Jump to content

Black Library Submissions 2023


Recommended Posts

Alas, this is a thread for all of us who submitted this year and were not successful in becoming the next Abnett or Haley or ADB. I figured our stories were works of love and labour, and deserve to be read by someone at least. If nothing else we can get a little feedback and come back better the next window.


The Wages of Sin

As their penitent Crusade comes to an end, a small group of Mantis Warriors are recalled to their old home. Led by Brother-Sergeant Pakash, the group finds themselves confronted with the potential for redemption and honour. As the remnants of the Chapter come together, they find that many of their brothers have already made plans for the Chapter to rise from the ashes of heresy. However, Pakash sees the shadow of the same hubris that damned his Chapter a century before, and he resolves to ensure the sins of the past shall never be repeated.





At this distance the explosions were a remote thing, tiny rages despite their violence. Primed to engage simultaneously, the explosives were rigged for maximum destruction, maximum disruption. Promethium tanks throughout the depot went up, belching blackened smoke to the sky. Vehicles and mortals nearby simply vanished, those unlucky enough to be further out coated in the sticky accelerant. Pakash’s lenses dimmed to compensate.


A duller thump sounded from within the main building. An ugly, blocky thing, it served as the primary refinery for raw promethium harvested, or more often stolen, from targets for light years around. It was a vital keystone in the Red Corsair war machine in this area, allowing strike teams to quickly replenish their ships and tanks and return to their depraved raids. Hundreds more just like this one were scattered across the borders of the Maelstrom and the Endymion Cluster; tiny splinters of hate that stabbed at the loyal servants of the Imperium. For the past decade the Mantis Warriors of Clade Sacristan hunted and scoured such bases from existence. Each one purged was another strike at those who had led his Chapter to perdition.


Pakash lay concealed on a ridge overlooking the depot. From here he had an excellent view of the bedlam that erupted below. Alarms sounded as the enemy realised they had come under attack. Red glinted, drawing his eye, and he could see one of the renegade Astartes. They were damnable traitors but still Marines, and they reacted with impressive speed, but without a target they floundered. This one was screaming orders at the mortals that scurried about him. He was laying about him at any unlucky enough to come within reach with a large, ornate mace, and already several bodies lay broken at his feet. He was still bellowing orders when another explosion sounded as another nearby tank went up.


By now even on the ground it was clear the base was unsavable. And as if summoned by the thought, Pakash saw more crimson armour. A squad of Red Corsairs had managed to gather and were making their way towards the southern exit. Their heavy armour allowed them to simply bulldoze their way over burning wreckage and screaming mortals.


He counted twelve of them, a mix of armour and weapon variants. As ever, traitors from Chapters across the Imperium were drawn to the Corsairs, and they carried their weapons with them into sacrilege. Unfamiliar bolter pattens, blades with single- and dual-edges, curved and straight, hung from bandoliers and belts. Some favoured chain weapons to rip and tear, others heavy bludgeons designed to crush and maim rather than outright kill.


The Red Corsairs had reached the gate with impressive speed, and didn’t let up, making straight for the jungle’s edge. They still didn’t understand who had come for them. Didn’t understand they were already dead. But rather than wait for death they had chosen to make a break for it, or go down fighting.


Several of the Red Corsairs fell or were spun about as ceramite-piercing sniper rounds struck them. The Mantis Warriors were superlative marksmen and Asfand and Qadir already lay concealed under the heavy canopy of trees ahead, readied before the first explosive had been placed. Two of the Corsairs went down and lay unmoving, several others struggled back to their feet. The squad opened fire with their bolters on full auto, hoping to get a lucky strike at their unseen foe. Another fell, the back of his head blown open by a high caliber round.


Two Mantis Warriors emerged from the jungle as if materialising before them. Each held a pair of twinned raptorial blades, razor-sharp and perfectly balanced. Pakash swore profusely as he saw them. The Red Corsairs roared, Pakash could hear it even from his vantage, as they finally spotted a target for their wrath. They opened fire once more. The Mantis Warriors charged, moving with a speed that was scarcely believable. Despite the torrent of shells unleashed by the Corsairs, they could only manage glancing blows on pauldrons and breastplates, and the pair kept on coming.


They were amongst the Corsairs. They moved with a fluidity and cohesion that defied understanding. Three of the Corsairs were already falling before they were able to drop their bolters and draw hand weapons. The remaining traitors fell on the pair, confident their weight of numbers could drag them down in short order. But they were impossible to pin down. They seemed to flow around the clumsy attacks of the renegades as parries were circumvented and ripostes struck empty air. Another Corsair fell, then another, both with throats opened to the sky by strikes too fast to see. The Mantis Warriors fought with a silent focus as the Corsairs screamed their rage and bellowed their pain.


The pair simply carved through the Red Corsairs. They struck at weak points and joints to carve into their hated enemies. The Corsairs, likely veterans of centuries of warfare, were as children before the Warriors, raw neophytes stepping into the practice cages for the first time. None could land a blow, none could even meet the blades of the Warriors in green and gold. The last Corsair stumbled back, already bleeding in several places as the pair pressed him. As one they plunged their blades into his chest, smashing through the ceramite at its thickest, then wrenched the blades clear. The Corsair fell to the mud, never to rise again.


Pakash was blind and deaf. The raw, unprocessed promethium in the main refinery had caught fire and had gone up with the raw explosive power normally seen with orbital bombardment. Even with his lenses dimmed and aural dampners at full, Pakash was rocked by the force of it. His vision came back slowly. Where the refinery had stood was now a devastated crater, and most of the other buildings of the base were either demolished, on fire, or both.

He stood and turned away. He noticed the plants nearby swayed with his movement, reaching out towards him with sighs of longing as he passed. At the borders of the Maelstrom the natural order was perverted and even the plants could become twisted and unnatural.

Secondary explosions sounded as he descended, likely smaller tanks of promethium or caches of ammunition catching fire. It was a shame they were unable to simply secure the resources for themselves and put them to better use, but it was better to destroy the facility entirely than risk trying to secure it for themselves. Still, it galled. They were dangerously low on supplies of their own, and would be forced back to the relative safety of true realspace to restock, wasting valuable time in their crusade.

Assuming they could find a safe harbour that would accept Mantis Warriors. Most planetary governors would refuse to help them, judging it safer to avoid potential contamination from those censured by the High Lords of Terra themselves. Still, they should at least be able to scavenge some wargear from the dead Corsairs, and perhaps once the fires had died down they could comb the base. Perhaps they would be lucky. And it wouldn’t be the first time they had been able to turn the supplies of the Red Corsairs against them.

He checked the status runes of his squad. What remained of it, anyway. A century before the Clade had been much larger, three dozen Mantis Warriors, and Pakash had been third in line of command. But a century of attrition had taken its toll and now only six green markers blinked, signifying they had taken no wounds. Not that he had expected them to, they had executed their plan to perfection and though they had faced Astartes, even Space Marines could be ambushed if the proper care was taken.

