked as true exemplars of the Order’s values, trading the turquoise armor of the Penitent Saint’s sarcophagus for the pristine white of the God-Emperor’s glory. Embodying the Order’s highest ideals and traditions, the Companions are found at the center of the most important rituals and most vital battles. Battlecry “Our Faith is Eternal, our Repentance, Unending!”
  2. For my gaming group's 2nd crusade escalation campaign we've got one of the players writing a setting for the battles, and it's inspired me to write up some fluff of my own. I'll be posting "batreps" here focusing on the narrative aspect and including just a couple notes about the game and their outcomes - if you want to talk shop or ask questions about the list or specific loadouts etc., I'd love to hear it over in my main army thread. I'd also welcome feedback on the writing! Setting: attacking a space hulk (Shattered Silence) on edge of Pariah Nexus near planet Anhem, orbiting star Ramasus Belligerents: Imperial Fleet Quintus leading Battle Group Cantor, various Xenos & Chaos Shadowhawks Units: 2nd Company “Revenants” aboard the MkIII (Bombardment Cannon variant) Vanguard Class Light Strike Cruiser Margema Shaldag, known in Gothic as the Tormento Avem. Cast 2nd Co. Chaplain Janai Erabal Codicier Amir Shemai Captain Aol Areche Lt. Primus Harim Apothecary Athuro Sgt. Sostrapal, 2nd Squad (Intercessors) AKA "Chayot Schör" Sgt. Harmas, 9th Squad (Eradicators) 1st Co. Veteran Sergeant Kasz Thaumiel, 7th Squad (Vanguards) AKA "Bene Elohim" Other individuals TBD.
  3. So, while contemplating the fluff of my WAAAGH!!! and the sub-sector it affects, I came to the realization that Gork's Grin, or the Great Rift/Cicatrix Maledictum to you non-greenskins, would not be visible to most of the galaxy. After all, our galaxy is like 105,000 light years wide, so it would stand to reason that after 200-400 years (or whatever it's been), only a small fraction of the galaxy on either side of the rift would have light reaching it for it to be visible. Or would it? Afterall, it's literally the realm of nightmares, chaos, and unreality spilling out across realspace. Could it be visible by something other than light? Assuming it isn't visible by weird, 40k-not-magic-but-come-on-it's-magic logic, does most of the galaxy even grasp what has happened? Anything that's touched on this? I just started Spears of the Emperor, which I know is on the Nihilus side of the Imperium, so please avoid major spoilers from that if it covers it. ---------------------- A little more of my thought process: My fluff takes place in a sub-sector on the far edge of the galaxy, out near the Ghoul Stars. While thinking about how the chapters involved in my story would take Primaris, I realized that they probably would have no idea that the galaxy is torn by a rift. They'd know from Navigators and Psykers that the astronomicon was gone and communication was difficult, but if they had a moment with Custodes like the Blood Ravens do in the story in July's White Dwarf, would they even know about the rift? Would it just be a rumored thing, passed on by the Primarch's representatives? Would they believe it, or grasp what it is?
  4. One of the best things about 1d4chan's writeups of various 40k characters, factions, and concepts, are the quotes that're used as headers in many articles. These aren't just 40k-sourced ones, but come from quite a bewildering array of modern and classic literature, songs, pop-cultural manifestations, real-world religious scripture, other games, etc. Not all pages have them, and not all are equally good. But in many cases, they really help to capture and portray the *essence* of a thing. And provide amply abundant inspiration for both modelling projects, and fluff exercises. But I'm not here simply to compliment whichever anonymous fa/tg/uys were responsible for either concept or quote selection. Rather ... the only issue I have with the way they do things, is that there's *only* two or three quotes per page. So, with that in mind, I thought I'd fire up a thread to encourage people to chuck in their own examples of quotes from pretty much any source, that might be useful in attempting to sum up something or someone from 40k. Here's a few examples from 1d4chan itself: > On the page for plasma weaponry: "Never was anything great achieved without danger." - Niccolo Machiavelli > From the Ferrus Manus entry : "Steel isn't strong, boy. Flesh is stronger. What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?" - Thulsa Doom to Conan, Conan the Barbarian. > From the Leman Russ page, and a personal favourite: "I am the punishment of God...If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you." - Genghis Khan. > From the Iron Warriors page: "Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured." - Mark Twain > From the Word Bearers page: "By its very nature, theology tends - and under certain conditions, must always tend - to become demonology." - from Faust [appropriately enough] > Alpharius: "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." - Kurt Vonnegut > the Alpha Legion : "If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself." - George Orwell > Dark Angels: "The best way of keeping a secret is to pretend there isn't one." - Margaret Atwood > From the Lorgar page: "From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step." – Denis Diderot > Lorgar again: "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;" / "He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored." / "He has loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword" / "His truth is marching on" - The Battle Hymn of the Republic > Lorgar, for a third time: "Dost thou (kimi) seest not this man of Enlightenment (Satori)" / "Who hath ceased studying and liveth now effortlessly?" / "Neither doth he seeks to defeat dellusion nor to find truth any longer." – The Song of Sudden Enlightenment, by Grand Master Yoka, disciple of Hui Neng, 6th Patriarch of Zen > on The Imperial Truth: "If once we can produce our perfect work — the Materialist Magician, the man, not using, but veritably worshipping, what he vaguely calls “Forces” while denying the existence of “spirits” — then the end of the war will be in sight."– Screwtape, "The Screwtape Letters" by C.S Lewis Getting the picture? If you've got some cool thoughts about quotes, from pretty much any source, post 'em here along with what you're thinking they're affixable to within the 40k/30k context. Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with 1d4chan, except as an occasional reader. I just like what they've done with the concept, and think that it can be broadened out.
  5. A thread meant for my meandering interests in the Heresy, whether it be posting models, fluff or whatever strikes me. to start the ball rolling... Raven Guard Part 1, Moralltach 1 “…so cousins of the XIX, it’s with deep regret that the Warmaster calls you home. The Astartes Treachery is deeper than Lord Lupercal dared believe and reaches the Throneworld itself. Despite numerous pleas and envoys from Lord Lupercal, the Emperor remains silent and distant. A dictatorship of bureaucrats rule in his name, with the traitorous Custodes and the twice damned Dorn must be the cause of His silence. Many Legions have turned from the Great Crusade and spread lies about our cause. Guilliman has declared himself free of any previous oath, and even now Lords Angron and Lorgar wage war to reclaim the Five Hundred Worlds of Ultramar for Mankind’s Empire. Though our Warmaster brought the might of seven complete Legions against your sire and his fellow traitors Vulkan and Ferrus Manus, Corax cast aside his allies to escape our vengeance. The Serpent of Medusa has been slain by the illustrious Lord Fulgrim and Dragon of Nocturne was obliterated on the battle field. After leaving his Legion on the field of battle, Corax has returned to Deliverance and now uses illegal genetic research to create monsters from what’s left of his Legion. The Lion, the Khan, Russ and Sanguinius. All have turned from the ideals we fought to preserve. The Lion rages across the Thamas system, while Lord Kurze struggles to halt the massacres. The Khan has disappeared and answers nobody’s calls, but his presence at shattered Prospero is an ill sign. Poor Prospero, the center of knowledge and a beacon for all sciences. Now nothing more than dust and ash, a planet of dying dreams, killed by the mongrels of Russ. Sanguinius has disappeared as well, but our last reports had him in alliance with the Battle King of Ultramar. This is why we seek your aid. Corax showed his jealously of our Warmaster by casting in you into the darkness of the galaxy. In his pettiness, he saw your loyalty to the Great Crusade and its master as a betrayal to him. Now is the time to show your strength! Return to the realm he denied you and prove yourself free of any such disloyalty! The Warmaster once valued your strength, and in this dark time, he knows he can count on the loyal, rejected sons of a traitor to do what is needed to save the future of Mankind. For the Warmaster! For Mankind!” With a clatter the holographic image of Commander Aziekol of the Sons of Horus pounded his gauntlets, palm overlapping to the center of his torso, forming the pre-Corax salute of the Raven Guard. The image faded into the projector, leaving three figures silence and full of questions. This was the latest in a series of messages to reach them, each beseeching their return and casting somebody else as the traitor. The messages had created a stir in the far roaming Nomad-Predation fleets of the XIX. Many had already declared for the Warmaster and disappeared into the Warp or simply went further into the void, but the many messages presented conflicting information. The remnants of three Nomad-Predation fleets had come together to decide what their fates would be. The first to break the silence was Strike Captain Baen of the 17th Fleet, commander of the largest fleet present. The long years of warfare and little reinforcement left him with a single Battle Barge and several Strike Cruisers. Strike Captain Baen once commanded thousands of Legionaries, but now had less than 700 Brothers under his command. “The Warmaster had always treated us with respect, and was fairer than the convict.” The emphasis on convict left little doubt to who Baen referred to, the word positively overflowing with hatred from years of bitter rejection. “And I mean no offense by that word Brother Donal. I know you are of Deliverance, but if you cared for his commands you’d shackle your gifts. I think it is past time to return to the Ravenspire and purge those not loyal to the Great Crusade. The Warmaster has called us home.” The second figure in the room nodded his acceptance of Baen’s apology and poor word choice. Brother Donal Moralltach was gifted with the powers of the Warp