I saw Kunzhardt’s fingers twitch. That narrowed down the threads of fate I had to watch. He might reach for a grenade, or his sidearm. Either way, I was prepared. The half-blood believed himself invincible, and I really wanted to prove him wrong. "No…” Well that was disappointing. Although the refusal to fight clearly weighed heavily on him. I felt the half-breed strain at his own leash “…we both know where your crosshairs lie, pure blood. I wonder why the Primarch purged Olympia?" The bastard-born stormed from the room like a petulant child. I kept my weapons activated until he was out of sight. My face twisted into a snarl under my helmet. What did he know of Olympia?
I remembered Olympia, in every searing detail. I remember when the word had first reach us that our own people had abandoned us, betrayed us. They cried they were oppressed, wronged, defiled. What did they know? We had given everything for them. We had given up our security, our homes, our lives to protect them and provide for them. We had given everything for those mewling wretches! What had happened in their absence? Where had the iron resolve of Olympia gone while we had been fighting horrors uncounted?
I remembered what it felt like when we first broke the warp above the world I had called home. The entire IVth Legion had mustered here, or as many as were able. We had been scorned by those we swore to protect. We had offered everything of ourselves. Our fathers and children had seen that as enough, but time and leisure had made this generation soft. They had lost their strength, their will, their iron and now condemned us. As it had always been, it was left to the Warriors of Perturabo to purge the weak and allow those that remained to grow strong.
I had landed, along with most of the 7th Company. Iapetus had helped to smash aside what pathetic orbital defence there was. He had given me command to lead the remainder of his forces in the purge of the surface. My name had not been Coeus then, and my face was not permanently on the verge of snarling. That all happened here, on Olympia. It happened when we murdered the world that had raised us.
We had landed on the slopes approaching the city of Harkiaos. The world of the IVth legion was not one of beauty, like Prospero, but one of practicality built to withstand invasion, with the might of the Legiones Astartes behind its walls. But it was not built for being assaulted by the same legion. Those in the 2nd Company, still the Mechanized Fist but still pure back then, had torn open the walls of the city and it had fallen to me and the 7th to be first into the breach. We had dived in like poison.
Armour and precognition had kept death at bay on our approach, rounds ricocheting of boarding shields, terminator armour and telekine shields. The defenders of our home came to meet us and died in droves. Flamers and meltas, meant to purge huge battleships of armoured occupants turned the city into a blazing ruin in a matter of hours. We crushed the treacherous mortals beneath our tread of bolt, blade and fire.
But that was not what I remembered about Olympia. Harkiaos was not the only city we purged and it was certainly not the last. It was the anguish and rage the bled off of every being. I could taste the human’s anger and sorrow. They realised their terrible error and that they had courted their own destruction, but they somehow found vindication. As if our necessity proved that their treachery was justified.
I felt my brothers cry out with wordless screams of hate. For decades they had been pushed to the edge, made to fight in the most horrific warzones with no recognition from their fellows save their scorn. Day by day, year by year, their souls had been eroded until only raw pragmatism remained, because they could not afford any other luxuries. Yet they had counted it all as gain, because they were protecting humanity and making it stronger by their actions. Now, the humanity so close to their hearts had betrayed them and they were furious. Furious that they were unthanked and unmourned and now unwanted. Furious that all they had worked for had been for nought. Furious that their fight had been in vain.
That fury levelled cities. I was there when the last bastion fell before us. I waded through the fire and the dust and murdered any who were foolish enough to oppose me. One man I held aloft and stripped his skin from his bones. I stripped him of his muscles and then crushed his bones, but left his nerves and organs intact so he would be alive to feel everything as I tore him to pieces. I had never heard a man scream like that before. Eternal Schism had torn their souls from their bodies and fed them to hungry warp monsters to suffer for eternity. I killed and I killed and I killed until in the end there was no one left. We had put our homes to the sword and enslaved any that survived. Still, the feeling of betrayal lingered, and so too did my snarl.
Before we left, I stood with the 7th Company in the ruins of our first city. We heaped the corpses onto giant funeral pyres and stood together as it burned. They were broken, lost. They teetered on the edge of despair and though Iapetus was their captain, they knew me and right then I was the best they had. They looked to me, wondering how to make sense of their purpose now. “Brothers…” I had spoken, the flames rising high behind me “…do not mourn those we have killed. They were not Olympians. They betrayed us, they deserted us and so forsook what it means to be a true Olympian. A true Olympian does not yield, does not waver, does not falter! Stand firm and take heart. Olympia is not dead. While we draw breath, while we still fight, while we hold fast to what it pure, Olympia can never die!”
Olympia was about more than simple killing. It was a time of testing, of tempering. Olympia had been tested and found wanting, much like the IVth had when Perturabo had first received them. In both cases, the iron of the spirit had to be tempered so that it could emerge stronger. The Lord of Iron had not purged Olympia because he despised it. He had done it because he loved it, as he loved his sons. He was their father and it was left to him to instruct them and teach them their errors. However, Perturabo was not Kunzhardt’s father. It did not surprise me that a man who had neither been there nor was truly part of the legion failed to understand what had been done that day.
Adriun regarded me and began to talk with Lugerev. Initial, he seemed to be struggling to hold himself in the moment, but that was often true. However, his posture became less en guarde and I was fairly certain whatever he had just been seeing had passed. Adriun agreed for his biologist, Loakk, to join Lugerev on the assault on the Strike Cruiser, which surprised me somewhat. I was sure Lugerev had his reasons though, whatever they were.
Lugerev split away from them, to retinue Iapetus had given him in tow. I went to speak to Adriun, but I could hear the distinct clicking of vox networks being fired up and a hot-read of his thoughts told me he was talking to Loakk. I would wait, my concerns not imminently pressing. In the moments of silence as I waited, I could hear the warp howl around the ship. Most others would not, but those gifted like myself, or communing with the Dark Gods, would hear its subtle knocking, scratching at the Gellar Fields and seeking some way to intruded.
Another figure broke my concentration on the background music of the universe. He was relatively unadorned and determined to speak to Adriun. Who are you? Adrius of the Second was the result my questing came up with. And the data-slate? There was nothing. It was a recent acquisition, given to him by the Gorgon to be given to the Master of the Forge only. He didn’t even know what was on it. There were some other recent thoughts about Kunzhardt bullying his enquiry and summoning the Tyranthikos, neither of which gave me any immediate concern. Kunzhardt would want to flaunt his control over the 1st Company while he could. I would get to prying their minds open later. Right now, the nurglings within the 2nd were my main concern, unless obvious taint appeared elsewhere.
The man left, back to his company. Was he tainted? I didn’t think so, although the only way to be absolutely sure would be to interrogate him here and now, and he had more promising leads to follow before he assaulted random Astartes. It wasn’t a blind purge, it was an investigation. Adriun mag-locked the slate to his thigh without reading it. A shame, even with his machine parts I could have gleaned its contents. No matter, that would have been merely a crime of opportunity. If I wanted to, I could probably convince Pelegon to give me access to all communications as well, if it felt it would help my investigation. This was a trinket, a curiosity.
“Forge Master…” I said, coming alongside the man. I would walk with him, if he was going somewhere. “…although it wasn’t necessary, I appreciate your defence of Lugerev. Kunzhardt seems more irritable of late, and I’m not wholly convinced that it just because of the pressures of command.” The implication was obvious enough. Kunzhardt had always been volatile but, especially now, it was easy to cast doubt on even the most mundane of things. “If I were you, I would distance yourself from the man for the time being. I would hate to see our Iron Forge brought low by cross-contamination.” It was something for the Master of the Forge to consider…