Two of the runes blinked with additional markers. With a thought he brought one to the fore and grunted to himself… Adamis, one of the Unblooded. His vitals were in flux. His blood was awash with cortisol and adrenaline, as well as a myriad of more exotic hormones. The hearts were both engaged, pumping as if he was still at maximum exertion, and his body was primed for lethal combat. Pakash knew if Adamis were before him the Marine’s body would be sheathed in sweat, his pupils dilated unnaturally, his bronze skin flushed and darkened, his breathing rapid.

They had undergone the battle haze and become Mantis Religiosa, despite Pakash’s express orders not to. They had lost none to the Corsairs, but soon Adamis and Reza would be dead, their bodies consumed by their choice.

He clicked his vox. ‘Report.’

Moving to eliminate the last threats,’ replied Asfand. Pakash nodded to himself. He didn’t need to remind him to secure anything useful. They had all been at this long enough to know the importance of scavenging like rats. ‘Sial, move in and make sure those Corsairs are dead.’

Not much worry about that, Brother-Sergeant. Adamis and Reza were pretty thorough.’ There was a note of sadness in his voice Pakash could hear even over the vox distortion.

He was about to respond when the vox chirped in his ear. ‘Brother-Sergeant Pakash, this is the Lament of Prophecy, do you copy?’

‘Go ahead, Lament.’

The paused a moment before responding, as if unsure how to proceed. ‘We have received contact from another Clade, my lord.’

Pakash frowned. It had been years since they had spoken with another Clade, and as far as he knew no others were operating near this theatre. After their censure at Badab the Mantis Warriors were leaderless. Rather than trust to a command structure that had led them so impossibly far from the Emperor’s light, the Chapter simply fragmented. First one ship, then another had quietly departed the system. One by one they all left as the world still burned below. It was to each ship to decide how best to execute their penance. Each Clade would conduct itself alone in an attempt to atone for their most grievous sin.

He had received some reports over the decades, seen some signs of the passing of other Mantis Warriors. Those of the Chapter knew the dangers and currents of the Endymion Cluster intimately; null zones and nomadic singularities that could becalm a ship indefinitely, or the ionic reefs that could tear apart the unwary. The tricks of navigating the Cluster, even before reaching the borders of the Maelstrom, were common amongst the Chapter, and a keen eye detect the passage of those who understood this region of space as no others could.

It had been years since the Lament had contact from another ship of the Chapter. Usually such meetings were an awkward affair, strangers united by a common purpose forced together against their wishes. Marines Pakash had personally known for centuries had become unfamiliar to him, their armour marked by fresh scrimshaw and marks of battle, their faces marred by the same guilt he knew marked his own. Desperation was usually the cause of such meetings and they were always brief and stiffly formal, a request for support in a raid, perhaps, or help in coordinating a strike against a particularly entrenched enemy. Once their brothers were satisfied, the ships would once more drift apart and go their separate ways.

Pakash clicked the vox once more. ‘Very well Lament, patch them through.’

My apologies, my lord, it is not a vox transmission. The astropath has received communion, priority level vermillion. Brother-Sergeant… We are commanded to convene, the entire Chapter together. It says the judgement of the Emperor has arrived.’


It was a difficult journey at the best of times. The Maelstrom leached into the surrounding realspace, the wound in the warp leaking to touch the worlds of the Imperium nearby for millennia. Strange portents were common, and the threat of unsanctioned psykers and chaos cults were practically endemic, a problem that had only worsened since the coming of the Great Rift. Spontaneous daemon incursions had become commonplace and dreams were filled with the laughter of the warp itself.

Despite this they made good time as they hurtled towards their destination. The crew of the ship were aged and infirm, but they were skilled and used every trick known to cut through the shoals and eddies of the warp. Pakash knew the other Clades would be doing likewise. None could possibly ignore this summons.

Censured for their crimes, consigned to a century of unrelenting warfare without support, without succour, the remnants of a Chapter already devastated by their rebellion had been commanded to wage war on their former confederates. And the Mantis Warriors had obeyed. They had harried the Tyrant of Badab and his Astral Claws into the depths of the Maelstrom, until the warp storms had driven them away. They had raided the holdings of the traitors even as they discarded their former proud heritage and were reborn as Red Corsairs. Shipping lanes were targeted, key infrastructure destroyed, ambuscades laid, monstrous targets eliminated. The Chapter had dwindled further over the decades even as their enemy grew in strength, bolstered by renegades of a hundred Chapters and more. It seemed an impossible task, each pyrrhic victory an exercise in futility. But every Warrior of the Chapter fought on, even as their brothers fell, even as their bodies bled and weapons blunted and ammunition ran dry. They fought on, because they were stained by their crime. Their lives had been forfeited the moment they took up arm against the Imperium.

A century of warfare. And now that time had come to an end. And Pakash knew not how he should feel about this, as the Lament plunged through the warp towards their rendezvous.



The planet of Galen was once a beautiful world. It had been one of many protected by the fleets of the Mantis Warriors. Great and ancient forests had dotted the landscape, interrupted by mountains that seemed to scrape the sky. The seas were once a brilliant cobalt, the kind that was rumoured to have covered Holy Terra millennia ago. And the Old City, capital of the world, had been an architectural marvel filled with buildings from before the Great Crusade itself. Humanity had prospered on this world since before the Chapter had been formed.

No more. For the sin of being under the protection of the Mantis Warriors, the planet had been condemned.  Most of the population had been moved off-world, while those that remained were interred into penal colonies. They were forced to watch as the Old City was razed, the forests culled, the mountains torn down as the Imperium hungered for the raw materials that lay within, fodder for unending conflicts elsewhere. Those seas that had once teemed with like were now dead, runoff from the industrial violation of their world contaminating the waters and choking the life from it. Now the prisoners laboured under harsh taskmasters, their lives spent endlessly tearing their world apart to satisfy punishing quotas.

It was here the Mantis Warriors gathered. There was little chance of being detected despite the stream of ships that came to Galen to carry away her riches. Most of the sensors and checkpoints were aimed at keeping a planet’s population servile and contained, after all. And besides, they would not be gathering above that benighted world. Instead the ships of the Chapter gathered at a very specific set of coordinates, midway between the planet and its sun.

It was here the origins of their sin lay. They gathered at the site where, a century before, the Mantis Warriors had first fired on loyal servants of the Emperor. Here the Fire Hawks cruiser Red Harbinger had been surrounded, devastated, boarded, gutted. Pakash remembered that day in searing detail, his mind reconstructing that brutal but short battle. Incensed by the Fire Hawks’ refusal to allow a boarding party to inspect their ship, the Mantis Warriors had fired on them, easily incapacitating the lone ship, and stormed it with an entire company of Marines. The Fire Hawks had fought ferociously but were ultimately cut down to a man.

