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So, here's my entry for this IG Challenge. It's based on a sidebar from my IT: Black Hammers, but it's one I thought had potential to be expanded into a proper story. Word count is over 2k so I'm actually in for a Silver on this Challenge! :D



Anyway, c+c is, as always, very welcome!





For The Emperor



Lord Julien van de Carmetine stood with the favoured members of his court and looked down across the Carmetine Plaza from the grand balcony of his palace. Three dozen courtesan dancers whirled elegantly in perfect synchronicity with the flawless playing of his personal orchestra. Six Companies of the Carmetine Household Guard stood at attention in their crimson and gold uniforms, ceremonial laslocks and long halberds shouldered precisely. At the centre of the square stood a great bronze statue, the top of its head almost level with the balcony they stood upon. Commisioned by Julien and only completed and installed a few days ago, it depicted the Dark Prince himself, a glorious being of grace and power, surrounded by cavorting spirits. An observer might well note that the statue's long, elegant limbs and beautiful face held many similarities to Julien's own proud bearing and aquiline features.



First Adviser Cascus, an older man gross with gluttonous excess, bustled out to the balcony from within the palace, panting between words and performing a florid, if slightly hurried bow.



"My most noble and vigorous Lord, I have returned. Your new allies approach, they bring a gift from their master who even now leads the assault against your hated foes."



Lord Julien nodded, unsurprised at the thought that even the traitor Astartes came to offer him tribute. It was all too fitting that now, as House Carmetine came into its birthright, that such servants of the Powers should appear to do obeisance before him. For countless decades, the proud scions of Tybur-Al's Hive Secundus had been forced to bow and scrape towards the tyrants of Hive Primus. Despite its vast wealth and wisdom, Julien's family had been sidelined and ignored - although admittedly, this had allowed the members of the House to focus on enjoying their riches, and their extravagant feasts and revelries had become famous across the planet.



Under Julien, however, the Van de Carmetines had prepared to right the wrongs done to them, to cast off the shackles of the planetary governor and the Imperium itself and bring a new age of perfection and glory to Tybur-Al. The armies built by Julien had stood ready to begin their revolution and by some dark fortitude, the Astartes had arrived exactly on time! Well, near exactly. Perhaps ideally General Equerìsta and his staff might have been given another six months, or a year, to complete the training and equipment of Secundus' forces… but undoubtedly the advantages of having a spearhead of the mightiest warriors known to humanity would outweigh any deficiencies in tactics or ammunition? By most accounts, their assault against Hive Primus was already in full flow. A smaller group, aboard a single transport, had requested - in truth demanded - an audience with House Carmetine.



"And what do you make of them, Cascus? Are they as grand as the legends suggest?"



Cascus paused uncomfortably, wiping his brow with a delicate silk handkerchief as he pondered his next words.



"They are... they are not quite as I expected, my grand Lord... they..."



Guard Captain Toreda spoke softly, "They have arrived, Lord."



Taken aback, Julien spun to look out into darkness at the far edge of the plaza. He had expected a grand procession of troops marching in perfect formation, heard far before they were seen, splendid even beyond his own personal Guard. Instead the Astartes warriors, clad in black and perhaps only a score in number, were quietly moving in two files down either side of the grand promenade that crossed the plaza towards the palace. Each squad walked with their weapons held ready, with a casual yet alert gait that seemed more suited to a patrol traversing enemy territory than a visiting honour guard. However, Julien had to concede that in spite of their informal approach, the Astartes had an imposing presence, their bulky shapes surrounded by an aura of power and fear.



Between the advancing squads a third unit also approached, in a similarly loose formation. Even at this distance, Julien could see that although fewer in numbers, they were even more imposing, dwarfing the power armoured troopers. Could these perhaps be the mythical 'Terminators'? Finally, behind this central squad another group appeared at the plaza's edge. These smaller figures, perhaps a half dozen in number, were clearly not Astartes. Human servants of some sort? They clustered around and struggled to carry a long, obviously heavy object. Julien's curiosity was piqued - could this be the gift Cascus mentioned?



