Here we go guys, I've brought this forward by a day to honour the TGC's first birthday... please excuse the loss of format cause by the copy-paste, rest assured the download PDF has the full novel layout. Get it here
Once we have made sure there are no more errors, the final versions will be printed up.
=====================================================WOLVES OF TERRA
by Matthew Piper (AKA Vespasian)
Death stalks the night…
VESPASIAN JUSTAER ALLOWED himself a brief smile as the memory of the envoy’s parting words echoed in his mind.
The Technovingian Lord Gagesh had looked bemused at the envoy’s statement, feigning ignorance at its implied intent so as not to look weak in front of his assembled Immortal bodyguard. However, Justaer’s observation of an array of minute facial reactions exposed the Technovingian’s true feelings. Gagesh knew the meaning of fear.
The memory and the smile dissipated as Justaer returned to polishing the glossy black segmented pauldron of his Thunder Armour. As his eyes glided slowly across the surface, seeking out any imperfections, Justaer found himself looking into the eyes of another. Staring coldly back at him was a wolf’s head framed by a halo of stars. It was the heraldry of his Thunder Warrior regiment; it was the heraldry of the 16th Regiment. It was the heraldry of the Night Wolves.
The Night Wolves: their name was fear incarnate. They were the Emperor’s Wolves, mercilessly hunting down the enemies of the one true High Lord of Terra, and illuminating the ignorant. They always came for their prey shrouded in the dark and cold embrace of night, as if they were a living extension of night itself. Many of their ignorant prey had prayed in vain to see the rising of a sun that they were destined never to see. When night came for them it was too late.
The Night Wolves martial tradition maintained that a herald - the Mouth of the Night - be sent to their enemies to demand for one final time their fealty and obeisance. Often the mere presence of the Mouth, accompanied by a single Night Wolves warrior, was sufficient to ensure that the ignorant complied with the High Lord’s demands. However when this failed the same stark promise was always given to the foolish: Death stalks the night…
The Technovingian had been foolish. Very foolish.
The last piece of Justaer’s armour was finished. Its keen segmented surface was ready to serve in battle once more.
‘To me.’ Justaer growled the command to the shadows of the arming chamber.
Instantly a dark cowled figure stepped firmly forward from the midnight of the room. The man’s right arm snapped across his chest in salute, fist clenched against his breast. This sign of Unity was followed by a deep bow.
‘As you command Dominus.’ The measured reply came from under a deep hood.
The figure marched confidently towards Justaer. The steady rhythmic movement caused the long tailed skirt of the hooded, black surcoat to undulate, exposing the articulated body armour worn beneath. The embroidered silver stars decorating the hems of the surcoat appeared to shimmer like the night sky.
Gauntleted fingers deftly grasped the pauldron. A series of practised, fluid movements attached the segmented shoulder guard, completing Justaer’s harness.
‘Thank you Johann.’
The indentured retainer of the Night Wolves bowed his head, acknowledging his master’s gratitude. Each Thunder Warrior had his own personal retinue of indentured retainers, an aspect made essential by the comparatively small numbers of Thunder Warriors in the Emperor’s armies. The Night Wolves regiment itself numbered only three-hundred of these mighty warriors, but some Regiments had far fewer. The 7th Regiment, the Imperial Fists, who were engaged hunting down the ornithopter Death Squadrons of the Roma, had but one-hundred and fifty Thunder Warriors to put against the flying mercenaries. However, the number and skill of the Fists’ retainers more than made up for this.
Johann, through his feats of arms and personal prowess had reached the very pinnacle of a retainer’s career. He was Justaer’s personal Scutifer: trusted to shield his master in battle with a large combat-pavise and the commander of Justaer’s retinue of retainers.
‘So Dominus, it is time for the Wolves of Terra to go to war once more.’
‘Indeed it is, Johann. Indeed it is.’
No news from Mars…
FROM THE PENTELIC marble balcony of his citadel, the Technovingian gazed grimly towards the acrolithic colossus which formed the barbican of his mighty fortress. The darkening twilight accentuated the sinister silhouette of the towering sentinel.
The fractured remnants of the holo-missive, clenched in his hand, had emitted one simple message: <Better fealty than the wrath of the Thunder Warriors.>
Gagesh had cursed the castellan’s weakness and that of the other fools who had betrayed him. It mattered not, for they would all soon taste the Widow’s cold embrace.
Dusk. Damn the dusk! The Technovingian knew that his ancestors had called dusk “entre chien et loup” – the time between the dog and the wolf. Night was the wolf’s domain and it was he alone that was night’s dark master. Even the tribes of the ancient Franc had known and understood that the night belonged to the wolves. The thought made his anger flare and Gagesh smashed his augmetic powered fist into the marble balcony, pulverising fleur-de-lys and symbols of Mars.