At the time Pakash had felt a heady mixture of triumph and confusion. The Mantis Warriors had performed their roles to perfection, reacting with speed and intensity, the hallmarks of their Chapter. But to strike at fellow Marines, no matter how misguided he had believed them to be, had made him balk. After the battle, and throughout the war, many of his battle brothers had sought the comfort of the chapels, seeking guidance, hoping to extirpate a sin they couldn’t even vocalise.

The bridge hummed with activity, thought it was largely from the monitors and terminals rather than crew. Those few who yet lived to serve the Chapter could largely be found on the ships of the fleet. Each and every man and woman on the ship had served their time and more. And even with the rudimentary rejuvenat treatments that the Chapter could still access, their serviles were dying off.  As age claimed them one by one, the ships themselves slowed, as if crippled by rheumatism and infirmity. Where a once a young, vibrant crew of dozens had sat, ready to enact the will of their masters, now barely a handful remained. Each was tasked with multiple roles, each desperately trying to keep the Chapter alive for just one more engagement, one more day. A bitter simile for the Chapter itself, thought Pakash.

The voxmaster cleared her throat, which turned into a racking cough. Pakash waited patiently for her to regather herself. ‘Contact, my lord. Multiple readings, all but one of the Chapter.’

Pakash was intrigued by that single outlier, but held his curiosity in check for the moment. ‘How many ships, Hestia?’

She moved to another console, that of the augur master who had passed several years prior. She did not have his skill at reading the data the terminal presented, and Pakash was forced to wait longer. Hestia peered at the feeds. ‘I see… eight ships of the Chapter, my lord.’

Throne. So few. ‘And the other ship?’

‘Unknown, my lord. The ship is of a configuration I have not seen before. Smaller than the Lament, certainly, but energy readings are surprisingly high for a ship of its size. If I’m reading this right, it could outstrip us for pace, and perhaps give us a fight if inclined.’

‘My thanks, Hestia.’

‘My lord,’ she acknowledged. Hestia returned to the vox, scanning the waves. Here she was much more adept, and she quickly established contact despite the constant interference that bled from the Maelstrom and the Great Rift. She began the intricate dance of the void, exchanging the necessary information to coordinate a synchronous orbit around the distant star.

Pakash wandered to the augur himself. He quickly saw Hestia had, if anything, undersold the capabilities of the craft. It was far more powerful than its size suggested, a little chip of darkness against the void. It carried no idents, bore no markers on its hull, no overt threat. But he could feel the danger emanating from it. In his hearts he felt a sliver of ice as he gazed at the readout. That ship would decide the fate of his Chapter.



They would meet aboard the Hidden Blade, the strike cruiser being the largest ship remaining to the Mantis Warriors. Pakash came with the remnants of his Clade, the thunderhawk feeling very empty around them. Reza had died already, the ravages of the battle haze drawing more and more from him until his hearts finally gave out. Adamis yet lived but was little more than a husk, not even able to withstand connection to his battle plate. The marine wore a simple robe of green edged with gold, his body shrivelled and sunken into restraints. He barely had the energy to hold his head up so Qadir sat next to him to steady him against the sudden Gs of void travel. But for all his wasted appearance Adamis’ eyes burned fiercely.

The battle haze was a source of great debate within the Chapter, but all recognised its potential. A defect in the preomnor, one of the esoteric organs implanted that helped raise the Astartes to their post-mortal frames, allowed Mantis Warriors to enter a kind of fugue state. The process was irreversible once engaged, and quickly fatal, but it allowed the marines to exceed their already prodigious capabilities. The marine’s body entered a state of heightened battle readiness, their minds focused on the singular destruction of their enemies. Their bodies would flush with hyper-oxygenated blood and levels of combat hormones would rise to toxic levels. The marines who underwent this transformation would have increased strength, their reactions would become quick enough so as to seem preternatural.

But as ever there was a cost. The marine’s body would begin to cannibalise itself, eating into energy stores to fuel this transformation. Such was the demand placed on the marine that it was impossible to consume enough to replace that which was exhausted, and so the marine would waste away until final brain death. And such was the intense focus of their minds that the marine who previously existed was in all practicality dead. Barely aware of their surroundings, their minds sought only to accomplish their mission and eradicate the enemies of the Chapter. Most were rendered mute by this process.

The rite was a hidden strength of the Chapter, and a death sentence to those who enacted it. Always a fatalistic Chapter, the Mantis Warriors who chose the battle haze did so willingly. In better times it had allowed feats of utmost desperation and heroism, exclusively employed in times of almost certain death, a final chance at glory and an attempt to secure some otherwise unobtainable objective. During their penance, it had become a glorified method of suicide, a way to strike a final blow against the enemies of the Imperium, and to end the crushing weight of remorse.

None blamed those who chose this path.

Pakash glanced at the opposite side of the thunderhawk. Asfand sat with his eyes closed, seemingly at peace, but Pakash could see the tension in his hands, the tightness with which they gripped his seat that had nothing to do with the quick bursts from the thrusters as the transport manoeuvred. Sial sat a few seats apart and stared at nothing, his expression unreadable. Like Adamis, he was one of the Unblooded, one of the Chapter who had never fought against their brother Chapters. Through the vagaries of war and fate, some Mantis Warriors had avoided raising a blade or bolter in anger against the loyalists. Others had been elevated from neophyte only in the dying days of their rebellion and the conflict had ended before they found combat. Still, in the eyes of the Imperium the green and gold they wore was just as blackened as Pakash’s, indelibly tarnished. Mere association with the Mantis Warriors had been enough to condemn entire populations, so of course those that wore the colours of the Chapter were forever abject, no matter their record in battle.   

‘Is this truly it then?’ asked Asfand, now looking at Pakash under heavy lids.

Pakash shrugged, painfully aware the squad was looking at him. He had never sought command, rising quickly to a level he felt comfortable and content to leave the harder decisions to better men. But the rebellion and the grinding crusade that followed had left him the de facto leader of their diminishing Clade.

Sial spoke up. ‘Will we be free? Will we be… redeemed?’

Pakash hated the fervour with which he said that word. Sial had never sinned, in his eyes, yet the Chapter had been condemned together. ‘What does that word mean, Sial?’

Sial looked to the others in confusion. ‘Our sins wiped clean, Brother-Sergeant. We survived, and those that survive the crusade shall be welcomed back to the Imperium.’

Pakash shook his head slowly, his eyes meeting Sial’s. He could see the hope, the yearning in his eyes. It was strange, even after a century of fighting beside the man, how he was still a neophyte to Pakash. They all were, children led by a bitter old man. ‘How can something as simple as war cleanse our sin, Sial? We bore arms against the Emperor. We fought and killed our brothers in service to a lie.’

