20/10/2014 in Warhammer 40K
A Warhammer 40,000 epic by Revenant
Time most distant, future’s zenith.
In tears, the star-sea mourns.
Isha’s children lament. All is lost to arrogance, grand designs soured by success, dreams are dust.
Shattered and done, the progeny set sail for the forever-beyond, flight borne on the tides of shame.
To dwindle and expire, forever denied.
The New Star burns too intense to douse, unchecked, untamed. Gods despair.
Tide surges, the end time is come.
Future’s path runs red as Khaine-blood, Hate-Winter rages, the portents scream their siren song. The song of Ulthanash is silent, Isha’s eye closed in slumber. Asuryan’s Shrine-light flickers and dies. The Cosmic Serpent reveals the truth and sheds his final skin. The Rebirth is denied. The Doom of Eldanesh comes to pass, the Red Moon rises.
The Rhana Dandra is come, let young and old cower before the chaos of the end.
The New Star will rise unprecedented, all the dread despoilers of the old kingdom quail beneath its fire.
Dead-King shivers on his maggot-throne as the Tide assails his walls, his kingdom lost.
Locust flees, no longer to plague creation-fields, feast denied.
Slave-puppets, once free, now lie in chains, conquered anew, rebellion’s essence bound in blood.
Long-Dead are exhumed, tombs razed. There shall be no flight, no peace in death. Their gods shall tremble.
Damned Shores become bastion as Dark Souls return. Exodus-flight before the rising swell. Denizens of Under-Kingdom cower behind its gates as the Tide surges.
Shame-Kin be damned in the bowels of the Webway, vermin scuttling in filth and terror, afraid of the ragescream storm above. Let them gather souls in shame and desperate haste, past sins quail as the All-Thirst is quenched. The brightest hope may lie amongst the darkest of shadow, the Learned Mongrel-Soul exhumed to see a destiny fulfilled.
Many Mighty Kings shall offer their swords to the Tide. None shall escape. None shall escape.
Skeins divided, hope defiant. Light and darkness heed, else collide and be damned. Fractured is as death, no other path leads to hope.
Existence-Tree be razed to its roots, bitter leaves cleansed. Then can hope’s light flicker. All forgotten to the core of creation. Then can hope’s flame catch the breeze.
Let the Lost Princes of the Young gather, shoulder to shoulder they alone may weather the Hate-Winter’s wrath.
Bright Hope’s flame still burns deep in the shadows of the Dead Land, too powerful to extinguish forever. Soul Beacon, the Horn of Kurnous will sound the call to war. They shall gather, let but some of their names be known.
The Revenant. The First-And-Ever Lords of War. The Lost Princes. The Wrathful Masters. The Reapers of Light. The Stolen Giant. The Prophet. The Last Avenger. The Entombed Ancient. The Oracle. The Blazing Rebel.
All these names and more shall stand ready as the Rhana Dandra dawns and the light of the Final Day casts her glow upon armour and weapon.
Maelstrom, life and death gather for war, old and young collide beneath the Red Moon. Origin revealed, too sour a taste to accept.
It matters not, what is, is.
Gods splintered reform in deed to counter the twilight. The children rise, menagerie gather in bitter winds of division’s death. Choice is murdered for all time, no longer sustainable in revealed irrelevance.
Diversity is power, the only power left unconsumed. Youth’s vigour an appetite insatiable above all else, desperation will rule the firmament. There can be no more old-thought. Every shadow will shift, writhe with hidden stirring. Life’s last breath must be deep.
Let them stand on the Final Shore as one, faces turned to the Tide. I have seen future’s zenith. I have seen crux and apex. Past, present and future united. Enmity is not survival. History rewritten at its very core, primeval puzzle complete.
One must tell the tale. Paths cannot be altered, only destinations revealed.
Unity. When the ash-wake clears, no more division, only Unity.
The Great Unity will prevail.
–Translation of ancient eldar tablet found on Cadia. Artefact thought to be the oldest example of eldar archaeology yet discovered.–
RISE OF THE TAU.
‘It is not the manifest destiny of man to rule, but to lead.’