and had been among his Legion’s Librarius, before a directive from Deliverance had ordered it to be dismantled and the Librarians redeployed in the Legion. Moralltach had rejected this command, and repeatedly refused to be equipped with a psychic hood. Being cast out into the void allowed this betrayal to take place, and his fellow Legionaries had seen the command as another insult from a distant, uncaring Lord. A voice box boomed across the room as the third figure as the metal form turned to look at both Baen and Moralltach. Honored Atticus had been among the first of the Raven Guard to leave Terra, and many worlds had claimed a piece of his life blood. It was only during the eradication of the xeno Eldar worldships had his body passed beyond the skills of the Apothecarium to heal. Atticus refused death however, and his dying mortal frame was placed in the Contemptor Dreadnought that now served as his life support unit and suit of war. Honored Atticus and Moralltach had fought alongside so frequently these last few decades that their separate fleets were a single fleet for all practical purposes, though honor and tradition had demanded they recorded their accomplishments separately. Together they commanded just under 117 Legionaries and three strike cruisers. “It is my opinion that if the Emperor is silent, and so many of his sons turned from their oaths, our only option is to drive to Terra itself and resolve this. The Emperor can handle any of his gene-forged children, if he is free to do so. To give the Emperor his voice would do more than killing any number of soldiers.” “Very well put, Honored Atticus, but the Warp denies us the road to Terra. The storms grow stronger, and despite our navigator’s efforts and Brother Donal’s insistence, the only stable path head to the Warmaster. It is so decided. Return to your ships and prepare for the journey home. The Raven Lord has turned from Terra’s dream, it’s time to become his nightmare.” With a curt nod to each nod to both Moralltach and Honored Atticus, Baen left to his preparations. A Thunderhawk returned Moralltach and Honored Atticus back to their command ships. The trip had been silent, as Moralltach was deep in his own counsel and Honored Atticus knew better than to try and pry answers from the withdrawn figure. With a comradely rap against his armored torso, Moralltach left the Thunderhawk to his own ship. Despite the messages received, Moralltach was very troubled by the missives from the Warmaster. Much had not been said, and the Warp seemed to wax and wane around him. The cawing of distant ravens sometimes broke through his mediations, but the fierce tides of the Warp silenced them. It was in relative silence that Moralltach brought his fleet alongside that of Honored Atticus. The larger fleet of Strike Commander Baen was still positioning itself to enter the Warp when the private comm-link broke through Moralltach’s preparations. “Now you have to listen to me little brother.” Moralltach smiled at that, for it was an old joke between Honored Atticus and himself. When Atticus was still flesh and blood they were as different as night and day, and it was by Moralltach’s counsel that Atticus escaped death so many times. It was when the bloodlust overpowered such restraint that Atticus fell to the Eldar witch’s blade, and since then the two each called the other ‘little brother’. “Baen is allowing his bitterness to color his judgement. You saw that as much as I, and we both know this strike at Deliverance is to quench his desire for vengeance than any practical purpose. Yet you stayed quiet.” The question was heavy in Atticus’s words despite it not being voiced aloud. For a long moment Moralltach was silent, but finally found the words to speak. “I agree that this strike is folly, but I disagree with heading to Terra itself. For many weeks I have been troubled by the messages we received and the evidence presented by them. I think we need to see this Istvaan with our own eyes, make our own decisions.” “Truly, you think the dead world is the correct course?” This time the question was blunt, no subtly in the voice box. “If that’s your desire, then to Istvaan we go. Let us visit Death and then decide who deserves it.” “Brother Donal, Honored Atticus. Why are your ships not placed on my exit route?” The voice of Strike Captain Baen came across the ships voxspeaker. “I’ve received further calls for aid from the XVII. They are being pounded by the so-called Battle King and have requested aid. It would be a fine gift to the Warmaster for our arrival to save his loyal soldiers.” Honored Atticus responded first “Forgive our delay, but Captain Moralltach and I have agreed to go to Istvaan itself, and see what has happened with our own eyes.” “Your own eyes?! You’re a collection of bolts and scrap holding together a dead man. I’ve allowed your constant delay long enough. Either move your fleet to my coordinates or be designated as a traitor to the Warmaster.” The words of Strike Captain Baen were matched by the actions of his fleet. The Battle Barge Death from Darkness turned to face the smaller strike cruisers, and the message couldn’t be clearer: join or die. Over the private commlink Honored Atticus called for Moralltach. “It’s as you feared, Baen has lost himself, and wants us to join him in damnation. Execute Plan Flight 5-X.” “Are you certain? Flight 5-X would mean…“ Moralltach began, but was quickly cut off by the hails of Death from Darkness. “Have you reached a decision?! Declare now, or die a traitor’s death!” The weapons of the Battle Barge trained on the smaller fleet, and Moralltach knew it wouldn’t take much effort for Strike Captain Baen to destroy the combined fleets. “For the Emperor!” came across the vox link. The fleet of Honored Atticus surged forward to engage the Battle Barge, opening fire as they raced to death. “Moralltach, better run fast as we’ll only buy you minutes. Ave Imperator, Victory or Death.” Shutting down all vox links, Honored Atticus brought his two ships to engage the Battle Barge and block Moralltach’s command ship from Baen’s fleet. “All souls, prepare for immediate entry into the Warp.” Moralltach released the ship’s vox speaker, and looked towards his bridge crew. “Let’s hurry now, death is behind us” The Strike Cruiser left the battle, quickly enacting the plans Honored Atticus insisted they form months ago. Istvaan’s coordinates were already plotted, the path prepared. With a slight lurch and shame settling in his mind, Donal Moralltach took his ship into the Wap.
  6. 711th Cadian Combined Arms Brigade (CCAB) The 711th CCAB is a mixed arms unit comprising of the 897th Infantry Company and their support vehicles, the 975th Armoured Battalion, the 201st Artillery Regiment (a mixed platform force), remnants of the 661st Air Support Squadron unit and a small force of Elysians. The 711th was recently dispatched to Eridanus Tertiary, also known to the local population as "Rivers End" as, due to it's close orbit to it's sun, it is mainly covered by rolling dunes and scrappy vegetation. A significant force of Orks under Warboss Sturtuk had attacked smaller settlements and the Astra Militarum had been called to help the Planetary Governor whose only forces where a ceremonial bodyguard and they where fully unprepared to fight off the green horde. Eridanus Tertiary On arrival, they discovered that due to a warp transit accident and extremely poor planning by the Departmento Munitorum, their full entitlement of desert adapted equipment had not arrived and they where only able to be outfitted in the distinctive camouflage clothing but not the equipment. Sgt Major Nesh was heard to joke that the clothing reminded him of his mothers biscuits and so the Brigade unofficially adopted the name "Chocochip Rats". The vehicles have adopted a mixed green/sand camouflage scheme which blends in well with the surrounding terrain although the constant abrasive effect of the wind blown sand does not take long to make a freshly painted vehicle look like it has been there for years. The Brigade is currently shaking out prior to full deployment on a seek and destroy mission. Units: 711th Brigade Command Company 2051st Kasrkin (3 squad detachment - assault and close protection duties) 975th Armoured Battalion "Iron Fists" 897th Infantry Company "Cadian Might" (Mechanised - light) 201st Artillery Regiment 661st Air Support Squadron Elysian 195th Company (reduced) 293rd Abhuman Company Munitorum and Ministorum support Structures and defence emplacements Battle Honours Battle of Ridge 582 North 37 days after the initial deployment of the 711th CCAB on Eridanus Teritary, High Command believed it was time to engage in a major battle. The Brigade was deployed in force to Smitts Plain, a large area of rocky outcrops rising above a firm sand surface. The main feature of this plain was a long, rocky ridge-line running east-west with the only available fresh water spring for 100 clicks. The defensibility of the ridge and availability of a water supply made it an ideal location for a staging base for further and farther reaching patrols to secure more of the Western Great Desert area. Unfortunately the orks had also seen the possibility behind this location. Aerial reconnaissance carried out by 661st Air Support Squadron showed a medium sized ork force in residence on Ridge 582 including infantry with vehicle support. A mixed force of infantry, artillery and armour was sent to destroy any ork resistance and occupy the ridge. On approaching Ridge 582 the Cadians where assaulted by the orks, who true to their nature had no intention of fighting a defensive battle and had decided to attack the column during it's advance. Unfortunately they had not considered that the flat, firm desert surface was ideal for armoured formations and although the orcs where destroyed, their numbers and fanatical attack made the Battle of Ridge 582 North a battle that was entered into the history of the 711th with pride and earned the unit a citation to add to the Battalion standard. Individual acts of courage where too numerous to recount in full. Sufficed to say that in the heat of battle the members of the 711th proved themselves worthy of The Emperor. The Chimera transports of the 897th Infantry Company where to be found in the thick of the action, multi-lasers and hull bolters glowing with the heat of continuous firing whilst the troops prepared themselves to deploy to winkle orks from rocks where they where too well hidden for the heavy weapons to have full effect. The Leman Russ variants (Battle Tanks, Demolishers and Vanquishers) targeted the fast moving ork Trukks and Buggies but the main force of the ork attack was aimed at the single Baneblade "Imperator" which had deployed directly opposite of the main assault, more out of luck than planning, and bore the main brunt of the orks anger.