Sial made to speak once more but Asfand broke in. ‘And we have done our penance. The Imperium judged our crimes, the Imperium set the terms of our absolution, and we have served faithfully. The Imperium comes to declare our souls purified by our sacrifices.’ Asfand spoke softly but there was an undercurrent to his words that put the lie to the ease with which he said them. He was a man dying of thirst reaching for water.

‘Do you truly believe that brother? A veteran of Tranquility? How many Carcharodons fell with your bullets in their heads?’ Pakash couldn’t keep the bitterness from his voice, but he meant each and every word. How could death possibly forgive death?

The rest of the flight was silent.



The Hidden Blade was an ancient ship with a storied past. The Mantis Warriors had maintained the venerable craft for millennia and she had served them well. The bones of the ship ran deep, capable of withstanding awesome amounts of punishment and dealing out more in return. She had sundered ork battlefleets, broken aeldari raiding parties, bombarded hives infested with renegade cultists. Now she served as a place of judgement.

Pakash caught sight of her hull as they approached. Battle-damage ravaged her proud figure, many of the guns clearly disabled. Entire floors must have been open to the void and impassable. But for a brief second the dim light of Galen’s sun flashed and he could make out the sigil of the Mantis Warriors near the prow, and despite himself he felt a sliver of pride that came and went just as the light had.

The launch bay they came to was on the far side of the ship - all those on the closest side were destroyed, and could not be fixed, for which dock would dare accept traitors and oath-breakers? – and after a brief pause they were cleared to land. They were not the first to arrive, nor were they the last, and as they descended the walkway to the deck of another ship for the first time in decades another thunderhawk touched down. Pakash looked around the deck to see if he could catch a glimpse of the strange ship that must have brought their mysterious visitors, but all he could see were Astartes ships and servitors moving to engage refuelling couplers. Perhaps their transport had been guided to another bay.

A cluster of marines stood by the entrance to the bay. Pakash knew them all, had bled and fought besides most for centuries. They were strangers to him now. Tosinir, Master of Arms to the old Chapter Master Neotera. Halam, known as Whisper, still bearing that rifle with which he had earned his moniker. Jerek and Folim, as ever inseparable since they had been neophytes. And Everik, who might now be the highest ranking member of the Chapter, once Captain of the Seventh Company but now lord over shades and regrets. It was he who stepped forward to greet Pakash and his men.

‘Welcome, Brother-Sergeant. I thank you for your haste in returning to us.’

Pakash nodded to him. ‘Captain Everik, thank you for your welcome.’

Everik’s eyes danced aside. ‘Are these... all of your men who yet live?’ To his credit his voice barely faltered.

‘Yes, Captain. What you see before you are the remnants of Clade Sacristan.’

‘Well, you are welcome to the Hidden Blade. We have much to discuss, and plans to make.’ Everik’s eyes lingered on Adamis as he was helped across the bay, leaning heavily on Sial. All Mantis Warriors knew the battle haze, and those under its effects.

Everik made to leave but Pakash grabbed his pauldron. ‘Plans? Captain, I don’t understand. What plans are you speaking of?’

Everik smiled as if he couldn’t quite believe Pakash had missed the meaning of some grand jest obvious to all. ‘Rebuilding, of course! As the penitent crusade ends we will be tasked with reclaiming our former strength and taking our rightful place as Wardens of the Maelstrom.’ Behind him Pakash could see some of the other marines nodding at Everik’s words. ‘We have erred, we have served our penance, now the Emperor welcomes us back to our holy calling. We will need to secure materiel, begin recruitment once more. We will need to build an entirely new command structure out of the ashes of the old.’

Pakash could see the cheer in Everik’s face, the relief at reaching a day many had thought would never come. But the smile was a shade too brittle. He could see the same stink of desperation that clung to Asfand’s words and Sial’s face. Everik was afraid. They all were. And Pakash knew that same stink clung to him. The yearning for absolution was palpable, a tension in the air. And as Pakash allowed them to be led further into the ship he saw it clung to them all.



The bridge was too clustered, never meant to hold more than a dozen marines at one. The bays were too utilitarian for such a momentous event, as were the grand caverns that housed their stores and ammunition. No, for such a grand affair, only the Triumphal Way would serve. Except the Hidden Blade had never held the Triumphal Way. That had lain on the Endless Redemption, battle barge and flagship of the fleet. A kilometre stretch down the spine of the ship that held the glories of the Mantis Warriors within. Lined with the many honours won by the Chapter, the walls held guttering touches that flickered, making the aged battle standards seem alive with motion. Trophies and spoils from a hundred worlds and wars were held in stasis chambers, each one a testament to a proud and ancient Chapter. It had filled Pakash’s hearts with pride whenever he’d had occasion to visit the battle barge.

Except the Endless Redemption was gone, lost during their penance. And so Everik had built this mockery, this shambolic facsimile within his own strike cruiser. It felt cramped and pitiful to Pakash’s eyes, walls bare of honours and poorly lit. The glittering torches, the singing serviles, all gone. Yet it was still more than large enough to house the remnants of the Chapter inside. Barely a hundred marines stood in attendance, many of whom carried wounds or broken gear. Many stood huddled in small groups, or alone, the fragmentary remains of Clades that had struck out a century before. And to each one clung that same stench. Pakash felt nothing but contempt for them, and for himself most of all for feeling that self-same desperation.

The largest group stood at the head of the gathering, clustered around Everik. Pakash saw that the Captain had built a small platform with a couple of thrones atop. For now they were empty but to Pakash it was clear as day that Everik fancied himself the natural heir to the Chapter Mastery. Pakash couldn’t understand a man who wanted the dubious honour of following in the footsteps of men who had led the Chapter to ruin, nor could he find it in himself to be sure he was willing to follow such a man.

He felt a movement at his side. ‘What are we waiting for?’ whispered Sial.

‘Maybe there’s something being prepared,’ replied Asfand.

‘Who? Who is preparing what?’

‘Damned if I know, I’ve never been forgiven before. I don’t know if there’s a formal process Terra follows for events like this.’ Asfand had always held a glib tongue.

‘Silence, Asfand. We don’t know what awaits us yet,’ snapped Pakash.

‘You think there’s some doubt, Brother-Sergeant?’ Qadir rasped out. He rarely spoke, his throat nearly torn out by the bayonet of some heretic decades before in a long forgotten conflict. But despite the ravaged tones, Pakash could hear the note of concern in his voice.

‘All I know is what lies before me, and so far I’ve heard nothing from anyone that matters. And that includes you lot, so be quiet.’ Mercifully they fell silent. Pakash wished he could make the rest of the marines present quiet down as well, but there was a hubbub that could be heard over the air filters and idling warp engines. Pakash ignored them all, his eyes focused on Everik.