Attributed to Pontifex Archabus Venn, executed heretic, 553.M39
+++The Protea Wash.+++
He opened his eyes slowly and a wave of nausea hit him like a wall. He dry-retched, his lungs burning, his body aching.
What in Guilliman’s name was happening here?
He sat up, feeling his every muscle burning, his every nerve screaming. His hearts hammered in his chest, shocked into a sudden flurry of hyperactivity. His head pounded, aching with a pain so sharp, so raw he could almost hear it.
Stasis-dulled, his senses fought to re-establish themselves. His eyes fought to cut through the grey fog swimming before them. His ears struggled to dispel the constant pounding of his own pulses…
Something was wrong.
He lifted his head, shuddering as muscles that had lain dormant for centuries protested. The light of the small chamber was already starting to grow brighter, the shapes about him sharpening, taking form. He turned his head and his newfound breath was stolen once more.
The empty eye sockets stared back lifelessly, two pools of shadow set into a face of mummified skin.
‘Artemon…’ He whispered, his ragged voice barely more than a dry croak.
Captain Artemon was dead. He had been for a long time.
He released the safety harness with shaking hands and pushed himself into an upright position, his atrophied muscles protesting painfully. Memories began to come flooding back, cutting through the thick viscous soup of his addled mind.
The Eldar. Guilliman’s Wrath. The loss…
He dispelled the memories of what had passed and glanced around the cramped hold of the escape pod, feeling his scarred face harden, his eyes narrowing as he looked upon the prone bodies of the command squad. Even here, safe from the predations of the insidious and despicable aliens, the loss had continued.
Captain Artemon had not been the only fatality here. Of the original ten survivors, five were now little more than ceramite-encased cadavers, sitting in darkened and long-dried pools of their own body matter.
He himself had led the Litany of Preservation as they had all entered the state of deanimation. How could it be that half of them were now dead? How could the process have failed so badly?
As Chaplain, it would be up to him to ensure the souls of these warriors joined the immortal Emperor. There would be time enough for this later. For now, he had to see which of his brothers still lived.
He made to stand, grateful of the enhancing influence of his artificer armour. Without the aid of its powerful servo motors he imagined he would find movement near impossible, given how wasted he felt.
The activation of the sus-an membrane was always a risky procedure, yet they had had little choice. The pod had no stasis capability and the Leonosis system was a veritable stellar wasteland, not far from the hub of the galaxy’s core. Given the strange phenomenon that occurred here and the desolation of the region itself, a rescue could take years.
None of us could have survived that long without sustenance, he told himself again, kneeling beside brother Laenar, the company’s Techmarine.
That was when the realisation hit.
He hauled himself up onto his feet, his vast form wavering. A Marine could not consciously revive himself from this state. Who had woken him?
Almost as if in answer to this question, the escape hatch of the pod rumbled open, gears squealing as it retracted. He spun on his heel and tore his crozius from its belt holster, activating the ancient weapon’s power field with a swift flick of the thumb.
‘Ah, you are awake at last! Thrungi’s beard, I thought I’d never get it!’
He watched with amazement as something short and humanoid stepped through the open hatch, covered from head to toe in a filthy, oil-stained pressure suit. A mess of pipes spread out from the creature’s domed helmet, its clouded crimson visor glowing weakly beneath the pale light.
It stopped in the doorway and placed its fists on its hips, shaking its head as it did so.
‘You stalk-legs sure know how to sleep. Some of you a little too well by the looks of things.’
Chaplain Daelo Codian took a single laboured step forward, the head of the crozius out before him, the eyes of his skeletal helm glowing.
‘You dare to mock the honoured dead? I will…’
‘Ah, put that down.’ The squat creature snapped, waving his hand dismissively. He waddled further into the small chamber and removed his helmet, releasing the pressure seals with a hiss of escaping steam. A shock of bright hair spilled from the helmet, matted and twisted by years of grime.
‘Besides, Astarte or no, in your condition I would have you on your **** in the blink of an eye.’
He lowered his hand as he looked upon the face of the alien for the first time. A single eye stared back, glowing with all the intensity of the pulsing augmetic opposing it. Surprisingly human features met his gaze and he found himself almost too stunned to speak.