Justaer grinned as he witnessed the act of frustration committed by the distant figure on the balcony. Surrounded by his warriors, the foremost squad of First Company, he was ready to strike.
He looked up at the shimmering pearl white orb that sat suspended in the deepening darkness of the sky: Luna. Justaer wondered if a time would come to pass when that distant satellite would be attained. A time when Luna would find herself truly illuminated by the radiance of the Emperor and a unified Terra. A time when Luna would become the first member of a nascent Terran Empire that would stretch across the stars. That time was not yet, but Justaer did not doubt that it would come to pass.
When that time did come the Night Wolves would no longer be the Wolves of Terra. Instead they would become the Wolves of Luna.
by Chris Eustace (AKA LordNaughtyBitz)
THE EVENING SKY was purple and red. Clouds, underlit with the glow of fires, hung in the still calm of dusk, ignorant and uncaring of the sorrowful landscape below. Fires burned across the plains strewn with the detritus of conflict. Smoke drifted lazily in the path of a light breeze. Only the Sudarctic Confederacy had remained. Now, after a two year campaign among the highlands of the southern plateau, they too were compliant. Marko had never felt so tired.
He reached into his haversack and pulled out a reconstituted banapple. With the shortages brought on by centuries of global warfare humanity had had to return to archaic food-reclamation technologies in order to feed itself. As a result, every soldier’s field rations (Marko’s banapple included) had, at one time or another, already passed through the digestive systems of several other people. It was something that the population as a whole had learned not to think about. Besides, he liked the hint of cinnamon.
Marko walked over to an armoured infantry carrier, hit and immobilized early on in the engagement. He held his banapple between his teeth and, placing both hands on the upper mudguard, vaulted up onto the machine’s rear deck. From here he had an excellent vantage point to survey his surroundings: the sight that greeted him, the aftermath of the failed counteroffensive by the last brigades of Sudarctic Kurassiers, filled him with relief.
His regiment had been ordered to occupy the heights upon which he now stood, and protect the flanks of the Astartes battle groups tasked with destroying the Sudarctic forces on the plain below. After a short, sharp action in which the heights had been captured, Marko’s unit had been spectators for the remainder of the battle. The 5th and 18th Legions had caught the Sudarctic troops in a merciless pincer trap and annihilated them. Marko had never before had such an opportunity to watch the Astartes make war. He had seen them in action of course but, only as fleetingly glimpsed Thunder-Armoured giants wading through gunfire and shrapnel, seemingly impervious to both. They had conquered the world in the name of the Emperor.
‘It won’t end here you know…’ said a voice behind him. Marko whipped up his lascarbine as he turned, finding himself looking down at a Sudarctic officer.
‘Hands high!’ Marko barked, half-chewed banapple flying from his mouth. ‘Keep them where I can see them!’
The officer did as he was ordered, a smile at one corner of his mouth as though laughing at some private joke. Eyeing him up and down Marko quickly realized that, despite him being obviously the-worse-for-wear, this officer was quite a prize. With that much shine on his tunic he’s a Jemmadar-oberst at least, thought Marko triumphantly.
‘You’re thinking it’s over, but he’s not done with you yet,’ the officer said through a deep, rolling Hindo-Germanic accent, “Certainly not with his beasts.” He nodded down at the plain where the Astartes were mustering for embarkation. Tanks equipped with plow blades were bulldozing wrecks aside to create a landing field where the orbiting troop transports, big Whalesharks, could set down.
‘What do you mean?’ Marko asked. ‘The world is compliant, now that we’ve beaten you. Where else can he go?’
The officer looked up at the stars, now visible in the fading twilight.
‘Out there of course. This planet is too small to contain his ambition. He wants the heavens themselves! Look at that,’ Marko didn’t. ‘Have you ever seen the night sky so clear?’
Marko thought for a moment. Truth be told, he hadn’t. The sky at night had always been a swirl of colour as it had been for thousands of years, but lately it had been predominantly black, dotted with tiny points of light.
‘The storms that separate us from the great void are finally dissipating. Your Emperor has been waiting for this to happen and now that it has, he can unleash his beasts upon the galaxy and bring all of the heavens under his dominion. This is but the beginning. Look at them,’ he indicated the Astartes below, ‘What other purpose can such as they serve now?’
Fully loaded Whalesharks were lifting off as others came down from their holding pattern above. ‘Our intelligence operatives reported that mass production of a new, fully enclosed model of their armour has begun. Our observatories have reported a massive orbital shipyard has almost been completed. Do the math my friend. In his future there is only war.’