As the Astartes drew closer, he could make out more details of their appearance. The Lord sniffed, understanding Cascus' prior reticence. The vaunted warriors looked to be nothing more than filthy savages! Their black and white armour plates were mismatched and battered, covered in random sigils, dirty furs and scraps of skin and bone. Though most wore full armour a few went unhelmed, displaying long, shaggy beards or wearing crude leather hoods. All wore one icon in common, a simple warhammer clearly visible white on black, though Julien had no idea of its meaning. The music of his Orchestra faltered as the Traitor Marines moved implacably forward to stand before the balcony, musicians silenced and displaced by towering warriors. A few even left their instruments behind them on the ground in their hurry. Dancers likewise stuttered to a stop, looking nervously from their master to his guests. One of the massive brutes at the centre stepped forward.



Julien frowned at the Terminator, his own nascent gifts making him suddenly aware of a disturbing aura of authority and psychic power that surrounded the giant. He was older, his long white beard caught up in scraggly braids, and his skin was lined and weather-beaten. His armour was even more covered in sigils and totems than his men and a large and ancient looking leather-bound book hung from his waist. Some kind of primitive Sorcerer? The psyker looked up at the palace and called out, his voice cold and harshly accented.



"I am Abartach of the Black Hammers. Who rules here?"



Lord Julien stepped forward, flanked by Cascus and his personal herald. The First Cryer had a deep, booming voice that carried across the square.



"You have the honour of addressing Lord Julien Van de Carmetine, scion of the House Van de Carmetine, undisputed master of Hive Secundus, rightful Lord of Tybur-Al…"



As the herald continued, the Sorcerer looked curiously at Julien, then at the statue beside him, then back at the Lord on his balcony. He spoke again, interrupting the cryer in a gruff but amused rumble.



"You think yourself a suitable avatar for the Dark Prince himself, then?"



Lord Julien frowned, unsure if he was more offended by the barbarian's disrespectful tone or by his ruining of the cryer's perfect protocol. He leaned forward on the balustrade.



"Are you mocking me, sir?" he hissed. "Even for an Astartes, that would be very unwise. My powers are beyond your understanding! I will soon rule this planet in the name of Slaanesh and those who stand against me will suffer..."



Then, to Julien's stunned amazement, the grizzled old psyker ignored his words and turned away from the balcony towards the bondsmen who were depositing the long bundle at the base of the great bronze statue. Calmly he bent down to the object. It was wrapped in mismatched furs, these held in place by leather thongs and crudely carved stone clasps. Long strips of parchment inscribed with runes and chaotic symbols wove between the clasps. Julien's tirade stuttered to a stop as Abartach reached out with his massively armoured gauntlets, tearing off seals, ripping through parchments and crushing stone charms into powder. Carefully he unwrapped the furs, revealing the object within.



He called out, "We bring a gift to this world."



The old Astartes carefully lifted it from its wrappings and held it up for all to see. It was a long spear, a brutal, broad-bladed weapon formed of brass and gore-blackened steel. Even clad in his monstrous armour, the weapon was still slightly too big for the Sorcerer, seeming proportioned for an even larger user. Julien looked down at it with distaste, even repulsion. Something about the spear felt wrong, even more so than the old psyker. It felt like an enemy. His heightened senses could immediately pick out the smell of fresh blood in the air around the plaza, though he could see no source.



Abartach continued, "This is the Spear of C'Harak, Bloodthirster of the Sixth Rank. The HeartEater, Khorne's Huntsman, Bane of Tranquility. For nearly six millennia the Spear has held C'Harak's essence prisoner, allowing no outlet for his fury and bloodlust."



He paused, looking up at Julien with a cold, mirthless grin. Then he spun the great spear around in his hands, turned and drove its blade through the heart of the great statue with a deafening clang. In the horrified silence that followed, Abartach spoke in a satisfied whisper that only Julien's exceptional hearing could make out.



"You are welcome to one another."



Incandescent with rage, Julien turned to order Toreda to take the mad old psyker and his troops into custody. Before he could speak, Abartach whispered again, even more softly. Julien paused for a fraction of a second, dumbfounded. What had the Sorcerer said? It sounded like… "For the Emperor."