  7. Inspired by a pseudo-request in the painting thread, I figured I might as well introduce my heretics and invite others to do the same. I have numerous small armies (A guard army, even evil guard, is never complete. It merely explores new avenues of expansion), but two larger ones who comprise the bulk of my guardsmen, the Baavar Geneclade (Khorne worshippers), and the Orlean First Cohort. I'll share what background I've worked up below, and hope others will do the same for their regiments, cults, warbands, and other assorted formations. The Baavar Geneclade The Baavar Geneclade started life in the Baavar Clanwarrens, specifically in the warrens under the control of their Archgenetech. Obsessed with perfection of the human form, the Archgenetech and his followers in the clade believed themselves to be descended from a perfect common ancestor from the Dark Ages, an ancestor they believed held the perfect human form locked within its genes. Utilizing genecraft, eugenic breeding, and other long unspoken of techniques, the genetechs of Baavar spent generations trying to unlock this perfection. After unknown years and generations they achieved what they believed to be perfection in the form of the first genegineered members of their warrens, each infused with the genetic code of the Archgenetech themself. For again years unknown, the Archgenetech ruled over the entirety of the Clanwarrens, having quickly overthrown the other ruling Magos and quickly populating the warrens with his cohorts of genetically homogenous soldiers. The Archgenetech ruled as a living god in this fashion over a society built in his image, the society secure in their perfection until the coming of the Emperor of Mankind to the Baavar's warrens. Attempting a peaceful integration into the fledgling Empire the Emperor led a procession into the warrens, under the watchful gaze of thousands of pairs of eyes peering through thousands of targeting scopes. First came rank upon rank of barely controlled techno barbarians, followed by a cadre of hulking Thunder Warriors and, finally, the golden clad Custodians flanking The Emperor of Mankind himself. They wound for hours through the warrens’ tunnels, the cavalcade of military force on both sides refusing to be the one responsible for what could only be a massacre on both sides. Finally The Emperor found Himself in the Archgenetech’s amphitheatre, a tail of His army trailing thru the entire labyrinthine complex, the Archgenetech seated on his throne complex, massed ranks of his most impressive soldiery flanking for a full kilometer in all directions. For long moments the assembled troops stood. Unmoving, untalking, the Archgenetech the only soul daring to take action as two gods stared into each other and took one another's measure. The Archgenetech rose from his throne and cleared his throat. He barely uttered a single syllable, “Ki…”, before a flash of light pierced the cavern and the Archgenetech's throat and surrounding flesh were vaporized. Nobody dared move except the Baavar’s First Hand, positioned to the immediate right of the throne, who lowered his laslock rifle, its barrel still steaming and glowing faintly in the damp underground air. To a man the Baavar Geneclade took a knee to The Emperor. Tens of thousands of Baavar Genewrought knew that they were descended from the perfect human and they wept, having finally laid eyes on the man whom they knew embodied that perfect ideal, and would take his place on their throne from now on. The Genebrothers of the Baavar are a highly unusual Imperial Army regiment. Born of highly homogeneous breeding practices, each brother is nearly identical in appearance and mannerisms to the next. Being naturally born humans though, rather than clones, there is some small variance that crops up from time to time, accounting for some of the more specialized units the Baavar field. Each brother is tall for an unaugmented human, often passing two meters in height, and naturally slender of limb and torso. Generations of eugenic breeding has rendered the Baavar almost universally hairless and excessively pale of skin, even when environmental conditions should preclude it. Due to their long rule by the Archgenetech the Baavar hold the uncommon belief that they are not truly an individual until they have earned that right, living and fighting under rebreathers and masks until they have reached a position of note within their regiment. Even then, it is rare to see a Baavar fully unmasked, many having become accustomed to their rebreathers and whatever compounds the regimental Commissars have seen fit to add to improve regimental morale. This lack of self identity combined with a sense of superiority tends to annoy other forces alongside whom they take to the field, but none more than the Adeptus Astartes. Shortly after joining The Emperor's armies, the Baavar were genetested for compatibility with the Legiones Astartes. Being of such ubiquitous stock, almost the entirety of the Baavar were judged incompatible with the existing legions. A small numbers were however found compatible, and this gave rise to the peculiar and sometimes infuriating habit of addressing all Astartes as brothers ever since a scant three Baavar were found fit for Astartes training and enhancement. Not knowing which legions these Baavar eventually joined does not dissuade the rest of the Baavar from being immensely proud of this fact, and they remain sure that one of their number has been a part of every Legion they have fought beside. The only Legion of notable contrast are the brothers of the VIth, who seemed to be highly amused at the idea of their “little brothers” fighting alongside them. This habit aside, many other Legiones Astartes forces have developed a particular dislike for the Baavar simply due to their unorthodox approach to tactics, seeming to shift their plan of battle from a gunline to a bayonet charge and back on vague whims. It has been to many an allied commander's chagrin when these seemingly random movements seem to actually aid the battle, with more than one not knowing whether the Baavar were tactical geniuses, bloodthirsty madmen, or both. It is thankful then that the XIIth, a small number of which have joined the 2756th Expedition Fleet, find the chaos and irregularity of the Baavar endearing, and tend to almost dare the Baavar regiments to try to keep up with them on the battlefield. Unfortunately, neither the accompanying IIIrd nor the cohorts of the Orleans Basin appreciate these displays of wild unpredictability, and more than once the Baavar have found themselves being chastised and given the most boring field assignments by their Astartes fleet commanders. This, along with the wildly different philosophies of their respective upbringings, has led to a particular animosity between the Baavar and the Orlean First Cohort which has almost progressed into outright combat or friendly fire on more than a few occasions. Orlean Basin First Cohort The Orlean First Cohort hail from the upper hive spires of the Orlean Basin off of the Nord Merican conclaves. The regiment as a whole consists of over a dozen cohorts comprised of everyone from children of nobles to ganger scum, and the regiment practices strict segregation to foster competition and rivalry between the various cohorts. The Orlean First Cohort is comprised exclusively of the children of the upper hive spires, most usually the later sons of wealthy families or dispossessed nobles with no options left to them. The trappings of wealth and luxury are reflected in the armament and style of warfare of the Orlean First, with all members traditionally bringing their own equipment to service, rather than utilizing the normal arms and equipment supplied by the regimental quartermasters. Rejecting the usual flak armor of the Imperial Army the First is decked out almost completely in regal, if early design, powered armor with servo muscled arms and armored torsos. The First is also most commonly fitted with Boltguns instead of the usual munitorium issued lasgun, letting them lay down destructive power rarely welded by the linesmen of the Imperial Army and only uncommonly seen outside of the Legiones Astartes. Befitting their stature, the Orlean First were most commonly attached to the III Legion, their armor painted a deep purple in honor of their Astartes commanders. Striding the battlefield inside their RH1N0 armored transports, the Orlean First Cohort represent the best aspects of mankind's nobility and the most destructive firepower an armyman can bring to bear. For a long time, the bulk of the Orlean regiments were assigned to Expedition Fleet 2756, alongside a small force of the IIIrd Legion, a continent of the XIIth Legion acquired by happenstance as their dead vessel was intercepted by the crusade fleet, and various other regiments of the Imperial Army and Navy. The Orlean Cohorts served with distinction, the First Cohort using it's firepower to great effect to wipe out what xenos resistance couldn't be overrun by the massed ranks of conscripts from the lower Cohorts. This continued until the world of 2756-34, whose foul inhabitants took a large toll on human and post-human alike with witchcraft and weaponry the likes of which the Orleans didn't believe could exist, let alone expected to have to combat. It was only due to the Orlean First's commanding Centurion’s strict disregard for his troops’ lives that the xenos capital could finally be surrounded until a drop assault by the brothers of the IIIrd could end the xenos menace for good, albeit at the cost of over twenty complete lower cohorts. Following the final pacification of 2756-34, now called Nova Orlea in the regiment’s honor, the Orlean were gifted with a set of blades that were said to have been manufactured by the IIIrd Legion’s finest artificers. They were given six matching blades covered in strange runes and sheathed in a pale blue power field, and a seventh double bladed weapon to crown the set. First Centurion Jamnl was given the honor of weilding the double blade, christened Orlean’s Honour, as badge of office. The remaining six blades were gifted to the officers of highest familial stature, much to the anger of Third Centurion Tyrmni who was an accomplished soldier and strategist but who hailed from one of the relatively minor spire houses and was the only Centurion-grade officer to lack a blade as his mark of stature. This would go on to be the cause of much infighting among the First Cohort, with more than one duel of honor ending in maiming, disembowelment, or even worse debilitating injury and assignment to officership in the lower cohorts. The worst fate went to those crippled so severely in these duals that they were removed from service in the regiment and assigned to oversee the ongoing colonization and rebuilding of New Orlea into a productive member of the Imperial machine.