Marko made to respond but the sound of heavy armoured feet crunching up the slope cut him off. ‘Beat us to it, have you?’ growled the Astartes warrior approaching them. Four more followed him in a staggered skirmish line, boltguns at their shoulders, still wary though the fight was long over.
‘Well done soldier! We’ve been hunting this one since it ended!’ he said, and addressed the prisoner. ‘Jemmadar-oberst Johann Rao.’
No querying tone. The Astartes knew damned well who this man was
‘You are now a prisoner of the 5th Legion Astartes. You will comply with my orders or you will be shot. Do you understand?’
With that, Marko realised he had been completely dismissed. Some bloody thanks! After bagging Rao no less, he thought, somewhat shocked that he had just been conversing with the commander of Sudarctic forces in this sector.
‘Hey chief,’ he called out as the Astartes began to march their now manacled prisoner away, ‘What happens now? The fighting’s over – what comes next?’
The Astartes turned towards him, his pitted white armour making him seem ethereal in the fading light, the lightning strike symbol of the White Scars legion visible on his pauldron. ‘Now the great work can begin,’ he replied. ‘We will reunite the lost fragments of humanity into one, unified whole. We will make the galaxy compliant.’
As the Astartes marched away, Marko could only stare at the killing field below. We will make the galaxy compliant…
Marko had never felt so tired.
by Andy Sayer (AKA Magos Exporator)
IF IT WEREN’T for my Ope addiction, I’d be dead by now. Which is kind of ironic, I suppose; I’d always thought that the drugs would be the death of me. Then again, there was no way we could have foreseen Compliance. Funny how things work out.
I was there when those calling themselves the “Imperium of Mankind” first arrived; both a blessing and a curse to be so. A hellish screaming – louder than the anger of the Mount of Fire far over the horizon – heralded the arrival of the flying beasts, like castles of iron, which disgorged scores of giant knights clad from helmeted head to toe in armour as red as the infernal depths of that same volcano. The warriors of the 9th Legion. I found out later that the legionnaires were known to each other by a different name: the Angels of Blood. I should have known then that blood was all they would bring.
These warriors brought with them men of words, their bodies swathed in long robes and adorned with strange mechanical devices, a limb or an eye replaced with one of metal. Although small and weak in comparison to the warriors of the Legion, these were their ambassadors. They carried a message from the Imperium, and sat with our elders in the Chamber of the Ancestors while the red-armoured giants waited, silent and immobile, outside.
They told us of Terra, the first home of all our kind; and of the Emperor, a man who would reunite humanity. They told us of his twenty Legions and their crusade across the stars in his name. They told us our world was but one of many, settled during the Dark Age of Technology in time before memory, and since cut off from its brothers and sisters in the sky. They told us that our ancestors came from what had been known as the “Zudafrik” region of Terra, and had left in giant ships to the stars, aided by the arcane technologies of those days.
We knew all of this. Our legends said as much.
They told us we were to be brought into the fold of the Imperium; to become proud servants of the Emperor. We were to accept the rule of a governor in his name, pledge ourselves to his service, and we would have the protection of the Legions and share in the collective knowledge of humankind. This was what it meant to become “compliant”. The Legions had united many hundreds of worlds with Terra, and we were to be one more.
These Imperials took their leave to parley with the leaders of the other Great Tribes of the world – and then they would return to accept our Compliance.
I don’t think the answer we gave them was what they expected.
As I said, we knew of our history from the legends of our ancestors. We knew they had left Terra in ships of the sky to settle our new world. But what the Imperials hadn’t said was this: that our ancestors had left to escape the tyranny of steel-over-flesh, of machine-over-man that had overtaken ancient Terra. Our forefathers passed down tales of the enslavement of man by creatures of metal he had created; creatures forged by Man, living but with no spirit of their own. Men of iron who, after Man first made, he could not unmake. Our ancestors left to begin anew, to start a life where Man was beholden to Man only and our tools did not own us. After a new generation had been born here came the Great Purge, when those machines we had needed to find our new home, and those who would not give them up, were cast into the Mount of Fire and destroyed. We had not become cut off from Terra; we had cut ourselves off.
And when the Imperium came, in what form did it arrive? Armoured giants riding in screaming metal sky-castles and men suffering under the rule of machine, bodies made a fusion of flesh and metal through some foul magic. We could see that nothing had changed on Terra since the time of our ancestors. Why would we wish Compliance, if it meant a return to what our forefathers had escaped?
THE SECOND TIME they came, I should have been there. I should have been at work, skinning the four-legged ‘boks we hunt on the plains; the hides of the graceful creatures are for tanning into tough boots and gloves, the horns for decoration, and the flesh for our meals. Nothing is wasted.