‘What…what are you?’
The creature gave a gruff laugh and shook his head, the long orange braids of his beard and scalp lock sweeping his barrelled chest and shoulders.
‘What am I? I am your salvation, Imperial. You should thank the ancestors that it was I and not the Nicassar who found you floating out there amongst the crud of the Wash. You owe your life to me.’
With that the flame-haired humanoid shuffled over to where the Techmarine lay and began to mutter quiet but guttural obscenities under his breath, his stubby hands finding the long cables snaking into the faded leather headrest of the chair.
Codian simply looked on in astonishment, his clouded mind reeling. The small man glanced up from his labours a moment later, emitting a long, frustrated sigh.
‘If you can do anything then I suggest you try. I have no idea how I managed to wake you. I am having little success with the others.’
‘I can wake them.’ He answered, the weapon in his hand deactivating with a decreasing whine. The small man smiled and nodded his head.
‘Good. The Imperials will pay well for five strong warriors.’
Codian stepped forward and knelt before the Marine once more, deactivating his crozius and placing back in its holster. He removed his helmet and took a deep breath. The air was bitter, recycled and stale. He could taste oil and rust.
‘Pay? What do you mean by that?’ He asked, placing a hand upon the warrior’s forehead. The small man simply gave a sharp, nasal laugh and shook his head.
The Chaplain leaned forward and began to whisper quietly, his eyes closing. He continued this for several minutes until the first noticeable breath passed the Marine’s lips.
The bewildered being behind him raised his eyebrows and huffed beneath his breath.
‘So that’s how you do it? You talk to them. Bloody marvellous!’ He exclaimed, shaking his head once more.
Codian made to rise and stepped back as the warrior began to stir, in order to give him space enough to take in his surroundings. He knew only too well that even the most level-minded Marine could struggle to adjust to reanimation.
‘Very wise.’ His new companion observed, folding his short arms across his chest. ‘I see you have done this before.’
He exhaled slowly and turned to look at the creature, finding his tolerance levels slowly receding. The alien met his gaze without fear or apprehension, his augmetic eye twinkling.
‘I have.’ He answered. ‘And I am grateful for your assistance in rescuing us. Now, I will awaken each of the survivors and then you will take us back to Imperial space. I will ensure that you enter and leave unharmed.’
The small man sniggered as he heard this, emitting a sound not unlike the choking of some mange-ridden canine.
‘I see.’ He chuckled, shrugging his shoulders. ‘That is…very kind of you. And of course, you can ensure that we actually reach Imperial space unharmed, I take it? You know each and every safe back route and blockade gap from here to your system, yes? I suppose you are renowned experts in evading the Unity.’
Codian frowned and shook his head, turning to face the stirring Techmarine once more. Perhaps it was the effects of the reanimation, but the creature seemed to be making no sense at all.
Slowly, eyes drifting open, the warrior began to rise.
‘Brother Laenar.’ The Chaplain uttered, bowing his head as the crimson-armoured soldier rose. Laenar blinked and glanced about him, his eyes wide with the effort of use.
‘What…what happened to us? The fleet..?’
‘The fleet is gone, Laenar. Our brothers must have thought us lost. We were picked up by this…’
He turned and presented the short individual behind him.
‘Thurgus Grungi. My name is Thurgus Grungi, Imperial.’
Laenar’s eyes narrowed as he looked upon their saviour, a snarl of contempt curling his scarred lip.
Codian threw himself around and bunched his fists, anger flaring in his eyes. Grungi remained steadfast, his arms still folded. Despite the palpable anger of the huge warrior he never even flinched.
‘That’s right. You seem rattled, Imperial. I would suggest rest, but then again I would say that you have had more than enough of that.’
‘Hold your tongue, xenos! If you thin…’
‘Ah, get over yourself, Imperial. You should count yourselves lucky to be in my presence. If I hadn’t found you here then you could have drifted back into the warp and been lost for an eternity.’
Laenar was on his feet and standing beside the Chaplain, the same expression of revulsion written across his face.