The Captain played at ease, but even from here Pakash could see the tension. He made some remark to his men and they dutifully laughed, but it was quiet and strained. Even they could feel the oppression of the moment. Tosimir responded but Everik was no longer paying attention. Tosimir trailed off as he too noticed the build up of static in the air, the hallmark of an incoming teleport.

It was shocking, for all that it was expected. A brilliant light tore its way out of the Immaterium. The noise of displaced air was a localised thunderclap that crashed off the walls of the Triumphal Way, ozone filling the air. As their vision cleared, a figure from myth and legend stood before them. A giant in golden armour that towered even over the marines, a Custodian of the Emperor. None present had ever head of a Custodian leaving Terra; indeed, none knew it was possible for one to do so. Pakash scanned the figure, eyes playing over the ornate armour, the inactive Guardian Spear, the stylised helmet. To his shame he realised he was searching for weak points and avenues of attack, and immediately castigated himself. The end of their penitent crusade was apparently here and yet he still looked upon the servants of the Emperor, even one so august as a Custodian himself, as a potential target.

The Mantis Warriors were still. None dared moved, none dared speak. The Custodian was entirely still, a terrible statue in gold. The seconds turned to minutes. Finally Everik dared to step forward.

‘Welcome, Guardian. I am astonished you have left the Throneworld, but I welcome you heartily to the Hidden Blade and-‘


Everik stiffened. Pakash wagered the Captain had never been spoken to in such a manner, especially not on his own ship. ‘I am Captain Everik of the Mantis Warriors and-‘

‘Silence,’ repeated the Custodian. He banged the pommel of his spear into the stone floor and the blade flared into life, electricity crackling and casting a flickering witchglow across the Custodian’s face. Marines throughout the Way reached for weapons but paused, unsure of how to react. Everik licked his lips, eyes flicking to the marines about him. Pakash noted that the Guardian had cracked the marble flooring with his spear. The custodian looked out over the crowd. He stood before a hundred veterans of the most miserable and gruelling fighting imaginable, and showed no fear, no hesitation.

The Custodian banged his spear once more, the report echoing through the Way. ‘I bring tidings to the Mantis Warriors Chapter. The Arch-Heretic Abaddon has returned to realspace, leading a Black Crusade to ravage the Imperium once more. Cadia has fallen, and with it the Eye of Terror has spilled across the galaxy and split it in two. Roboute Guilliman, the Avenging Son, son of the Beloved Emperor and Primarch of the Ultramarines, has returned. He has declared the Indomitus Crusade to reclaim the worlds which rightfully belong to the Emperor of Mankind and purge them of Chaos taint. He brings light through the darkness of the Cicatrix Maledictum and into the Imperium Nihilus, and brings hope to loyal subjects of the Emperor.’

Gasps filled the chamber. The opening of the Eye was no news to them; every world in the Imperium knew of the tear in realspace that now bisected the Imperium. Rumours abounded as to why it had happened, each more fantastical than the last, but to Pakash none of that had mattered. Daemons and cultists now infested previously loyal worlds and the very fate of the Imperium was in the balance. And the Adeptus Astartes were all that stood between the darkness and the citizens of the Imperium. His duty, and the duty of every living Mantis Warrior, remained unchanged. But the return of the Primarch was a fantasy, a story heard and easily dismissed. The Primarchs belonged to a time impossibly far in the past, a time of heroes and titans who clashed for the fate of the galaxy. The idea of one returning, and one so acclaimed as the Avenging Son himself…

Despite himself Pakash felt a sliver of hope. In truth the coming of the Great Rift had seemed like the end of days. The personal tragedy of the Badab conflict grown into a galaxy-spanning conflagration that would send them all into unrelenting warfare, devastation that would swallow the Imperium and cast them all into an eternity of pain and suffering. When it had torn through the void it had even touched on the Maelstrom, sending the already turbulent region into a frenzy. Daemons would now spontaneously manifest, entire worlds had been ravaged by the forces of Chaos, some had simply disappeared as if swallowed whole by the warp. To Pakash, the Great Rift had seemed as if the shame and darkness in his hearts had been made manifest to plague them all. Hearing of the return of a Primarch of the Emperor seemed a single pinprick of light at the end of a deep, deep tunnel.

He saw Everik take a breath as if to speak again.

Once more the Guardian Spear thundered into the floor.

‘In his beneficence, the Primarch has sanctioned reinforcements for the loyal servants of the emperor.’ The Spear struck again. Pakash half fancied he would eventually break through the ship itself if he kept going. There was a build up of static again and another thunderous report sounded. This time a series of canisters appeared next to the Custodian, freezing mist streaming off them. Pakash started as he realised they were stasis chambers, relatively tiny containers designed to protect the contents from damage or degradation as they were transported across the Imperium. ‘The Primarch has granted the release of vital technology and information to the Chapters of the Astartes, with which to rebuild their losses as they face the forces of the Archenemy. In these canisters lie the necessary material and information with which to enact the Primaris protocols, to build a new army of marines, and to equip them as necessary to protect the worlds of the Imperium. Within lies hope and salvation, a most generous beneficence from the Primarch.’

There was a stunned silence. Had the Primarch himself stepped from the shadows Pakash doubted he would have caused more of a shock than the words of the Custodian. None present understood the term ‘Primaris’, none could understand what the Custodian had meant by his proclamation.

The Custodian smashed the floor again, stone chips scattering and bouncing off the armour of the marines closest to him. ‘This Torchbearer has served his purpose, and now returns to Holy Terra. My duty is fulfilled, my duty fulfilled, by His word, I term my duty fulfilled.’ The Custodian raised his Spear once more.

‘Wait!’ screamed out a voice. The Custodian paused, his Spear still raised. Pakash turned in amazement to see Adamis struggling forward. Sial tried to help him but he shook off the gauntlet and hobbled towards the Custodian. It hurt to watch Adamis move. By all rights he should have been dead already. All present had seen brothers who chose the battle haze, though none had ever heard one speak. All knew Adamis had mere hours of life left to him. Not one dared impede him as he staggered forward, this emaciated wretch, eyes only for the golden figure before him. They stepped aside to allow his approach. The Custodian stared down at Adamis, his stance curious, but otherwise unmoving.

Adamis looked up, palsied tremors racking his body. He swayed for a moment before speaking, his voice still possessing a clarity and strength that belied his frail appearance. 'Honoured Custodian of the Emperor, please. Before you leave us we must have the answer of the High Lords. The Mantis Warriors have sinned, and we bore arms against the loyal servants of the Emperor. We allowed ourselves to be misled by pride and the false whispers of heretics and liars. For this, we were cast into a penitential crusade no less than a hundred years, to be judged in the fires of war. Those of us who emerged would be forgiven of our crimes and allowed to rebuild.’ Another tremor shook Adamis and he nearly fell. Even from where he stood Pakash could see the sheer effort of will that his brother needed to remain standing. ‘We have served. We have suffering through the hellfires of purgation, and we emerge once more. We must know if the High Lords recognise our absolution.’