I should have been there, but I wasn’t.
I was in the wilderness, my duties forgotten, body buoyant with the lightness of Ope. As I lay in the shade of a rock, I first thought it was a fevered dream when the fire began to rain down from the sky. I watched the town burn as the warriors of the 9th Legion marched out of their flaming sky-castles and extinguished the life of my people, the red of their armour mingling with the blood of their victims.
Night has fallen now, and I am still by the rock, watching. I shiver; it’s cold, and the fix of Ope has run its course. But that's not the reason. As I watch the red-armoured giants fan out from the town and begin to move out towards me, I shiver because I know our time is over, the hopes of a hundred generations of our ancestors dashed, extinguished so cruelly in one day of death.
The Imperium will have Compliance, but we will no longer be here to see it.
by Dan Sutherland (AKA Absyrtus The Redeemer)
THE ROLLING SHOUT thundered across the open plaza, choked as it was with a brightly coloured mass of humanity. Hundreds of thousands of arms upraised, the crowd swayed ecstatically, clenched fists beating a regular rhythm into the charged air. Rising above them all, a great white statue of purest marble was large enough to dominate all that surrounded it. A stern, unflinching warrior, clad in massively ornate plate armour and clutching a mighty sword in one mailed fist and a lightning bolt in the other, stood resolutely in the centre of the plaza with unblinking eyes framed by an unfathomable face.
“Deus imperator!” The volume and intensity of the cry rose suddenly and without warning, and from his vantage point above and beyond the plaza, Absyrtus twitched his mouth into a rare smile. He regarded the giant statue as all did, with reverential awe – for to look upon his Emperor and god, even in effigy, was a great honour and scarce to be believed.
And yet, it was not the perfectly sculpted image of the Master of Mankind that drew his gaze at that moment. Rather, a much smaller figure, visible on the plinth at the statue’s base, captured his attention, as it always did. To normal human eyes at this distance, the figure would have seemed merely a dirty grey smudge with a blotch of bright red, but Absyrtus had anything but normal human eyes. His augmented Astartes vision easily magnified what he was seeing, and he sucked in a sudden breath as he beheld utter majesty and wisdom, distilled into an immortal, yet corporeal form.
Absyrtus felt his hearts pounding in his chest, which swelled with pride that he, lowly as he was, might serve such a magnificent being as this. The stone grey armour worn by the Primarch was exquisitely tooled by the legion’s finest artificers, with minute patterning so fine that it could barely be distinguished for what it was – delicately carved and inscribed script. More script, rendered in gold thread, crawled across the hem of his billowing red cloak. The watching Word Bearer listened carefully, as the glorious figure raised a hand, and the surging mass of the crowd instantly fell silent.
‘I have spoken already of the glories, the unfettered majesty, of the God-Emperor,’ the Primarch intoned, his voice like that of a kindly father instructing his children, yet telling them something patently obvious, already known. A murmur spread through the crowd. Of course they already understood the truth of the supreme Emperor’s being! ‘Yet there are some who share this world with us that refuse to acknowledge him.’
The Primarch let the words hang heavily in the air, as the sheer inconceivability of them permeated the crazed minds of the crowd and an angry roar began to take shape and grow.
Again, Absyrtus smiled. The Primarch’s armour was protection, manuscript and amplifier all in one. Unknown to most, it amplified and projected his carefully modulated voice to even the furthest corners of the plaza. Now, even those clustered in such corners angrily brayed for blood, although then a new shout began: “Lorgar! Lorgar! Lorgar!”
The mighty Primarch, though, creased his noble brow into the hint of a frown, his dark eyes flashing with displeasure. Yet his mouth curled into a smile, and when he spoke, it was now the voice of a father rebuking his children for a serious, yet understandable, error.
‘I am merely a vessel for the God of Mankind,’ he stated firmly, and the cries ceased at once. ‘I am blessed to be able to carry out His will, but it is to Him that we, brothers all in our fealty, owe worship.’
And with one voice, the next cry shook the very foundations of the plaza.
MEMORIES OF THAT grand day flashed through Absyrtus’ mind as he led a column of grey armoured warriors into the cavern. A deep voice, laden with the rich timbre of command, sounded on the vox.
“Wait while the scouts return.”
‘Acknowledged, master.’ Absyrtus held up a hand and his warriors immediately halted, an eerie silence suddenly descending after the cadence of booted feet. Again, the recollection of Lorgar, the finest embodiment of the orator’s art, flooded through Absyrtus’ consciousness, and he felt awed and dazzled to have witnessed such power, such effective mass control being exercised.