  8. http://www.skrenta.com/images/test-card-f.jpg PLEASE STAND BY EDITING IN PROGRESS
  9. 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.”
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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!”
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. So after a break I have decided to start a Black Templar army. I painted up a 500 point force for a small Fate of Konor tournament and fell in love with how the models looked on the battlefield. The time spent researching the fluff a couple weeks before the tourney was the most fun and obsessive thing I have had with 40k in several years. So, every good story needs a starting point, here is my crusades story. (bit rough, still fleshing out the details) The Ventros Crusade, led by Marshall Alderic Jamil Ventros is a rogue inquisitor responsible for the Cartalu VII massacre. A backwater world, Cartalu VII's population was massacred over the course of two weeks in an attempt by Ventros to gain favor with the Chaos gods. It was by happenstance that Marshall Alderic's ship received a faint distress signal and investigated. After receiving no word from planetary defense forces a small force of 50 crusaders was deployed to the planet surface. The force was decimated, tortured, and sacrificed to the Chaos gods. One initiate was able to escape and send word back to Alderic, before succumbing to his wounds. Alderic immediately moved to engage Ventros' ship. After a brief firefight Ventros was able to escape into the warp without Alderic's forces able to pursue. Alderic then declared that the Ventros Crusade would bring vengence to this rogue inquisitor. Due to Ventros' willingness to sell many Imperial secrets and his psychic ability for prescience he has evaded the Crusade for several years and never seems to find a lack of soldier be it foul xenos or heretics. Marshall Alderic is closing in though, and vows that he will slay this enemy of the Emperor and show that heresy will never escape justice.
  16. The Escape In the boiling unreality of the Warp there are untold billions of mortal souls. Human, alien, ancient and infant, born into a universe of toil, hardship and pain, only to die and pass into a hell of their own creation, rather than the infinity which bore them. There are two kinds of thing that can exist in the Warp; departed souls, trapped and bodiless, and the twisted echoes of the hopes, loves, fears and hates that those souls felt in life. It is known what happens to those echoes, when they rise to a tidal wave of pure psychic energy, when they collapse under the weight of countless billions of minds all feeling, all fearing, all hating, all hoping, and form, screaming into semi-sentient entities, consumed with, as they were created by the emotions that rage all around and through them. So it is that when death comes, the soul of the departed leaves the nasty, brutish and short reality in which they were so invested, and enters a sea, a vast ocean populated by the very creatures of their own nightmare, given flesh in this afterlife, given fangs and claws, and given hunger. For no matter what thoughts and feelings spawned them, those things are but one half of what the mortal soul is. They have the limitless infinity of possibility, like the Great Beyond whence all things came, but they lack the visceral experience of the emotions of which they are composed. To feel an emotion; to feel hate, a soul must have the physical world; there must be something to hate, an avatar, a cause to match the effect. All that the warp entities are is those emotions; devoid of material being they simply are hate, are despair. So in their chaotic half-existence, caught between the everything that is nothing, and the nothing that is something, they twist and writhe and hunger to taste the air of reality, to feel with real bodies and feast with real teeth. Most of all they hunger for the souls which create them, drawing the pain and fear and death spasms they cause into themselves in the closest they will come to feeling that which they are. Until then though, until they can pour through portals and descend upon the soft flesh of mortal bodies, they can manage something which may in the pit of the darkest reaches of the mortal psyche be called amusement by setting upon those endless masses of disembodied, helpless souls trapped with them in the place that is neither whole nor separate. Without physical form though they may be, those poor souls, saturated with the memories and experiences of their short but brilliantly vital existence feel just as they had in life; they perceive their limbs, only to have them dismembered by something formless and fanged; they experience having skin, only to have it ripped from them by burning pincers; they have organs, only have them devoured. In this place there are no descriptions which can do justice to the state in which these souls exist; formless, yet tortured, free, yet bound, there is no direction, there is no time. There is only pain. It is on these roaring tempests of emotion that voidships sail, protected by their bubbles of reality, covering the vast distances of real space in the trick, half-dimensions of the warp. Standing on one of those ships and staring out beyond the flickering shields at the twisted reflection of a universe of emotion, it is possible to discern a screaming face shifting into being on the horizon where the unreal almost touches the real. What change that causes in the hellish existence of those souls, pressing up for a moment like waves on sailing ships of old, it is best not to guess. So the Warp rolls on, a fiery hurricane orbiting the material world, probing it, burning it, adding to itself with every instant of horror, every atrocity perpetrated, every soul prevented from reaching the Great Beyond. Yet, there are those who can, almost, break the walls of this metaphysical prison the living have built for themselves, those who can bring to formlessness something real, if only fleetingly. Those who are connected to that other place that is also every place, and who have left the material world behind like fading dreams. Here was one of those somethings. Here was all that there was; here and not anywhere else. It seemed, to the perceptions of the mortal soul that seemed to hover precisely at ‘here’, like being inside a hollow glass ball lost in a multi-coloured sea of fire, ice and lightening, though if it was a sea and not just the colour of the glass itself changing and combining seemingly at random with nothing but empty void beyond, it was impossible to guess. The roiling horror of it filled every faculty remaining to that soul; it saw the claws and the fangs, it smelled the blood and the death, it felt the fire and the ice. It trembled. Or at least it quailed in fear, for it had no body to tremble. It was here, here in this oasis of silence surrounded by unfathomable evil, the sting of which it could not only remember feeling, but remember going to feel. It was here, but it was not alone. Before it, at least in the direction that it was perceiving, a figure seemed to resolve out of the swirling unreality. It was familiar. The face which seemed at once to be a distant blur and in close sharp focus was a face that it had seen before. When there had been seeing, when there was anything beyond simple unyielding agony. “My lord?” There was no voice. There was no air. There was simply words forming a meaning in the stillness that existed right here. “Is it you?” The answer which came from the figure was no more a voice than the questions, it too merely was; its words condensing into meaning in the perceptions of the soul that remembered having ears to hear them. “Yes, Brother. I am here.” “How?” “By a power that the warp cannot overcome. By placing you at the eye of a storm. By building our own pocket of dimensioned reality in the midst of all this chaos.” The soul at the eye of the storm felt concepts and ideas blossoming into life, half from memory, half from intuition as gaps filled themselves with obvious answers. Whole lifetimes of experiences, bleached from his mind by the tide of pain crystallized around the assurance that this, here, now was reality; a place where time and space and being had permanent meaning. His mind. His memories. Those memories seemed to coalesce giving form to the strength of the feelings he possessed, limbs, skin, bones and tissue, the trappings of reality swap into existence around the soul, covering it with something approaching its usual appearance. “My Lord.” he breathed. His breath, which came through his lips, blowing air from his lungs, “You did it, didn’t you?” “Yes.” His master’s voice was still not really here, still arriving in his head as meanings and understanding rather than as words through the ears he realised he now had. But other thoughts were coming, fast and thick, a tirade of memories. Of conversations, of learning, of coming to understand the higher power his master had discovered. “After the battle, we never found you.” he said, his voice permeating the glass-ball reality in a way that make him uncomfortable, “I found some of the others, but nobody ever heard of what happened to you.” “After the destruction of our adopted home, I travelled. Alone. It was a long time, as the material realm reckons it before I came to where I am now.” “But you did it?” his excitement palpable, “You rose to become like the Gods?” “No. Not like them, utterly different and beyond them. I am to them as a bird is to a shark. I soar over their murky waters unreachable by their teeth. Even now I stand here with you in open defiance of them and all their servants.” Then it seemed to make sense to him. The reason why his master’s image would not resolve and remain fixed in the way his perceptions seemed to assume they should be. It was because, while he was here, his master was just as much painted on the outside of the glass-bowl reality as the horrific images beyond. He was a fine layer between that glass and the naked warp, seeming to occupy both each individual point on the surface of the sphere, and all of them at once. No. He was not just painted on the glass; he was the glass. His master held his soul in the palm of his hand, holding a dimension of terror at bay. “You are mighty.” he said, still breathless, “No. Not mighty. Simply other. The bird may carry a child in it’s beak a moment away from falling to its death, and yet it remains unreachable by the shark.” The image of his master seemed to laugh, and as if in response the warp behind it glowed hotter, raging against that which it could not harm. “But you are here. Here to free me from this hell?” he asked, the note of pleading plain, the memory of torment yet-to-come still fresh. “No. I am here to show you how to free yourself. I will show you the straight road, but you must walk it.” “What you do mean, Master?” he asked, desperate to do whatever it took to escape this place that was not a place. “You stand now between three worlds. One is physical. One is