‘Where are we, Demiurg? Are we still in the Ultramar system?’
Grungi’s smile seemed to fade slightly. He glanced between the two soldiers, a look of unsure bemusement creeping across his ruddy features.
‘Gods, no. Not even nearly, and I very much doubt that you’d be alive if you were. This is the Galactic Hub, Imperials. The Wash has carried you a long way from home.’
The silence he was met with spoke volumes. Codian and Laenar simply stared back, their expressions unchanging.
‘The Protea Wash.’ He continued, spreading his arms. ‘One of the largest and most stable warp drifts in the galaxy. Whatever its scoops up it carries here eventually. I have scavenged these tides for many years. I have to say though, this is the first time the wash has ever given up the living.’
Codian exhaled and turned to look at Laenar. By now his mind was beginning to clear and had begun to process the information he had gleaned so far.
‘You said that the Imperium would pay well for our return. What did you mean by that?’
‘Exactly what I said. How else do you think I make my living now? I am the only Demiurg who knows of this place. Well, the only one left alive. I have been collecting Imperial salvage now for many years. The Wash is by far the best source for this. Even the Tau don’t much bother with the Hub.’
‘And why would they?’ Laenar continued. ‘You make little sense, alien. Speaking of which, how is it that you claim to ‘trade’ with the Imperium. Don’t your kind serve the Tau?’
Grungi froze, a look of utter disbelief sliding over his face. His skin seemed to take on a bright crimson glow all at once, as if he had been slapped.
‘Imperial, I will ignore that comment but once, given your current state. Say that again and I will peel you from your armour and liquefy you.
Let me make something clear. If this had been a Tau vessel I would have dragged it on board and murdered you all without thought. I hate Tau. To hunt and slay them is my life’s work.’
‘But you are Demiurg.’ Laenar continued, unsatisfied and unafraid of the alien’s threats. ‘I thought the Demiurg were part of the Tau empire.’
‘Gods, Imperial! Has the space sickness taken your mind? Don’t tell me you have been drifting through the warp for the last five centuries!’
‘Six and a half.’
Grungi fell silent. Codian turned slowly as he heard this to find Laenar standing quietly, his face deathly pale. He continued to stare at the dust-laden deck, his augmetic eye pulsing rhythmically.
‘666.M42. That is the date as specified by my internal chronometer. There is no malfunction, Chaplain. We have been lost for six and a half centuries.’
‘Ah.’ Grungi uttered, scratching his head. ‘Then perhaps it would be better if you returned to the warp. You would be safer there. This galaxy belongs to the Tau.’
‘I agree. It is, however, the truth. Those treacherous grey-skinned parasites all but run this galaxy now, and no one seems to be doing a great deal about it.
As more and more empires fall to their knees before the damned Tau the hope of ultimate victory against them diminishes. Much has changed here in the time you have slumbered.’
‘And what of the Imperium? The warriors of the Emperor would never bow down to the Tau.’ Codian asked, his eyes wide with troubled anticipation.
‘Your Imperium survives still, human. It would seem that your Emperor does not wish hand over his rule just yet. Be warned though, the realms of man are not what they once were.’
Codian opened his mouth in order to continue the conversation when a loud squeal began to echo through the space beyond the hatch, causing the compact alien to sigh and roll his eye. He turned to leave, muttering under his breath as he did so.
‘Wait. We must learn more.’
‘Then you will have to follow me, Imperial. Some things are more important than answering questions.’
‘Go.’ Laenar uttered. ‘I will tend to the others.’
The Chaplain nodded his head and turned to follow the departing figure, sweeping his black cloak aside.
Each ceramite-weighted footfall echoed through the endless spaces about him. The deck beneath his feet hummed with the deep rumble of the ship’s mighty engines, a dull resonance that seemed to perpetuate endlessly.
Pipes and conduits snaked from the floors and the walls wherever he looked, some rusting away, others slick with glistening grime.
‘Where are we going?’
‘Ah, questions! More damned questions!’ Grungi answered, throwing his hands in the air. ‘it is about time that I asked some questions of my own.’
He lifted his head to look upon the warrior.