And now, they were following Lorgar’s orders, and by extension those of the God-Emperor himself. Go into their mountain fastnesses and purge the unfaithful, till not a single one is left alive.
“Left passage.” the rich voice spoke again, and the company set off.
THE FINAL CHAMBER erupted into chaos as the Word Bearers marched into it. A hail of lasgun fire greeted them as it burst from among makeshift barricades and outcroppings of stone. Immediately the Astartes quickly arranged themselves into battle formations.
Absyrtus blinked in surprise beneath his helm – for his master to address him by his new soubriquet was unexpected, as the great one rarely deigned to show his underlings such favour. ‘My Lord Kor Phaeron,’ he responded respectfully, as thunderous bolter fire erupted all around him.
‘They’re guarding something in the centre. Work your way towards it from the left, Chaplain, and I will meet you from the right.’ and then Kor Phaeron was gone.
Absyrtus the Redeemer, righteous in his fury, raised his crozius above his head. ‘For Lorgar and the God-Emperor!’ he roared, and his warriors followed him gladly into the maelstrom of battle.
THEY MET, THE two Chaplains of the 17th Legion, among the grisly remains of worshippers who had chosen the wrong god to venerate. An unfamiliar symbol, resembling an eight-pointed star, had been daubed onto a stone monolith in blood.
‘What is it, master?’ Absyrtus asked, his curiosity overcoming his deference. Before Kor Phaeron could answer, however, one of the corpses at his feet jerked upright, cackling maniacally before croaking in a hideously inhuman voice –
‘The face of God!’
=====================================================THE GIFT OF THE GOD
by Jamie Morris (AKA Lord_Caldera)
HE CAME SUDDENLY one night: an avatar of my god, though he knew it not. He came at the height of the Festival in a great iron bird which flew on streamers of fire with the noise of a thousand great beasts roaring as one. Huge clouds of smoke billowed from its stubby wings as it lit upon the ground just outside of the contest ring where my brother fought.
My clansmen gathered around its immense body with more curiosity than fear, many loosening weapons in their slings. My brother, drenched in gore and sweat, dispatched his last opponent quickly and clambered out of the ring to stand beside me.
I was proud of my brother. He was the finest warrior of my village, and I longed for the day when he would be proud of me too – the day that I would enter the ring against him, the day that I would take the head from his shoulders in the name of our god, the day that I would claim my rightful place as His Voice.
But that day was not this day. This day I was young and though I was stronger and faster than most of our clan’s finest warriors, I was not yet a man.
The iron bird opened its mouth without warning and breathed a haze of strange-smelling steam over the assembled men and boys. A dull yellowish light seeped out and glinted off the weapons my clansmen were now fingering nervously. When the fog cleared a solitary figure stood bathed in the light. It was impossibly huge for a man, and encased in some strange armour made of a pearly white material I had never seen before. All but the head; the head was that of a man, and was a mass of scars more twisted than those of the village elders. The deep-set eyes which surveyed the crowd were not those of a senile old man, however. They were cold and piercing – predator’s eyes – and I sensed that they unsettled even the hardiest of the men around me.
Except for my brother.
He pushed his way to the front of the silent crowd and took a welcoming stance, with his feet braced apart and his gleaming axe held before him in a challenge. ‘Identify yourself, stranger, in the name of the Lord of Blood!’ he cried out.
The giant’s steely eyes locked onto him and a smile ghosted around his lips. A low voice grated out his words. ‘Who is this “lord”? I am in haste and would speak with your highest ranking citizen.’
‘He is the God of Battle, and on this day I am His Voi-’ my brother began before his head exploded with a sharp bang. A full grin pushed its way onto the giant’s face as he watched my brother’s body slump to the ground. He replaced a smoking contraption of metal into a holder on his belt and stared at the blood pooling around my brother’s neck as he spoke to us forcefully.
‘No. Your god is nothing. I am here to give you the Truth. You are now servants of the Emperor of Mankind and will act as such. You will not worship. You will obey. And if any man wishes to challenge this, he will speak now.’
Rage built inside of me at my brother’s death and at the insolence of this man. No one spoke and I realized that my friends and family were weak. I wanted the power that was rightfully mine. I had been my brother’s better and I was this monster’s better. I would claim his armour and his weapons for myself.
‘You still have not identified yourself!’ I shouted. The crowd parted slowly to let me through to the front. I saw many frightened faces and my rage grew at their feebleness.