Not a single marine spoke. Each gazed at the Custodian, the will of the Emperor manifest before them. None would – none could – disguise the longing in their eyes. Even Pakash dared hope for confirmation that their crusade had purged the stain from their souls.

The Custodian reached up and took off his helmet. He maglocked it to his belt and stared over the crowd. His face was calm, broader even than the marines before him, unscarred. It was uncanny, looking into the face of this being. It seemed at once youthful and aged, untouched by time and yet older than the ship on which they stood. When he spoke without the aural transmitters in his helmet his voice was rich, deep, suited more to poetry and song than the words he cast at them. ‘Know this. My name is Tauramacchis Hadnor Kallimachus. I am a true servant of the Emperor and I have never wavered in my duty. The Torchbearer fleets come to bring hope to the Chapters that serve the Emperor truly, and most bring Greyshields to replenish and reinforce. Your Chapter will receive no such aid. Most Chapters will receive materiel, aid in understanding the gifts that have been bestowed upon them. You shall receive no such succour. I look upon the pathetic remnant of a Chapter that turned upon the Imperium and what I see disgusts me. I discharge my duty as I have been commanded by the Primarch himself and I take no satisfaction in this task. You deserve nothing but damnation and should be cast into perdition for your crimes. You have failed the Emperor, each and every one of you, and I curse your Chapter. It matters not to me if you live or fade into irrelevance, forgotten evermore.’

The edict was all the more damning for the lack of anger in his voice. Tauramacchis never raised his voice, he did not declaim or denounce. He spoke simply, plainly, as he had totalled the sum value of the men before him and found them wanting. With that he smashed the pommel of his Spear once more into the stones and the teleport sounded one final time, and in a flash the Emperor’s will given form was gone.



Pandemonium erupted as the Custodian faded into the lightning. Marines began shouting over one another, each demanding to know what the Custodian had meant, demanding the right to respond, demanding and demanding like children. Pakash saw Everik raise his hand to his ear, demanding status from the bridge, demanding information, demanding augur returns, demanding firing solutions.

‘Is that it, Everik?’ thundered Pakash, forcing his way towards the Captain. ‘A single word from Terra and you are ready to fire on the servants of the Emperor once more? A Custodian, no less?’

Everik’s face grew dark, the fury written large in his features. ‘He dares come on my ship, without leave, and throws these insults in our faces? It cannot be borne.’

‘It can and it will. He has every right – every right! – to speak to us so. He is the voice of the Emperor Himself.’

‘You overstep your bounds, Brother-Sergeant. I will not be countermanded on my own ship.’ Everik raised his hand once more to his ear and engaged his voxlink. ‘Helm, I want firing solutions on that ship. It does not leave the system without my permission.’

Pakash drew his bolt pistol and levelled it at the Everik’s head. ‘Cancel that order, Captain.’

Everik stared at him, mouth agape, hand still raised. ‘Are you insane, Pakash?’ Idly Pakash could see the men of the Hidden Blade draw their own weapons and aim at him. He paid them no mind.

‘I will not allow you to lead this Chapter into heresy once more.’

Everik breathed deeply, visibly forcing down his anger. But his eyes shone with murder as he gazed at Pakash. ‘And you would fire on one of your own brothers?’

‘I would tear the Chapter down stone by stone before I allow it to descend into madness. Never again.’ Pakash’s arm was steady, the pistol feeling lighter than air. His entire being was focused on the trigger, pulled so tight, so that the merest fraction more tension would engage the firing mechanism. He could see the marines aiming at his head and heart, none daring to fire lest they cause his finger to twitch. But he could see that desperation in their faces, that yearning for redemption, for acknowledgement that they had served their penance and were now free, now pure. Fear, he realised. The same fear he felt. The tales say Astartes felt no fear, but in truth this was a lie. None feared battle, this was true enough, none feared death. Their fears ran much deeper.

Fear of failure.

Fear of insignificance.

It was fear that had tainted the Chapter a century before. A fear of irrelevance, ignored by Terra, that their sacrifices would be wasted in service to uncaring and unknowing overseers and venal, ignorant wards. A fear that the Chapter would fail in their duty to protect the faithful servants of the Emperor, ground away in pointless wars until they were of no more use, then swept aside to watch their worlds burn and die.

But that had come to pass. Fear had controlled them, and allowed them to be misled, thought Pakash. And once more fear was taking hold of the Chapter. Fear would drive them to make another calamitous mistake. A mistake he couldn’t allow.

Pakash felt a hand at his pauldron. Another, this one bare and fragile, reached gently to his bolt pistol and pushed it down. For all that this touch was light, Pakash felt himself entirely unable to resist. Adamis stepped between them, Sial beside him. Pakash saw other marines had stepped forward, creating a barrier between him and Everik with their bodies.

Pakash knew them all, as did every marine present. They were the Unblooded. They were the innocents of the Chapter, those who had never raised a weapon in anger against most Holy Terra. Twenty-seven marines stood between Pakash and Everik and madness. Each Mantis Warrior knew each of these men by name and pitied and resented each and every one of them in turn. They were stained by association alone.

‘Captain, this is madness. We cannot fire on a ship of the Custodians.’ Sial’s voice was measured.

Adamis looked into Pakash. ‘We are all brothers here. We must remember this.’ Another tremor ran through him, but his eyes remained clear.

Everik looked from Pakash to Sial, and back again. He hesitated, then touched his earpiece once more. ‘Bridge, belay that. Let the ship do as it will. Stand down. I repeat, stand down all weapons.’ He snarled at Pakash and turned away. His men looked to one another in confusion, lowered their weapons and followed as Everik stormed from his mock Triumphal Way, shouting orders to waiting menials to secure and store the containers the Custodian had left behind.

Pakash nodded his thanks to Adamis and holstered his weapon, allowing the Unblooded to lean on him as his strength faltered. He looked around and realised not all the men that stood around him were Unblooded. All those who did not serve on the Hidden Blade were with him. In his anger he had not realised that lines had been drawn, and a single squeeze of the trigger had almost led to another civil war, contained entirely within the Chapter.

In truth, he couldn’t claim he felt it would have been a mistake.



Their departure would be just as awkward as their arrival. Pakash exchanged few words with other Clades, their responses just as stilted. The brotherhood between them was almost dead and they all knew this. It was unlikely they would gather again, and instead each ship would depart and fade into the void.

Pakash was about to order his Clade back to the Lament when the ship-wide vox sounded. ‘Brothers of the Mantis Warriors, this is Captain Everik. Your attendance in the primary briefing room is required within 20 minutes.’ The vox cut just as abruptly as it had sparked into life.