‘You have yet to introduce yourself, marine.’
‘My name is Codian. I am an Ultramarine Chaplain.’ He answered sullenly and after a lengthy pause. Such formality disquieted him, especially when in the presence of an alien.
‘Well Codian, it seems that something has come up. Don’t ask me what as I do not commune with the ancestors.
Now, I believe you have questions. Try to keep them short and to the point as I am not in the mood to be giving a sermon.’
He glanced down at the curious alien. Despite the fact that he towered over him, this Grungi seemed almost nonchalant to his presence. He found himself admiring the small creature’s spirit.
‘You say we are at the centre of the galaxy, brought here by the Wash. How did this happen?’
‘Hmm. Well, think of the Protea Wash as a strong current in the warp. From time to time it enters and exits realspace, sweeping up space debris as it goes.
The trick is to know when and where it spits the crud out, see? Think of the Wash as a shifting scrap pile. I have recovered many treasures in my years collecting salvage.’
‘And the Imperials pay you to do this?’
‘In a fashion. Imperials will pay for technologies and weaponry that can be restored for use against the Tau. War is a greedy thing, Codian. It consumes resources ravenously.’
His eyes narrowed as he heard this. He could not bring himself to imagine an Imperium that bartered with aliens, especially for its own property.
‘You say that the Tau hold dominion over this galaxy. I simply cannot accept that. The Imperium is simply too vast and powerful to allow that. There are many empires and races that would never have allowed such an expansion.’
Grungi sighed and shook his head, throwing him a sideways glance.
‘Grindel’s ****! The galaxy is in a state of total war, Marine. You either fight for the Tau or against them. Many of the most powerful races opposed the expansion of the Great Unity. All have so far failed.
Your Imperium is on its knees, the hands of the Tau around its throat. What remains of your once mighty fleets and vast armies are now clustered around the Segmentum Solar, fighting tooth and nail to defend your Emperor’s throne.’
Codian felt his chest tighten as he heard this. For the first time since he could remember, he felt an unfamiliar emotion stirring deep within his heart.
‘What of Ultramar?’ He whispered, hardly able to bring himself to ask the question.
Grungi slowed a little, his single eye narrowing as he turned to face the towering Marine.
‘Hmm. Ultramar…was the last to fall.’ He answered after a lengthy pause. ‘Of all the outer systems of the Imperium, Ultramar fought the longest and the hardest. The Great Unity expended many, many lives conquering the Ultima Segmentum.
Your Calgar is a mighty warrior, Codian. He refused to bow to the Tau for centuries and it was only the impending advance upon Terra that saw him forced to abandon the system. He is an honourable and courageous warrior, and he holds a grudge well.’
‘Mighty Calgar still lives?’
‘As far as I am aware. I have heard tell that he wears the armour of the ancients now, as do those most celebrated amongst your kind. Even in death he refuses to die. His rancour does him credit.’
The duo turned a corner sharply, the sudden shift in direction throwing him off for a moment. He ducked his head as they passed beneath another doorway, the alien scaling of the craft far less than accommodating.
‘Your kind are hunted with the utmost vigour.’ The Demiurg continued, slamming his fist into the access panel beside him. The door next to it opened with a serpentine hiss and they passed through, never once slowing their pace. Codian found he had to almost bend double to enter the small room.
‘You and your brethren are a dying breed. The Tau deplore those who cannot be swayed to their cause. They hate your kind, Codian, and they wish for nothing more than to see you exterminated. As I remember, the Astarte homeworlds were sought out and cleansed, one by one. Your kind are few now, and yet they still fight the expansion of the Great Unity.’
‘Yes. As the Demiurg were. I am the last of my kind, at least as far as I know. I seek only a honourable death at the hands of the Tau.’
The two figures slowed as they approached a huge bank of augurs and screens, each one alive with activity. Grungi stepped forward, bathed in the light of the multitudinous screens.
‘Hmm. Perhaps I will find this death sooner than I had anticipated. I am about to alter our course, human. I will show you what it is you face here.’
Codian was about to ask what he meant by that when he found himself cut off by the mournful wail of an alarm system.