The giant considered me for a moment before stepping down from the open beak of his mount and meeting me over my brother’s body. This close I could see how truly massive his white and blue-clad form was, towering nearly twice my own height. There was amusement in the face as he replied, ‘I am Astartes of the 12th Legion. I am Captain Goran Perro of the 8th Assault Company of the World Eaters.’ He glanced up to address the rest of the assembled men and boys of my village. ‘I have travelled many leagues to find those worthy of joining me and my battle-brothers, but it seems I have come to this place for naught. I see nothing but dotards and women before me. I am disappointed to find no warriors.’
He turned and began to stride back towards the bird. I seethed at this final slight. Did he not see my potential? I swore to the God that I would see this giant dead, and my pitiful village with him. I bent and hefted my brother’s iron axe. It was the most finely crafted weapon I had ever seen, and had been passed down within my family for generations. I swiftly closed the distance to the giant and roared a battle cry – as he turned I swung the huge axe with all of my might.
The blade struck his breastplate and shattered upon the terrible armour. I had but a moment for surprise before he reacted, smacking my head almost casually with his fist and sending me sprawling to the ground.
A gravelly laughter filled my ears as I dragged myself to my feet.
I felt blood running down my face. It felt good.
The giant was still laughing as he slung me over his shoulder and walked back to his bird. I spat broken teeth at my former clan as blood dripped into my eyes and a red haze drifted over the world. ‘You are just the thing I was looking for,’ chuckled the giant. ‘What is your name, boy?’ As the enormous beak shut off the last sight of my family, I choked out the answer to his question:
by Steve Bonsey (AKA Doghouse)
THE CROWD COWERED together in the courtyard of the great palace, its once majestic pearl white spires now stood pitted and scarred, blackened by the swift brutal orbital assault of the Astarte invasion forces. The great towers that once looked out proudly across the lush and plentiful untouched landscape now lay broken and shattered into rubble, cast down upon the scorched earth that now surrounded the palace for miles in every direction.
This world, a shining example to all that looked upon this precious orb, a true paragon that had captured the essence of the nobility of human truth and all that the Great Crusade strived to reclaim had been torn asunder in a single night of utter and complete destruction the likes of which had seemed impossible by the citizens of Myontis. But this was not a simple act of retribution or a display of Imperial might.
This was justice.
Nobility and servants alike huddled together. All division of class, creed or wealth had been eradicated by the overwhelming aura of impending death that now surrounded them and bound them together as one. All former rivalries had been forgotten, all past sins forgiven, all debts settled, all were made equal as they were united in fear.
Captain Lucius Artibian stood impassive on the second tier of the courtyard looking down over them. The faint glow from the red lenses of his visor gave the skull terror markings on the visor of his midnight blue plate armour a horrifying life of its own. For all intent and purposes he and his men resembled death itself.
‘People of Myontis,’ he bellowed over his helmet's external vox-caster, ‘You have been found guilty of violating Imperial law!’
‘Murderers!’ a woman clearly of noble birth screamed as she defiantly stood to her feet with tears of anger streaming down her face.
No, Artibian thought to himself. Not murderers, killers.
Murder was an act of extreme emotion, uncontrolled and indiscriminate. It was an unfocused and distastefully blunt weapon fuelled by passion and rage and ignorant of its consequences. A killer acted with a cold sense of efficiency and logic, unquestioning in his purpose and resolute in the outcome of his actions.
Artibian recognised her as the Minister who had first greeted him upon his arrival to Myontis some two years previously. She had openly welcomed the Astartes of the 8th Legion along with Imperial rule and through their conversations he had grown to appreciate her company. She had brilliantly argued her people's case despite her youthful appearance, which harboured the wisdom of someone many times her age. Her skills had proven a worthy addition to their cause persuading the other nations of Myontis to join without a single drop of blood ever being spilt or single word uttered in anger. She had proven to be a visionary among her people, a true master of word craft and diplomatic ability that commanded even the respect of a seasoned Astartes such as him.
With a simple gesture of his head to his attending sergeant, a single bolter shot rang out, striking the Minister cleanly in the chest. The force of the explosive round lifted her off her feet, carrying her tattered remains across the courtyard to crash down amongst the serving tables.
‘You have been found guilty of consorting with aliens,’ he continued dispassionately as the broken and bloodied form of an Eldar warrior was flung into the courtyard to serve as evidence of their crimes, ‘And of taking up arms against the Imperium.’ The shattered and barely recognisable mutilated remains of General Hrantyu were thrown over the balcony landing before the wailing and screaming repentant audience below.
Having said all that needed to be said, he simply turned his back on them and walked away into the darkness. All around the uppermost tier of the courtyard, Astartes of the Night Lords legion stepped out from the shadows as the great wooden courtyard gates were slammed shut and barred from the outside. As one they raised their bolters and began with cold precision to fire into the crowd below.