With a roar like some gargantuan beast, the heavy cannon carried by one of the other Terminators opened fire, followed immediately by the bolt guns carried by the rest of the Black Hammers. Household Guard and performers scattered en masse, desperately seeking cover from the thunderously loud fusillade. Chips of stone burst from the balcony and Cascus was torn apart by a torrent of shells. His blood misted and sizzled against the edge of Julien's personal force field and for a moment the Lord was blinded.



"Return fire!" he screamed at his underlings from behind the thick balustrade. "I will have their heads mounted above my gates for this treachery! I will…"



Julien's vision cleared and as he peered down onto the plaza he could see Guardsmen unshouldering their weapons and readying to return fire over the scores of fallen bodies of what had been their front ranks. But the Black Hammers were no longer attacking. In fact, they had used the chaos caused by their first volley to do the opposite, retreating across the plaza and away into the darkness.



"What in the name of the Dark Prince is happening here?" Julien shrieked, turning to look back into the palace. "Where have they gone?"



"My Lord?" Toreda ducked forward, cradling a limp and bloody left arm. He seemed equally bemused, though that might have been shock from his wound. "Report from Comms, my Lord. Message from Hive Primus. The invaders have been repulsed, they pulled out again with barely a shot fired, before the defence had even put together a proper counterattack?"



Julien whirled again, trying to pierce the blackness beyond the square, trying to understand the madness of the Astartes actions. As he did, he noticed something odd. The bloody vapour that still filled the air above Cascus' remains was not settling as it should. Rather it moved, drawn in a gradually forming spiral as though by some invisible force out over the lip of the balcony. The Lord Carmetine stepped forward and saw with growing fear that the bloody trail was not alone, being joined by similar liquid spirals from the countless corpses in the plaza and flowing together at a central point. The spear buried in Julien's statue. Julien gaped, the unease within him growing stronger and stronger, turning into sick horror. Something, a vast bloody crimson shape, was forming beside the hideous weapon. In the air around him, Julien could feel a pressure building. He almost felt he could hear the blowing of brazen horns, then a bellowing growl of rage and hatred echoed across the plaza. With a whimper of abject terror, the true master of Tybur-Al fled into his palace, desperate to find some refuge and yet knowing that there would be none.






Abartach led his squads quickly up through the great Hive towards the landing pad, watching for any possible counter by its confused soldiery. He expected none. The Black Hammers strike had been too swift, too hard and too inexplicable for the enemy Command to respond effectively, even if given double the meager amount of time they actually had left. He grinned. Just as the Codex dictated.



The psyker activated his comm link. "Lord Agamon? Mission accomplished. Package delivered."



He listened for a moment, then nodded.



"Aye Lord. Pulling out. Rendezvous in 18 minutes."




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The story is well-written, with an ingenious plot twist. The use of a Daemon weapon, though... Are the Black Hammers renegades, like the Relictors, proclaiming loyalty to the Emperor and His Imperium, despite using Chaos weapons? Edited by Bjorn Firewalker
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Thanks Bjorn! Yep, that's pretty much the idea. I meant to post the link to their article in the Liber Showcase and forgot! Here it is if you want more info: http://www.bolterandchainsword.com/topic/362688-index-traitoris-black-hammers/
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Thanks MetalMammoth! I guess from a conventional wisdom point of view, you're absolutely correct. There are objectively better ways of dealing with the problem.


But the point is that the Black Hammers aren't objective. They believe (fervently enough to have gone renegade and stayed that way for 9k ish years - see the link to their IT) that the best way to fight Chaos is to turn it against itself. Got a problem with a Slaaneshi Cult? Use Khorne against them.


Is that really wise? Probably not. But if you read between the lines of the IT, you realise that there might be something (or someone - ooooh, spoilers! ;) ) behind the Hammers that just wants to cause as much mayhem to the Galaxy as possible...


As to the scale of the problem, maybe its a little rebellion now, but maybe the Chapter's Sorcerers have divined its future potential - as you described, whole Subsector fallen to Slaanesh, warp rifts and Daemon worlds formed, billions upon billions of lives lost, etc, etc and they're acting to prevent THAT, not just a simple rebellion. (Actually, maybe I didn't do enough to get that idea across, so perhaps an edit is in order, thanks!)

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