‘Gods! What is it now?’ The Demiurg snapped, glancing about him at the clustered screens.
‘Are we under attack?’
‘The holding bay.’ He answered, finishing his course alterations as fast as he was able to do so. ‘And I suggest we make haste.’
Codian barrelled through the hatch to be met with a scene of utter horror. Epistolary Kreusus was awake and on his feet, roaring and screaming like a madman. His eyes were two shining balls of bright azure fire, his outstretched hands aflame with the same ethereal energies. Pulsing lightning arced around the hold of the small vessel, igniting systems and melting whatever it touched.
Laenar was on his back beneath the crazed Librarian, shaking like a terrified child as his augmetic systems shuddered and convulsed, sparks flashing across his prone form.
Apothecary Umbras and brother Berolinus were also awake now, fighting to bring down the flailing psyker and bring his rampage to a halt.
‘Kreusus! Brother, can you hear me?’
It was no good. His mind was gone, ravaged by the centuries of slumber. He ducked as a whickering flash of energy passed by overhead, missing him by inches.
He had seen it before. The risks associated with the activation of the sus-an membrane were great for psykers. Their bodies would shut down but sometimes their minds would not, and so they would be left to wander, awaiting the revival of their bodies.
Kreusus had been all but conscious for over six centuries, and what he had seen in the warp had driven him utterly insane.
He launched himself forward and wrapped his arms around the warrior’s legs, sending both of them crashing into the bulkhead. It was to do little good. He felt himself lifted up and hurled through the air by the Librarian’s superhuman strength, his body aflame with burning pain. Kreusus continued to roar and thrash, bellowing the same thing over and over again.
‘Lost! We are lost! We are lost! We are all l…’
He glanced up through the haze of pain to see Grungi standing beside him, his teeth bared.
‘It must be done, Codian. Your Ancestor Lord is beyond help.’
Before he could protest the Grungi stepped forward and something dark and heavy hit the deck. It was his own augmetic fist, thick chain rattling as it unfurled behind it. The Demiurg lifted the chain and began to twirl it around his head. Bright energies burst across its length and the fist became a thrumming, swirling ball of energy, casting a crimson hue over the small alien and the entire chamber of the small craft.
Codian looked on in horror as the alien bounded forward and took the Librarian’s head from his shoulders with a single blow, sending the extremity spinning away with a sickening thud. The body of Kreusus fell forward, bright energy pouring from its torn neck.
It was over in seconds
Codian felt his rage building inside him. He made to rise and his hand found his crozius, the winged skull atop it flaring with energy as it ignited. A blur of movement and a burst of energy saw the weapon knocked from his grasp to spin away across the hold, sparks raining through the air before his face.
‘Don’t be a fool! He was beyond help! The mind sickness had taken him!’
Berolinus and Umbras rose behind the squat killer, their fists bunched and their eyes glowing with hatred. Chest heaving, Codian shook his head slowly.
The Demiurg was right. He knew only too well that Kreusus could not have been saved. The insane Epistolary would have torn them all to pieces in his madness.
‘He…he could not have been helped.’ Umbras admitted, shaking his head. ‘Without the facilities of the Chapter to hand we would not have been able to help him.’
In the long moments of silence that followed, the entire ship seemed to lurch and sway around them, a long, resonating groan echoing through the vast spaces beyond. Laenar rose to his feet to stand beside the others as the lights of the small escape vessel began to flicker above them.
There was no mistaking it. the ship had altered its course.
‘Mourn your brother if you must. I know how you feel. The Tau have taken everything from me. They took my homeworld from me. They took my family and my Brotherhood. They took my crew of the Grudgebearer.’
The others watched in silence as the cooling fist retracted, the greased chain sinking back into his arm until the cooling fist locked into place once again.
‘They even took my hand. They betrayed the Demiurg and I vowed to give my life hunting them down and destroying them.’
He turned to Codian, the fingers of his weapon-hand flexing.
‘You can ask me a thousand questions and never be satisfied with the answers, human. Better that I show you what it is you face here. Let me show you what has become of the Tau. Who knows, we may even kill a few along the way.’
End of part 1