Justice had been served.
by Christopher Barton (AKA Yvraith)
SOMEWHERE ON THE once-compliant planet designated Seventy-six Twelve, Sergeant Bray spat muddy water from his mouth as he crawled forward towards the edge of the crater that provided cover for the remnants of his squad. More artillery shells were falling around his position, throwing geysers of mud, blood and flesh into the air. How the resistance had gotten hold of the artillery pieces he had no idea. He cautiously peered over the lip of the crater to see if the resistance troops were advancing – he couldn’t see any movement, but that didn’t mean that they weren’t out there.
Gesturing to his squad with hand signals, he gave the instruction to advance. His men nodded grimly. He clambered over the lip, and he’d barely taken three steps when he felt the first projectile miss him. His instincts took over and he dove to the ground once more, crawling forward to try to get into position to return fire. His men followed suit, spreading out to gain better angles of fire. Where the rest of his Platoon was he had no idea: since the initial artillery barrage hit their position, communications had been unreliable at best.
His orders however were clear: Push forward, assault and eliminate the Resistance fire bases. The Regional Governor, Lord Fantiel, wanted to deal with the Resistance forces without waiting for Astartes assistance. Confirmation that a Speartip of the Imperial Fists legion had arrived in-system was announced minutes before H-Hour. Right about now Bray cursed the man for a vainglorious idiot! That’s what you get when your commanders specialise in “logistics”, he thought bitterly.
The assault had started well, allied guns shelling the enemy defensive positions when suddenly the plan went all to hell. Unexpected counter-battery fire had taken out the Imperial Army gun positions and the momentum of the infantry’s advance had faltered. The worst possible thing had occurred; the enemy had seized the initiative.
Hot liquid splashed his face, bringing his thoughts back to the present. To his horror he realised it was blood, as one of his men nearby toppled, headless. Gritting his teeth he resolutely forced himself into the combat mantra of his regiment, the Austelian Irregulars:
Run, Down, Crawl, Observe, Aim and Fire.
He took three sharp, staggered steps forward, dove to the ground and crawled into a fire position, looking over his rifle for a target. Finding one he instinctively squeezed the trigger and watched his target fall. Other lasgun bursts showed that he wasn’t alone, his men observing correct fire discipline – single shots, to conserve ammunition charges.
Continuing to fight their way forwards, Bray and his men were surprised to find themselves within grenade-throwing distance of the enemy’s front lines. Giving the hand signal for a break-in manoeuvre, Bray readied a frag grenade and nodded to the man beside him, who began to lay down covering fire. He risked a quick glance and threw the grenade. Ducking back into cover briefly, he counted to two and rushed the trench. As he gained his feet, he felt his grenade detonate, as well as others thrown by his men along the line. He jumped down into the trench, thrust his bayonet into a resistance fighter’s throat and then ripped it clear. A quick glance to his left and right showed that his squad now had this small stretch of trench to themselves.
Bray made a snap decision and indicated to his squad to move left down the trench. They met little resistance initially, however they didn’t meet up with any friendly forces either. Everyone was on edge, it got worse after Bray’s point man, a trooper named Caleb Grey, stuck his head around a corner in the trench and had it blown clean off. His squad responded with snap fire around the corner, followed by a couple of grenades and then another rush.
It was mayhem; they were amongst the enemy proper, bayonets lancing into flesh, men yelling and screaming, lasfire ripping through bodies at point-blank range. Victory would go to whoever was the most brutal and vicious…
BRAY AND HIS men prevailed, barely.
He lost three more in the melee, leaving him with five. Theoretically they were “combat ineffective”, under fighting strength. They’d all die if they attempted to withdraw and it was only a matter of time before the enemy realised they were inside their front lines and eliminated them. The only advantage they held was surprise, so Bray reluctantly ordered his men to advance.
As they pushed further down the trench they saw signs that other allied units had made the front trenches, but as to where they had gone now, there was no clue.
It wasn’t long before they encountered more of the enemy. Bray and his men had got the drop on them but it wasn’t long before weight of numbers began to tell. Bray watched as another trooper fell – each one of them had received light injuries thus far, but this looked like the end of the line.
Unexpectedly, a wave of damp earth swamped the entrenchments, followed shortly after by the very distinct sound of bolter fire. Bray grinned: the Imperial Fists had arrived, and his squad might just survive this after all. His men, reinvigorated, increased their rate of fire down the trench, attempting to give the Astartes some semblance of covering fire for their advance.
They need not have bothered.
Bolter rounds scoured the trench clear, allowing the golden-yellow armoured marines to advance on the enemy positions. One of them paused slightly and observed the weary Bray, covered in mud and blood.
‘What are you doing down there?’ the Astartes asked curiously.