psychic. One is spiritual. All souls are born of one, into another. All souls create the third through their suffering in the second. And all souls trap themselves there, because they feel that there is no where else to go.” “I remember, you told us that everything is created out of the Primordial Chaos, and seeks to return there.” “Yes. It seeks to, it yearns to. But it does not know the way. Tell me, which world is which? Reality, the Warp, the Primordial Chaos; Psychic, Physical, Spiritual?” “Reality is physical.” he said at once, then glancing again at the nightmare cacophony kept just out of reach, “I fear the Warp is Spiritual. So the Primordial Chaos is Psychic?” “No, Brother. This place is not spiritual. The spirit does not hate, it does not lust, it does not despair. It simply is. Only in the physical can it feel such things.” “I do not understand!” he cried, “If the Primordial Chaos isn’t psychic, were does it’s power come from? How can it overcome the Warp when no other force can?” “Because psychic power is the same power as the warp itself. Both are created by the depth of feeling in mortal hearts. Both are means by which the aching of the soul to return to the Primordial Chaos can be eased slightly; means to bend the rigid laws of Reality to other purpose. That strength of feeling can match and defeat that of any other feeling, in the right moment, with the right pitch. But it cannot defeat them all; cannot stand alone and untouched, a single voice instead of a choir. That is the power of the Spiritual; it is alone, it is all, it is everything. It is the paradoxical symmetry around which the whole of creation turns, is part of, echoes, mirrors. The warp is no more a threat to it than a reflection. Do you understand?” “The Primordial Chaos is the beginning and the end. The balance and the imbalance.” he intoned, willing his mind to find the meaning within his masters words. This was just like before. “Why can you not use the power? Bring me with you, take me back to the Physical world, think what we could achieve. Gather the others, unite the brotherhood…” he fell silent as the figure of his master shook his head. “You still do not understand Brother. You do not understand for the same reason you still think of me as master, for the same reason your mind tries to form for you a body. I have not done so great a thing, though it is said that all things seem simple once they have been achieved. The first man to ford a mighty river may call himself mightier, but over the centuries, over the millennia how many others will cross that same stream, make that same leap, dare to test the limits of the possible? We all have the connection to the Great Beyond, we all an walk the straight path.” “But you are the master. Master of the Great Beyond; master of the Warp; master of all things! You have within your grasp the Primordial power, the power which created the universe, the wellspring of all life obeys you. You alone have walked the path from the mundane to the truly transcendent, what deeds, great or otherwise are still beyond you?” “The strength does not come from grasping, it comes from releasing. Relinquishing your hold on the priorities and perturbations of the physical. It is that connection that drives the need to dominate, the will to power. The soul that is bound to the material riles against the limitations of the world around it, it feels injustice, it feels pain, it seeks control. A soul released into the Primordial Chaos has no limitations, no pain, nothing to control. There is no justice; there just is.” “Free from pain?” he whispered, his new formed flesh crawling with unspeakable memories, “Tell me how, master, tell me how to cast of this frail flesh cloak!” “You cannot be free of it, until you are free to your connection to the material. It is your memory of, your attachment to your physical body and the feelings it instantiated that allows the warp such power over you; the power to make you burn, boil and bleed. But none of that is you; you call it a flesh cloak, but you do not see how right you are to use those words? Could you cast off a cloak if it seemed sown to your bones? Could you shrug it off like a garment if it felt to be part of your very being? Could you make that disembodied leap into the greatest unknown?” He tried to think about this, the gravity of what his master was asking, but the memory of the pain was too strong, too absolute for him to think clearly about any prospect than preventing a return to that. Then something seemed to shine through it. The words, their meaning connected inside his conciousness. The pain was the pain all prisoners feel trying to break free of their chains. The soul tugged, the flesh resisted. So long as he feared pain, there could be no freedom. He must accept the agony, must revel in it, in the feeling of the frail imitation of existence ripped from his soul and embrace bodiless, formless being. Pure and infinite. His flesh formed into a smile as he explained to his master, eagerly awaiting the next step on the road to his escape. But the great, flickering figure only shook its head again, and when his master’s words materialised inside his head the elation dissolved, replaced once again by the terror, the haunting memories of the pain, the maelstrom of fire beyond seemed to beckon for him as his master explained. “That is but the other side of the coin that is existence. On the one side the desire to order, control, dominate; on the other the desire to destroy, corrupt and despoil. Both are driven by the same attachment; both are rejections of the limitations of the physical, both provide meaning and a goal for which to strive. Both merely fuel the tempest of the warp. Neither are steps on the path to the Great Beyond. Brother, when we last stood together in the flesh, when our former brothers were scorching the forests and boiling the seas, do you remember what I said?” He remembered it well,images of the tortured skies and reeking smoke seeming to instantiate momentarily before him when he summoned them. “You turned to me, turned away form the death, and you said ‘All things will pass’.” His master finished the oft repeated couplet; “All things will return. There is so much more to being than what can be seen, felt and tasted within the confines of one reality. It feels complete because it is so total; it precludes so much possibility. Yet that possibility remains, trapped in the souls of the living, a fragment of the Great Beyond. That is what is there; everything, all possibilities all permutations of all things, exist together and separate, for ever and for an instant. All things will pass, all things will return. Confines that are so total in the reality we were once born into that it becomes impossible for a soul to see past them save in dreams or here in the suffused mass of all their nightmares, those confines fall away and there is only everything. You must see past the reality and the dreams; give up the attachment to this one state of being and embrace the possibilities of sharing every state of being.” “I do not understand. How can I do as you ask? When to do so seems to mean my own annihilation, the end of my whole existence.” “But it is not the whole of existence. It is but one fragment of that which exists beyond. To be everything is not to stop being one, not in the Great Beyond. Perhaps you may think of it as a nexus; a point of origin for all the possibilities in an infinite multiverse, to exist anywhere is to exist there. Memories of you will persist there long after all trace of you has faded from the physical world, fragments of your being drift there for as long as your soul continues to cling to the memories of that world, which is for as long as that world endures. Let go, rejoin your primordial self and become complete.” “Master, I cannot.” he shook his head, his very being seeming to droop under the weight of his failure, “What of all we built? All we fought for? What of humanity? How can I, how can you turn away from all that?” “Just as I turned away when our adopted home burned. All things will pass.” His sorrow curdled to defiance, as it had so many times before. It was the same, always the same. The same obtuse language, the same circles of meaning. The same arguments. “Is it not in defiance of that that we affirm our existence? Is it not the very struggle that defines it? Does not the acquisition of power extend and enrich it? Why do you refuse to grasp the sword you hold? Are you so far along your straight road you cannot see beyond it? Send me back, let me live again and I will show you that not all things will pass!” His master seemed to sigh, the flickering shape heaved and a shiver passed through the glass ball of reality. “I will do as you ask, for I cannot abandon you to the warp. But you will find little more respite in the material world than you did here. You will toil and you will bleed, and all you will do is fuel the fires of destruction. But I know that you can do nothing else. Perhaps when we meet here again you will make the leap, but for now I will grant your request even as you defy mine.” On the glassy surface of the universe around him, the figure of his master moves, reaching forward, inward, an arm extending from all directions, collapsing the pocket of reality that encompassed his existence. He reached out, straining with arms that formed in response to his will, trying to take the hand that seemed still somehow other, beyond, separate both from the glass-ball reality and the roiling madness behind. As his elongating fingers stretched into the outstretched hand, his master spoke again. “Go forth into the world, find our Brother, perhaps the two of you will learn from one another.” “My brother?” more memories returned in a rush, his hands pausing for a moment, their function forgotten and their form wavering, “Dariel lives? Where?” “He lives again. He too was lost in the sea of souls, I found him just as I found you.” “You found him before you found me?” the defiance rising again in him and he almost withdrew his hand out of spite. “There is no before. Not here, and not in the great beyond, where you could already be, seeing and knowing all of this and everything else with the clarity of experience. If found Dariel as I found you, just as I found you, just where I found you, just where I found you. I shielded him from the warp, I spoke to him, and he spoke to me.” “What did my brother say?” “He spoke just as you spoke, Sepharion, just as you.” The words of his master formed meaning inside his head that seemed tinged with the ghost of sadness, even regret. But then the reaching, armoured hand grasped the his reaching fingertips, the glass-bowl reality shattered, there was a palpable feeling of inversion as dimensions turned in on themselves and ceased to exist, and then the boiling, burning insanity of the warp rushed in, malevolent sentiences clawing immaterially on the wave front of the implosion, vainly trying to seize the soul that had escaped them, and the thing that had aided it.
