As Sebastian and the other surviving Emperor's Children made their way back up to the street, his heart sank. He stood motionless, looking out over the incalculable destruction that had been wrought around them. He had brought his men away from the Palace and into this and in doing so ensured their demise. Though there were no bodies he was sure none of them could have survived. The Life Eater was too perfect a weapon. For a moment he considered whether he had survived. Or had he perished in the bunker? Was he now no more than a restless spectre doomed to haunt the ruins of this city for eternity? Or was this not the Choral City at all. Was this the Hell the ancient Terran tomes had spoken of? Everything seemed so distant, so unreal.
He removed his helmet and the hot thick air rushed against his face, blowing away such thoughts of spirits and afterlives. That was not the way of Imperial Truth. But that left only one option. This was real. This had happened. It was clear this was no Isstvanian. Sebastian had seen the Life Eater deployed before. He knew how it worked. He knew the way it left a world. This was it. He looked to the sky. Maybe it had not been Horus. Maybe it was Angron who had betrayed them. Maybe even now battle was taking place in orbit as the Warmaster was bringing the Red Angel to justice. But there were no signs. No flashes of lance batteries. No explosions of destroyed frigates and escorts. Such had been too much to hope for.
He allowed the significance of such a moment to sink into him. The scale of it was maddening. Not just here, not just the destruction of this world and the thousands upon thousands of Astartes upon it, but the whole galaxy. The Great Crusade was over and the dream of the perfect Imperium shattered. The life he had known since the age of twelve had ended. Everything he had ever known was different. He thought of Chemos, of home. He wondered what would become of it in the days and months and years to come. He thought of his childhood friend Aleksander. He had been a sickly boy, unsuitable for the Emperor's Children. Sebastian cursed him his simple existence. His ignorance of the galaxy and his innocence. He realised he was cursing a man surely a century deceased and wry, pained laugh escaped his lips. He shook his head slowly as he realised how detached he had become from Chemos. In that moment he longed for home. Longed to be a wide eyed boy again, running through the great Galleries and dreaming of life among the stars beside the great Fulgrim. He was thankful that Loculus and Gratus were there, for had he no need to stay strong he would no doubt have fallen to his knees and wept openly until the ash flowed in rivers of his tears. But he could not afford such a luxury.
"What are my orders Sirs?" the voice came from behind him.
He turned. "We find Captain Tarvitz." he said, his voice cutting through the hot winds with elegant authority. "That is what we left the palace to do and we shall follow through with it. He shall need us now more than ever. He was headed to the World Eaters, so we head for the city centre. As we proceed we will attempt to re-establish contact with the rest of the Legion. Any questions?"