‘Preparing for another push forward, m’lord!’ Bray replied.
The Astartes grinned and said ‘Good. For the Emperor! Onwards!’ and moved off down the trench.
Sergeant Bray glowed with pride at the slight praise from such a warrior, but he didn’t get to revel in the feeling for very long. He never did hear the artillery shell that atomised him moments later.
=====================================================PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS
by David Bandych (AKA Benedict Arnold)
THE SHATTERED FORMS of half a dozen Space Wolves lay next to a pair of acolytes from Mars as Kahotep approached the imposing building in the midst of the ruins. One question was now answered at least: that of the fate of the Mechanicum Exploratory team as well as the Space Wolves sent to investigate their disappearance. As he surveyed the death around him, he attempted to send out a message to the crew of the Thunderhawk that brought him to the surface to announce his findings.
Static. Dead air.
What was going on? There hadn’t been any issues a moment before, prior to his discovery of the bodies.
One mystery solved, and now a dual mystery to take its place; what had killed these men, and was it connected to the sudden loss of communication? Kahotep took one last look at the crumpled armour and broken bodies of the dead men before starting into the complex.
The large wooden doors stood ajar in the entrance of the building whose beauty amongst the ruins surrounding it made him think of the great libraries on his home world of Prospero. Here stood a culture that he immediately mourned the passing of, and wished to know more of its people and what fate had befallen them. All in good time, he thought, there are more vital and seemingly deadly questions to answer first. He moved the doors to give him enough room to enter inside and took his first step into the interior.
Suddenly an eerie sense of wrongness hit him. Even encased within his temperature-regulated armour, Kahotep suddenly broke into a cold sweat. Something was not right here. Something that made his forgotten and outlawed psychic nature scream out to him.
He tried to ignore, to forget that it existed just as he had been trying to do since the decision at Nikaea had forced his Legion to abandon their gifts and their pursuit of the growth and understanding of the nature of psychic and magical knowledge. He had been forced to cease using his abilities, to attempt to forget they even existed. It was a brutal and painful experience; it was cruelty on levels a normal ungifted individual could never truly understand. To sacrifice one of your senses, to lose out on something that you had taken for granted and integrated into the very sense of who you were, was heartless and cold. It would have been inconceivable if not for the example set by Magnus himself in his following of the Emperor’s decision, no matter how much he might have disagreed with it. Now however, that psychic sense was back; it was warning him and it would not be silenced.
Combined with the psychic outpouring, he was hit by a genuine wave of awe and wonderment as he looked around the spacious interior of the building. He had been spot on with his comparison to the libraries on Prospero – the structure was a repository of information. Vast shelves lined the walls, all containing what appeared to be the bindings of books. Interspersed with the rows and rows of shelves were magnificent works of sculpture and paintings, of impressive and ingenious design and style.
As he took in all of this, he heard a gentle cough beside him. Turned his head, he looked upon an old man in robes not unlike those worn on Prospero by the general populace and his brother Astartes during their personal hours.
How had the man gotten here, and was he the one responsible for the deaths of his fellow Space Marines and the Mechanicum duo outside?
Before any more thoughts crossed his mind, the old man spoke. ‘Greetings traveler, and welcome to the Great Library of Passos. Why have you come here, and what do you seek? What would you do with the knowledge within?’
As Kahotep calculated how best to answer the questions posed, the library was suddenly illuminated, its lighting system somehow still operational. Faint hints of music drifted in the background, a choral piece that helped to add to the intellectual atmosphere of the library.
Finally Kahotep replied, ‘I came here in response to the disappearance of the men who have now turned up dead on your library’s doorstep. As to what I seek, I seek answers. I wish to know what happened to my brethren as well as what happened to the people here, how is that only this building remains intact and in seemingly perfect condition when all else is in ruin around it? How is it that you are still here? As to what I would do with the knowledge contained here? I would learn all that I could, and share it. I seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge itself, for the simple fact that it is there to be sought and to be learned.’
The old man smiled as he replied, ‘I am the one who removed your friends from the building, as they did not appreciate it and could not answer my question as well as you have. The first two wished to use the knowledge for power and to hide it. The second group sought to destroy it. Neither of those options will do; it is not why the library is here. It is not why I am here. You however, have answered in a most worthy and appropriate way. Your answers are contained within the texts and databases within, and I will leave them to you. Remember, there is no good or bad knowledge, only what you do with it makes it so. As to who I am? I cannot say, but I have a feeling we will meet again…’
And with that, the old man bowed down and vanished. As he disappeared, Kahotep swore the image of the elderly man briefly appeared to be that of a creature with the claws, wings, and head of a bird.