  17. The Journey In the dim and distant past he could see himself. He could see himself because he was looking out though his own past eyes and into a mirror. He gave no heed to his appearance, for the wrappings of a thing are no more the nature of the thing than the skin of the fruit reveals it taste or the wholesomeness of its flesh. He watched as his past self, still ignorant of many of the revelations that were to come in the long long years that divided them, corrected his attire and turned from the mirror. The vision presented to his future self tracked over plain and sparsely decorated sleeping chamber, with none but the most essential items of furniture and equipment installed. With equal disinterest both iterations left the room and walked through the plasteel and rockrete corridors of the outpost. The place seeming now, as had then, strangely antiquated. The memory of his past self strode out through the narrow secondary doors, set a little aside from the cavernous main doors of the outpost, though which the expedition’s heavy machinery was constantly entering and exiting, carrying great stasis sealed containers, gathering up the innumerable treasures this world was now almost gleefully giving up, and looked at the burning sky. White hot coronae from the planets old, dying star lanced across the noon sky, it hung there raw and raging in the centre of a titanic eruption of force and energy. It, and its lethal halo stretched nearly from horizon to horizon, leering down like a huge weeping eye at the dead planet below. It had killed the people that had lived here untold aeons ago, nothing left to watch the once life-giving star bloating and burning hotter as its fusion-driven heart thundered closer to its cataclysmic demise. One day, long after this one, he would return to watch that monumental explosion, watch as burning gas and lethal radiation erupted out in all directions, obliterating life across a hundred of worlds, but also seeding it. He would follow the fragments of heavy metals though space and watch them land on far distant planets, watch complex molecules form the building blocks of life in the cold void, watch the dust of a pitiless star grow new life to match the wonder and variety of that which it destroyed. The Great Cycle, the Eternal Chaos. He smiled. His past self merely squinted, glanced at a retinal scan of radiation saturation risk and turned away in indifference from the fiery forge above. His past gaze fell upon the red-robed figure picking its way on surprisingly human legs over the dusty dunes towards the outpost. His past self hailed the Martian priest, who inclined a hooded head in response, a heavy but not integrated re-breather mask obscuring the familiar face. His past self nodded back and spoke in a low voice to the new comer, while his present self let remembered time accelerate. The voices blurred, as did their movement. It had been a long conversation, the Magos was disturbed, worried, fearful of official retribution. His past self was not to be deterred, no argument, no sanction, no threat would dissuade him. This world held answers, and it was beyond essential to rescue all that they could before the star finally destroyed it, bleaching it from the universe and letting life try to build itself up from the primordial ooze once again. The conversation ended, but was not resolved. The Magos fell into step behind his past self, but muttered rebelliously in his own Binaric dialect. Ahead, through his past eyes he could see the site. It was the last. Hundreds had died under the deadly rays of the sun at more than a dozen locations; servitors, techadepts and Imperial Guardsmen, all struggling endlessly to uncover, identify, catalogue and finally pack and remove every fragment of information, every scrap of technology that had survived the demise of this world. Now the task was technically complete. The last planned site had been emptied and abandoned three weeks ago, this one was unofficial. This one was something his past self had found by chance. A hint, a vague reference to this hidden vault of knowledge, spoken with such furtive reverence he could hardly have ignored it. All the same, his past self could not have guessed just what had been locked away by these unknown people, never to be opened again. Until now. Descending the stone steps, sand piled up in the lea and against the smooth marble walls, his past eyes surveyed the barrier ahead. Reaching the bottom he stood facing the vast, black door. It towered up into hidden darkness above, and fitted flush with the white marble of the walls, the two tones adding to the feeling of foreboding which had unnerved the human workers and prompted the Magos to summon him. Far more unsettling however, was the myriad carvings on every visible inch of it, scored deeply in the black marble. Some were beatific; great armoured figures stood proud and tall in unison giving praise to a sun-deity with flowing hair and a shining sword. Some were not. Some held visions of nightmare; misshapen bodies clambering blindly over one another reaching in avarice for the ankles of the shinning figures, or entangled themselves in the rays of light emanating from the sun-deity. There were people too, human and alien, all writhing together under storm ridden skies, dying, tearing at their faces and bodies and each other in frantic, hysterical fear. And there was writing, in a hundred different languages, some of which even is present self could not read with clarity. Prayers, curses, pleas, condemnations, lines and lines of text crossed and recrossed the door, tracking behind and over the many figures. In totality it was so busy, so full of information and meaning that his past self could understand the source of the Magos’ demands that it be buried again and left to die like the world that had built it. But no. No, the longer his past self studied the door the more he felt he could discern the story it told. It told of discovery, of prophecy, and of fear. Fear of the possible, fear of what might be found if one were to extend ones arm to its fullest length. It spoke of the dangers, of the things in the universe which would savage any fool who reached out into the void. It spoke of war, endless, apocalyptic war burning across the galaxy again and again. It spoke of death, grinding relentless death reaping generation after generation of human and alien lives, all lived in drudgery and pain. His present self smiled at the conceit, and as it revealed itself to him, so did his past self. There was another conversation with the Magos. One in which his past self tried vainly to explain what he could begin to see in this door. He tried to explain it was not a barrier, but a map, a guide, written over centuries by myriad hands, not to ward off those who came after, but to teach them what they needed to know, what they needed to understand. The Magos was implacable but did not resist when he was overruled. His present self thought of what that decision would mean for the Magos over the coming decades, and smiled again. His past self turned back to the door and returned to studying it, returned to trying to decipher the only puzzle it needed to present; how does it open? There were no handles, no locks, no visible panels in either it or the surrounding walls. Auspex scans could find no hidden circuitry or mechanisms, indeed they could find nothing at all. The whole complex beyond the door was through some arcane or eldritch process rendered completely invisible to both mind and machine. His past self touched the stone, running a palm over the rough relief of a line of text so jagged it looked like forks of lightening rather than lettering. He looked at it. The language was almost familiar. In his cavernous memory his past self searched for cognates, phonemes, syntax and grammar similarities across thousands of human languages and hundreds of alien ones. His future self remembered well the eerie warning the frenzied inscriber had scrapped and hacked into the door before they died screaming in the dark. Their bones were part of the thick dust now disturbed by his past self still trying to read the words. In the grim darkness of the Far Future there will be only War. Once again his future self let time speed up, passing the weeks of cogitation in a blur of images and sounds. Hours spent staring at the door, more hours spent searching data vaults for clues, references and any hint of how to open this last obstacle. There were also more conversations with the Magos, for all that they mattered. The memories sharpened into focus again as his past self stood again before the door, along with the Magos and a crew of servitors and guardsmen. He could sense the changes in himself, the fragmentary understanding that was already beginning to dawn, that he remembered beginning to dawn was making him still more sombre, yet much more pensive. The memory’s vision now presented to his present self, lingered on things that only a week ago had held a such supreme lack of importance that looking at them now, everything seemed new and linked to everything else, known and yet still to be seen. The mechanical pistons in the arms and legs of the bulky hauling servitors pulsed with hydraulic fluid in artificial echo of blood, of water, of the tides of the warp. The deadly rays of burning radiation careening in waves from the deadly sun overhead were like the wave fronts of causality rippling out from one small action triggering infinitely spreading reactions over space and time. And the designs and inscriptions of the Great Door linked to scraps of lore, half-remembered from his early years on Terra; prophesies that had already come to pass. His present self wondered if there wasn’t some two-way exchange, here in this place were time was so elastic. Could his own return to experience this memory again be effecting his past self in the way he remembered? The drawing together of associated facts to form a constellation of small epiphanies in his head, had the way to those facts been illuminated by his future self, watching silently over his shoulder? Was another future self watching him watching himself even now? Subtly altering his steps simply by being there? No. Those were some of the thoughts the door before his past self warned about; the loops and paradoxes that snared the unwary, that led them down blind paths to ruin. The vainglorious attempt to master or command these forces that were as far beyond the forces of the Warp as they themselves are beyond mere material. Those thoughts were the seed from which the madness grew, the thoughts with drove some inscribers to end their messages with an exclamation mark form of their own splattered brains. He had watched from the shadows of their memories, tasted the despair that paralysed their limbs and numbed their souls, felt the conviction that only death could silence the revelations. How wrong they were. His past self lent close, staring into the wide, empty eyes of a carven figure writhing and flailing, limbs and face contorted in a bodily expression of unbearable agony. He lifted a hand to the figures face, feeling his fingers tingle on contact with the hitherto inert stone. His face was inches from the cold skin of the screaming figure. Then he said the words. Four simple words the relevance of which he had spent weeks uncovering. It didn’t matter what language they were spoken in for there were mechanisms in place to study whomever stood before the door as surely as they studied it, so that when they spoke the words, the door itself would know in what manner they were uttered and would judge the truth of their meaning. “All things will pass.” There was a moment of total silence, even the Magos, lurking on the stairs stopped his muttering, unable to suppress his curiosity regarding what might be revealed should the password be correct. Then the carven figure before his past self sighed. The features and limbs relaxed