The Mantis Warriors looked to one another. Without the marines stationed on the Hidden Blade itself there were only a few dozen present. None were willing to take that first step. Everik was the ranking officer on board, perhaps the highest ranking officer remaining to the Chapter. But were they even a Chapter any longer? Or merely a collection of shades, fated to wander the darkness until they no longer could?

‘Come, Brother-Sergeant,’ said Sial. He took Adamis’ arm and gently guided him towards one of the great doorways leading from the Way. The other Unblooded followed his lead.

Pakash stared after him. Those that remained were the veterans of the rebellion. Tranquility, Galen, Bellerophon’s Fall, Grief – each of the men that stood with him had shed the blood of loyal servants of Holy Terra. Each of them had damned themselves many times over.

‘We are still Mantis Warriors, Pakash,’ said Asfand softly. ‘That still means something.’ The marksman nodded to Qadir and followed after the Unblooded. Other marines did the same and the Clades began to break up. Pakash was one of the last to move, but in the end he obeyed.



The briefing room was built for war. In better times a strike cruiser like the Hidden Blade could have found itself leading a war against an incalcitrant foe. Multiple theatres would need direction, coordination, with the fate of millions of men and marines decided by the words spoken within this room. As such, it was large enough to hold the marines, though only barely. It was a rare occurrence that so many would have needed to gather, and many of the desks and chairs were designed for mortals – generals and aides, commanders, liaisons, diplomats, sycophants. Most of this furniture had long since been moved elsewhere to grant more space, but the hololith remained in the centre, dead, a prop for a single blade wrapped in a bundle of fine green silk laced with golden filigree.

Only two chairs remained within. One was a command throne, occupied by Everik at one end of the hololith. Another was a singular concession to Adamis who could no longer stand unaided. The other marines remained standing. Pakash took his place by the hololith, a right he could claim by dint of being one of the few remaining Warriors to carry a rank. Adamis was seated beside him so he could see, his wheezing belying the difficulty with which he still clung to life. In truth Pakash was amazed he yet lived.

Everik stared at the hololith. They all did. They knew what lay concealed atop it. Metasomata. A powerful relic, the blade was carried by the Chapter Master. And it had lain unclaimed for a century, since Neotera had been incarcerated for his crime of leading the Mantis Warriors in open rebellion in service to the Tyrant of Badab. None had the right to take it up.

Everik stood. ‘My friends, I thank you for attending me. We have important matters to discuss, and we must proceed with all haste. We have been given the tools to rebuild our glorious Chapter, and retake our rightful place as a Warden of the Maelstrom. The road ahead is hard and it will be long. But we have survived our penitential crusade and we will step into the future free of sin and regret.

‘Before we embark on our new path, we must establish a new command structure. With that in mind, and as the ranking officer that remains in the Chapter, I humbly submit myself as the new Chapter Master. Ordinarily this would be approved by a council of peers, but there are no longer any other Captains to convene, or at least none that could return in time. Therefore, I ask that you, the most worthy peers I could ever wish for, judge the worth of my supplication, and the worth of my service and featly to the Chapter. I pledge that the Mantis Warriors will rise once more and our value shall be known again to all the Imperium.’

Pakash could no longer hold in a bleak laugh at this last remark. Everik glared at him and dark mutterings sounded from his men. Pakash ignored them for the worthless lackeys they were. ‘Are you deaf, Everik? Did you not hear the Custodian in your Triumphal Way?’ he sneered. He was pushing it, he knew this, but he couldn’t stop himself. Everik had always been an ambitious lickspittle, now he believed himself worthy of leading the Chapter? ‘The High Lords do not believe us forgiven, they do not believe us absolved of our sins.’

Everik darkened as Tosimir spoke up. ‘We have satisfied the terms of their penance. A hundred years we have bled for them. We paid our price and then some.’

Pakash laughed again, this time harsher. He couldn’t reign himself in. ‘Paid our price? You think our transgressions a bill to be satisfied? Something to be bartered and haggled over? Tell me, Tosimir, how many loyal brothers of the Fire Hawks perished by your hands? How many Red Scorpions or Marines Errant? Do we kill a similar number of traitor marines to balance it out? Do mortal renegades count, or is there some sort of ratio we must employ? Perhaps five mortals for each loyalist dead by your hands.’

‘You go too far,’ growled Tosimir, his hand flying to his blade.

‘Stand down, Tosimir,’ snapped Everik. The Master of Arms slowly relaxed, his eyes still boring into Pakash’s. ‘Brother-Sergeant Pakash, once more you are out of order. The terms of the penance set by the High Lords of Terra were clear, and we have satisfied them. A century of warfare, a trial of the purity of our Chapter. Those that live will be judged as loyal sons of the Imperium once more.’

‘We will never be cleansed of our crime. You think it matters what mortal authorities decree?’ Pakash leaned forward, hands placed on the hololith. ‘We took up arms against the Emperor, Everik. We killed leal brothers of other Chapters. We fought for a servant of the Dark Gods. What could we ever do to atone?’

‘The past cannot be changed. All that matters is what comes next.’

Pakash shook his head. ‘It isn’t enough. It will never be enough.’

‘What would you have me do, Pakash?’ thundered Everik. ‘I know what we did. We all know what we did. Each of us is forever damned.’ Everik sank back into his throne, his energy suddenly spent. To Pakash it seemed as if the Captain had aged terribly during their exchange. He saw a face lined with grief and regret, eyes haunted by guilt. It was familiar to him, for it matched the one he himself wore. Everik continued, his voice softened. ‘You speak as if each of us here is not stained by the same sin. Do you think you alone understand the despair of knowing you failed the Emperor?’

Everik cast about the room. ‘We are all guilty men. We are all condemned. It matters not. Our lives, our souls are worth nothing but what they can offer the Imperium. I care not if we are destined to spend eternity in hellfire for our transgressions. While we live our lives will have meaning.’

Pakash took a deep breath. ‘And if it happens again?’

Everik stared at him. ‘What?’

‘If we err again? If in our zeal to make amends and prove ourselves worthy of the light of the Emperor, what if we stray once more? Captain – Everik – you were ready to fire on a Custodian. You were ready once more to damn our Chapter. Once again the name of Mantis Warrior would have been tainted by heresy and oath breaking. You say you want to rebuild this Chapter. You cannot rebuild with broken foundations and rusted ferrocrete. What was once noble within us is gone. Brother, we are beyond saving.’

Everik stared at him long and hard, his breath rattling in his throat. Pakash realised he was waiting for a rebuttal. No, he was waiting for Everik to convince him he was wrong. He found he was desperate for any of his brothers to speak up and convince them all that it was worth continuing, that the Chapter was worth saving, that their lives could have meaning once more.

And in his terror he wondered if it would ever be possible.

‘What would you have me do,’ whispered Everik once more.

This time Pakash could muster no response.

A ragged wheeze sounded. Pakash turned to see Adamis struggling to his feet. He couldn’t manage himself, and Sial lowered a hand to help him stand. The Mantis Religiosa looked dreadful. His face was gaunt and sheathed with sweat, his eyes sunken and consumptive, fever-bright. The hands were little more than arthritic claws now, fingers unable to extend. His body was wracked with constant tremors. It would not be long until he was dead. Yet by some feat of incredible determination his body clung to life. He gathered himself for a moment before speaking.

‘Forgive me, brothers,’ he began. Adamis’ voice was ravaged by the demands of the battle haze. He sounded long dead, his voice the barest whisper. And yet it carried to every marine that still bore the colours of the Mantis Warriors. ‘I do not have the time left to hold my tongue, so I beg you will grant me this indulgence in speaking with you all.’

A palsied hand gestured to Pakash. ‘The Brother-Sergeant is correct. Our Chapter is stained with sin. We have most grievously broken faith with the Imperium in a way the Mantis Warriors may never make right. We deserve castigation for our crimes. We deserve punishment. And you cannot risk rebuilding the Chapter as you cannot guarantee the flaw is excised.’ Pakash felt a chill at his words.

Adamis gestured towards Everik. ‘The Captain is also right. We have satisfied the terms laid out by Terra. We sinned, and we sought absolution. We may never be redeemed in the eyes of others. But does that ever matter? Our redemption is for our own sake, ours and the Emperor’s. No authority shall stand above us save Him.’

Adamis turned to the assembled brothers in a slow shuffle. He nearly fell, would have save for Sial supporting him. He took several gulping breaths as his lungs failed him. The effort of standing, of simply speaking, was proving too taxing for the weakened marine. But he was determined to see it through. ‘In the end the only true matter is the safety of the Imperium, and service to the Emperor. Our Chapter has sinned most grievously, but we cannot afford to allow an entire Chapter to waste away and disappear. We have a most solemn charge to defend the people of the Cluster from the evils that lie within the Maelstrom. Regardless of our crimes, no matter our personal notions of guilt, we are beholden to that vow. And we cannot abandon it to sate our lust for penance. We cannot allow the Mantis Warriors to die because we are not brave enough to save ourselves.’

Adamis trailed off. He looked as if he wished to continue but a racking bout of coughing overtook him and he bent over, entirely supported by Sial at this point. Everik voxed for serviles to come help him to the medicae bay, but Adamis shook his head, refusing to be taken from the room. He gestured to the chair and was helped over, collapsing gratefully into it. His coughing fit subsided and his breathing eased, if only a fraction.

Everik bowed his head. ‘I thank you for your words, Unblooded. I am shamed to say that you have the right of it, and we cannot deny the truth of your words. We are damned, but we cannot dare allow the Mantis Warriors to die. Indeed, we do not have the right to make that choice. The Chapter must be rebuilt.’

‘And who should lead such an action, Everik?’ asked Pakash, the fire gone from his tone. ‘You?’

Everik shook his head, a rueful smile as he looked to Pakash. ‘No, Brother-Sergeant. For you were right also. We cannot be trusted. We led our Chapter to ruin and damnation, you and I and the entire command structure of old.’ He looked about the room, seeing the faces of the men who had served the Chapter for centuries. Each has long histories of combat, each had faced terrible enemies and survived, each had earned his battle honours many times over. And each had followed their Chapter Master and their officers into heresy. Each had sullied their oaths and their colours with their actions.

Each of them, that is, but for a single, specific, blessed exception.

The Unblooded.

Everik looked to Adamis, to Sial, to each of the Unblooded in turn, searching. Hoping. His gaze returned to Sial. ‘We damned this Chapter, Pakash. Perhaps it is the task of another to save it.’



Preparations took weeks. The Mantis Warriors had a new Chapter Master. At the behest of Everik and several of the oldest veterans the Unblooded had withdrawn to deliberate amongst themselves. The discussions were to be private, cloistered from the old warriors of the Chapter, in an effort to preserve the sanctity of the debate. After several days, Sial had emerged from the chambers, the Metasomata belted to his waist.

Pakash had saluted his new Chapter Master, pride and fear warring within his hearts. What if the flaw lay deeper? What if some hidden defect lay within their geneseed or some corruption from the Maelstrom had twisted their souls, and it was this that had caused them to turn from the light of the Emperor? But he had shaken those fears aside, for that was the old Chapter. He had to believe the Mantis Warriors purged of their failure. Never quite cleansed of their sins, never that, but the weakness would be excised from them.

The older marines spent their time in prayer and reflection, seeking balance and atonement. For Pakash, such things had ever been elusive. He did not know if he would ever truly know peace again. But for now, a weight had been lifted from him. The guilt remained, but it was as an old companion rather than a vicious taskmaster.

It was unanimously agreed amongst the veterans that they would embark on a final crusade into the Maelstrom. Their crimes were too great to ever be expunged, but each and every one of them remained a true son of the Imperium and loyal servant to the Emperor. They would take the Lament of Prophecy and strike a blow at the heart of the new empire of Huron Blackheart. It was unlikely their blow would be fatal, for the forces of Chaos had grown in strength and the Great Rift had drawn traitors from cross the Imperium. But victory was never the aim, only absolution in death. With them they brought the body of Adamis, a final war for the Mantis Religiosa. He has saved their Chapter and deserved no less than to join them in their glory.

The canisters from Terra were opened and studied. True to the word of the Custodian, information and genetic treasures lay within. It was upon this cornerstone, and the foundation of the Unblooded, that the Mantis Warriors would rise once more. Perhaps one day their name would again ring with accolades and thanks from the grateful citizens of the Imperium. Pakash could not say, for that truth lay beyond his story.

Pakash did not know if it would be enough. A handful of marines, a crippled fleet, aged serviles. The Chapter no longer had a home, no longer had tithes with which to replace their losses. Planetary governors would not welcome them, other Chapters would not seek to fight beside them. But by the light and grace of the Emperor, they would survive, and the Mantis Warriors would rise to stand between the Imperium and her enemies. With Sial as Chapter Master there was a chance, however faint, that the Mantis Warriors would once more be a name that was spoken with pride.

For the first time in a century, Pakash felt the unfamiliar stirrings of hope in his hearts.


Edited by Sanctimonius
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

I see you took time to write this. Its a good story. Too bad GW wasn't interested. 


The discussion between Pakash and Everik over concerns for the chapter's salvation shows conflicting takes on wither or not the Mantis Warriors will be redeemed in the eyes of the High lords gets to me. Like these guys have suffered a lot and there's no guarantees in the 41st (now 42nd) millennium. 


Except dying...and taxes...and Daemons eating your soul.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I appreciate you taking the time to read. Yeah I was trying to convey that no matter what, at the end of the day they had done something utterly unthinkable, and sometimes there's just nothing that can ever be done to take it back. The past cannot be changed, all that can be decided is how you address it, and how you can live with it going forward.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.