and an expression of serene understanding dawned on the suddenly animate face. Then it spoke. “All things will return.” The reply was spoken in High Gothic and was plainly understandable to all there, yet it spoke with a deep reverberating hollowness, and though he remained close enough to kiss the carven face, his past self felt no breath coming from it as it sighed again. With the sibilant end of that second sigh the shaking began. It was not violent, like the ground quakes that can destroy cities and reshape continents but soft, slow but steady. Vibrations passed up and down the door and reverberated through the walls and floor, a dull throbbing, hauntingly like hundreds of hearts beating in unison. It continued, not gaining in intensity, just continuing for long moments before it suddenly stilled, or was stilled. In the same instant the door began to dissolve. Finely carved marble which had stood for more so many millennia silently crumbled into a cascade of fine, rushing grains of black sand. The figures melted away, the lettering erased, in seconds the whole edifice had rendered itself into nothing more than a slight pile of sand, already shifting in the faint breezes carrying down the long stairs from the surface far above. When the sand and disturbed dust settled, and the coughing confusion of the humans had abated, his past self had already taken the first steps, driving through the drifts of dust and silently motioning for the rest to follow. Waiting for them in the darkness was another corridor, the walls and floor scratched with more carvings. These were not the long, poetic lines or the delicate figures of the door, but small, desperate things carved with belt buckles, styluses or even fingers in the unflinching white marble. They were the final messages, thoughts and feelings of the occupants of this sealed inner sanctum, whose paper-thin bones were now disintegrating under the armoured boots of his past self. They were the sacrifices, the souls walled up in this tomb of knowledge to inhabit and power the arcane door, the dust of which now mingled with theirs. Beyond the pathetic tangle of alien skeletons another set of stairs waited, the gloom of the abyss into which they led seeming to actively resist the beam of the heavy arc-lamps hefted by lumbering servitors. His past self dismissed such superstitious thoughts and led the way down with barely a pause. The Magos followed diligently, the servitors following him similarly. The human workers hesitated, but seemed even less keen on remaining behind as the darkness returned and the bones leered up from the dust of millennia. The stairs descended through undisturbed darkness for long hours. His past self concluded that the builders of this vault went to extraordinary lengths to keep it hidden from all possible disturbances. It would indeed take the almost total destruction of the planets crust to lay bare this final secret to the open air and he hoped that whatever was in here would be easily transportable. When the stairs finally terminated it was facing yet another door, this one though was plain, uncarved and made from a functional metal auspex scans said was an unknown derivative of ferrocrete. His past self had barely thought about how they might get through this unexpected additional barrier, when it slid silently open before him and with an electric hum light flared in the chamber beyond. It was a small room, but a very important room. The walls were clustered by interface controls, as was the large oval table that dominated the centre. Mechanisms, vaguely reminiscent of hololithic projectors hung from sockets in the roof. There was no dust, and when the doors opened the many systems controlling the room hummed into life. Illumination strips shone light on technology that predated the Imperium and maybe mankind itself. Consoles flickered and powered up, running through start up diagnostics and preparing to respond to inquiries. The projectors clattered into movement and, tracing a juddering mechanical dance across the ceiling brought a silver grey image flickering into existence, resting weightlessly on the central table. His past self stepped breathlessly into the room. Such preservation, such functionality, it was almost unbelievable. These thoughts were echoed by the Magos stepping in behind him, all trepidation of risk and retribution forgotten in the face of such a monumental discovery. His past self had already crossed to the table and rested a hand on a glowing console. It chimed softly under his touch and at once the projectors shifted their ceiling bound dance and the image they created shimmered and changed. A long scrolling list of file names, registry addresses and referencing keys began to roll like a ghostly conveyor belt up through the floor and out again through the ceiling. It was an index. A list of the contents of this hidden cache of forgotten knowledge laid out in plain simple Gothic. The Magos commented on the surprising alacrity of the translation circuitry, but His past self had hardly listened, already absorbed completely by the possibilities scrawling past his eager eyes. His present self quietly lamented each file passed over unmarked, and yearned to be able to reach out into this past reality and seize some of those overlooked morsels of precious lore, each of which could herald revelations as shattering as the one his past self was just moments away from. And there it was, the file that would change his past self forever scrolled innocently through the floor. His past self reacted without thinking, raising a hand to point at the title as it ran steadily upwards across the display. He had spoken too, reflexively querying it. The console before him seemed to posses the faculty to detect and interpret these movements and sounds, because it chimed again and the index froze, a bright amber stripe highlighting the file he had pointed at. It opened without further prompting and the projectors above jerked and shifted again, this time bringing the contents of the file into illuminated being on the table. His past self stared dumbly for a moment, then read ravenously. His eyes raking over the text and lingering on the many diagrams and formulae which elaborated on the words. They spoke of the Warp. The dreadful realm on un-reality lurking a shadows breadth away real space. In minute detail it described the creation of that impossible dimension, of it forming like an oil slick on the metaphysical surface of the material world, a surface that had already existed. It explained how the spark of sentience, of will, that movement from mere instinctual necessity and into the realms of active concious desire, formed around pressure points on that primordial surface, just as, it continued, the very material stuff of the universe had done so untold aeons before that. Those points of pressure were called so because the sparks of sentient will that suddenly existed, whilst tied to the material pushed back against the skin of reality just as heavily as that great beyond pushed from the other side. It was from them that the first stains of the Warp leaked out, forcing its way between the material and that primordial dimension, clouding it, obscuring it. Over time those sparks spread; multiplying all across the galaxy, though, his future self knew the original word used was ‘universe’, and the warp clotted around them, spreading and combining with what was already there, thickening it, stirring it, each new pressure point sent new ripples through the emerging dimension, churning it, giving rise to currents and eddies and entities born of the coalescence of those ripples. His past self learned how emotions were those ripples, the raw, pressurised emotion that burned against all the rules, all the laws of the physical world sent out those wave fronts of immaterial force through the Warp. Every new feeling, every moment of revulsion, pride, fear, rage, lust, sorrow, panic, every shred of concious experience lingered on in the warp; echoing forever through the many tides and currents raised to tempest fury by the plethora of new beings and their new feelings. His past self read on almost unblinking, deaf to the growing words of protest coming from the Magos, who had already banished all but the mind-scrubbed servitors from the room. He read how the Warp would grow so powerful, feeding on the billions of lives spawned and slaughtered over the long years of history, that those entities within would find the means to break through, of transitioning fully, at least or a while. Existing as avatars of those emotions that spawned them, wreaking untold destruction, adding to the blood tithe and sending more tumultuous sensations echoing back through the Warp. Strengthening it, empowering it, feeding the tempest, drawing the final cataclysm ever nearer. And his past self realised that all this, all this nightmare was like the pitiless star which had scorched this world; it was a forge. Warp-spawned chaos would reign and the material and immaterial would collide in a great unmaking, which would not only see the final extinguishing of that spark of sentience and all that is material, but also all that is immaterial and the twisted reflections of that spark which dwell there. But that annihilation too would be a seeding; that destruction would return the universe to its primordial state, seeded with the fragments and memories of what had gone before as the galaxy was seeded by exploding stars. The Great Beyond would return and in time the material would coalesce and another reality would be born, just as this one had been born in turn. That was the truth that the door tested for, that was the knowledge that had to be guessed at and known before discovery, so that the mere mortal mind would not crumble into despair or madness before it. But more than all that, far more important to his past self, the file described that great unknown beyond. It was to those sentient beings trapped between the material and the warp exactly that; unknown and unreachable. It existed beyond infinity, and outside time. It was as far removed from the warp and what lived there as the warp was from the materium and what lived there. That was to say, his past self realised with a wry smile, it too was a reflection, or rather, the material was a reflection of it, twisted out of shape by being slaved to one set of physical laws. Sentient life rebelled against this, which was why it pushed towards the immaterium, not to the warp, but to the Great Beyond. ‘The Primordial Chaos’ the text called it, that was the file name that had grabbed the attention of his past self, and again his present self wondered if his presence had prompted that file rather than the thousands of others to demand his attention. The Primordial Chaos, a state of lawless unity, a state of organised anarchy, a plain of existence were everything was nothing, and anything was everything. The descriptions of what it was and what it represented continued endlessly, offering opinion and counter opinion, seemingly summarising a great debate which had gripped this civilization when knowledge of the Primordial Chaos spread. In the end the choice they settled on, his past self noted with dry sardonic mirth, was surrender. They had lain down in the face of this cycle of natural birth and violent death, echoed in the billions of lives lived as prisoners within that cycle. They had seen the curve of time spread out below them, the origins and the outcomes, and they had surrendered to it. That was why they had sealed this their greatest and most comprehensive repository of information past and future away behind a door sustained by willing living sacrifices, why they had been driven to carve cryptic warnings on that door, why they had battered their brains out against that door in final capitulation to that cycle. It was why, even as their sun turned poison and began burning all life from the planet, they did not leave, but sat and awaited the end they knew was coming, had always been coming, would always have happened. Once perhaps, in the even more remote past, there was an iteration of him that would have been scared of all that he read, that would have run screaming from the vault and ordered the Magos to destroy it all. That time, that self, was long dead. Reborn as the stern and forbidding figure he had already become. One that had stared down enough horrors and danced with death enough times to know on the instinctual level of a warrior the truth of what was written. Though he could understand why the people of this world had fled from it, it was the same reason why ignorance and faith were so much more powerful than enlightenment and truth. He hated it, but he understood it. It transpired however, that he did not. Their panic was not just the result of discovering this great cycle, it was the result of centuries, possibly millennia of trying to change that cycle. It was the unavoidable conclusion that they could not do anything and that their every attempt was perverted against them; drawn inexorably into the currents and ripples of the warp, twisted and absorbed. He read through reams of data covering the ways they had tried; the machines they had built to harness and corral warp energy, of the discoveries made to banish and dissipate warp entities, all failures. Effective, miraculous, haled each time as the long sought great breakthrough that would allow them to end the cycle, but each time all too quickly adapted to by the forces of the warp, the pride of its creators quickening the process, the despair of the people feeding the despair further each time they learned of a fresh failure. His past self respected their attempts, but he could at once begin to see an avenue they had not explored. They seemed to have eschewed actual travel into the warp, for obvious reasons, especially since their mode of propulsion seemed not to require it, and they had long concluded that the Primordial Chaos was unreachable beyond the infinite unreality of the warp. But his past self could find no evidence that they had tried, that they had tested the conclusion that had led to the demise of their civilization. His present self smiled, feeling the remembered exaltation at the new possibilities that opened up before him that day. True the warp had no spatial dimensions; it was infinite, mapped onto the material world through a dimension unmeasurable in conventional ways, but clumsily represented in the text as a sphere; the core of which was the material world, around it was a seething halo, the warp, but around that was the final layer; the Primordial Chaos. True in the limited dimensions of the physical the Warp was boundless, but in this meta-dimension through which all three plains were linked there was a path that could be found, there was a distance that could be crossed, there was a edge that could be passed. And what waited there, what waited there was… Beyond imagining. It was, after all, to reality what the warp was to reality; there there were no reflections, no warping influences, just being, just existence, just the will. What that meant in real terms his past self did not yet know, but the need burned in him to find that place, to strive for as long as it took, to spend ten millennia seeking for the way through the warp. That was a glorious task. That would be his task. That would be what Oreanas Kraven would be remembered for, he would be the only sentient spark to experience the Ultimate Reality. As his past self turned from the display to meed the guarded eyes of the Magos, his present self slipped away into the soft currents of the Great Beyond, his vision of the diagram lingering for a long moment. The great sphere of creation, the orbits of existence, overlapping and abstract, yet navigable, crossable, understandable. He watched the strand of his memory, a grey mist trailing form a silver filament, drift away to join its fellows, placidly orbiting the distant and yet immediate presence of the material universe, utterly untouched by the raging tempest of emotion that lay between, and what lurked laughing within. One day they would break through the barrier and all would be reduced to this state, this state of Ultimate Reality, and then Kraven would be here, alone, ready to come first into the newly born material world when the cycle started again, ready to do what those frail mortals on that long dead planet had failed to do. The cycle would be broken. The Warp would be no more.
  18. Chapter 1: Dark Elves in Space Greetings, fellow slavers. I'm Ancient Terror, resident... ancient terror. Nice to meet you. That... didn't flow as well as I'd hoped. I have wanted to complete a Dark Eldar army since their 5th edition revamp. But before I got so far as to paint more than a test model or two, a number of life circumstances led to me quitting the hobby, getting rid of all my hobby things in the process (why, past self, whyyyy?) and forgetting about 40k for a few years. I've been back at it since last summer, but since I just had a daughter last March and my financial situation hasn't been the best, I've been quite busy. Things are looking up now, so I'm dedicating more time (and money) to 40k again. This weekend I'm finally ready to restart my dream project. I've got a Start Collecting! Dark Eldar box arriving at my local store, and my fingers are already tingling with anticipation.* *Or dehydration The fluff for my army isn't that well sorted yet. I have some vague ideas, but I'm still working on them. Hence the thread title. What I do know to a fairly precise degree is how I want my army to look, and what sorts of units I want in it. I could also use some help with some list building, but more on that later. The Evil Space Fae Aesthetic The thing I love about the Eldar is the supremely otherworldly quality of their design. The elegant, segmented armour; the clean, vibrant colours; the eerie witchlight; the badass runes. The thing I love about the Dark Eldar is that it's all this, but dark, depraved and full of spikes. My working plan for a colour scheme, which may not survive contact with a test model: I'll paint the armour and hulls black, starting with something like P3 Coal Black or Citadel Dark Reaper, and working up to a bluish grey highlight tone. The main secondary colour will be dark green, used for things like cloth, sails and flags. Together, I want these two colours to look clean and sharp - getting at the crispy part of the Eldar aesthetic, as well as the sinister aspect of the Dark Eldar. Black and green are quite boring on their own, though. For spot colours, I'll use purple or violet for things like eye lenses, ammo canisters etc., to produce that eerie glow I was talking about earlier. This gets to the vibrancy and the creepy witchlight part of the Eldar; a sort of eerie-but-also-shiny feel. I'll also use crimson red as a secondary spot colour, but more sparingly. The intent is to use red to paint Drukhari runes on armour segments and vehicle hulls in freehand, and to draw the eye to small details here and there. I may also use it to trim or highlight some parts of the armour to break the monotony of the black a bit. This will do for the runes and whatnot. Finally, I'll use gold and gunmetal for bling, spikes and the like. I'll get around to posting a test model ASAP once I've gotten a few of my guys assembled. This may also turn out to take 3 months or something. List Building Plz help I don't know what I'm doing The sort of army theme I want to run can be best summarized as: lots of skimmers, lots of dakka, lots of flyers, very few non-Kabalites. I'm not exactly sure how to make this into an effective list, as being out of the hobby since 5th edition means I'm probably even more clueless than everyone else. My working concept for 2000 points is to spend a little over half the points on Raiders, Venoms, Ravagers and Flyers, with the rest taken up by Kabalites and Reavers, maybe with some mercenary units mixed in for fun. The main bulk of the army would thus look something like this (for example): 2 raiders w/dark lances... 220 pts 2 Venoms... 160 pts Ravager w/dark lances... 155 pts Ravager w/disintegrator cannons... 185 pts 2 Razorwing Jetfighters w/dark lances... 310 pts 1 Voidraven w/dark scythes and voidraven missiles 196 pts --- I'm planning to add some warriors and maybe some trueborn, though in which exact loadouts I haven't found out yet. Some Reavers will definitely feature, then I'm torn between Scourges and Mandrakes. Any suggestions for what to go with for infantry and support? Weaknesses aside from "needs bodies" to plug in this sort of list? I wouldn't be averse to taking a unit or two for close combat, but I want this list to be primarily dakka. I'm willing to be flexible on the distribution of transports and gunboats, though I do want to keep the total number quite high. Any and all help will be repaid in slaves and invitations to realspace raids later (or possibly with murderous backstabbing... such is life).
  19. As the title says. What brought you to Commorragh? I'll start, and I have three reasons, first one being that they have good models. Really good models, I'd argue that they are some of GW's very best, as far as armies go. I like the hard edges and flowimg armor panels, and the spikes are a nice, welcome touch. Secondly, the Dark Eldar (usually) have a freedom that the uptight Craftworlders do not, which makes for some quite interesting kabals and characters. And there is absolutely no loyalty or sense of caring for your fellow man, if you're fighting with someone at your side it's because it's safer to have someone with you, nothing more. It's kill or be killed, and almost everything you get for yourself in the Eternal City is earned the hard way. I have an odd respect for that, even though it usually means a lot of knifework. Thirdly, and probably most important to me, is that they're really evil, it's almost impossible to top what the True Kin do for entertainment, the Dark Eldar really ram home the 'grim darkness of the far future' in a way many other things can't. Sure, working on an imperial forgeworld and being doomed to a short, miserable life sucks. Getting conscripted to the Imperial Guard is also bad, but nothing compares to what the Dark Eldar will do, your fate with them is a nightmare that, in certain cases, never ends.
  20. In an all abhuman regiment (as in one that hasn’t been broken up into auxiliary units to be attached to other regiments), who would have overall command? Would an officer be brought in from outside the regiment? Would the senior commissar have command duties? It would practically have to be one of those two in the case of stuff like ogryn or ratlings, but if the abhumans in question had the faculties for it, would the Munitorum (or Ecclesiarchy, or Inquisition, or anyone, really) actually condone an abhuman officer being in command of anything? The thing is, there really isn't any concrete fluff to align with here. While there have been a few references to full abhuman regiments, beastmen being particularly of note, there have been zero details as to how such regiments function or are commanded. So in the end, I suppose it’s really a question of what would make the most sense. Thoughts? Theories? Suggestions?
  21. Hello fellow Templars of the Bolter & Chainsword, long time reader - first time poster... getting back into the Warhammer 40k arena after many, many years. Last time I played was 2005 and had the start of a good BT army. Held onto everything through the years and am coming back to the table with new ideas. Here's the first part of the fluff background for my updated army for 2016. Hope you enjoy and all comments welcome. Inquisition Log #41.999.7981:001C HLT Direct Edict Classified Authorization / INQ-UC / AA-BLTMP_HLBR File Custodian: Inquisitor Valdena
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