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post #1 of 36 (permalink) Old 08-15-12, 06:27 PM Thread Starter
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Default Renegades 5: Perfection's Cry

Coming soon:

IT IS A PERIOD OF CIVIL WAR. REBEL SPACESHIPS, LED BY THE FORMER IMPERIAL WARMASTER HORUS, ARE BEGINNING THEIR CAMPAIGNS AGAINST THE CORRUPTED IMPERIUM OF MAN.

AGAINST THEM, THE NIGH-IMMORTAL EMPEROR WAITS ON HIS GOLDEN THRONE. ALLIED WITH HIM ARE THE FOUR CHAOS GODS, ELDRITCH NIGHTMARES THIRSTING FOR HUMAN SUFFERING. THE SPACE MARINES, ONCE THE IMPERIUM’S FINEST SOLDIERS, ARE DIVIDED. FROM HIS MIGHTY WARSHIP, THE PRIDE OF THE EMPEROR, FULGRIM LEADS HIS LEGION TOWARDS EVER-CHANGING IDEALS OF PERFECTION. MEANWHILE, IN THE GALACTIC EAST, ROBOUTE GUILLIMAN, ALLIED WITH THE RENEGADE WARMASTER, CONSTRUCTS THE CORE OF A NEW GALACTIC EMPIRE.

THE SCREAMS AND PLEAS OF THE INNOCENT WILL HAVE NO EFFECT ANYMORE. THE AGE OF DEBATE AND ENLIGHTENMENT IS OVER. THE DREAM OF EMPIRE HAS ENDED.

THE NIGHTMARE HAS BEGUN.

Renegades is at https://www.heresy-online.net/forums/...ad.php?t=90862

Renegades 2: The Flames of Belief is at https://www.heresy-online.net/forums/...ad.php?t=98148

Renegades 3: The Fate of Prospero is at https://www.heresy-online.net/forums/...d.php?t=106279

Renegades 4: The Emperor's Will is at https://www.heresy-online.net/forums/...d.php?t=110117

On why gothik isn’t the one writing this: In the Renegades: Anthologies thread, I signed up (and so can you!) to write a story in the Renegades AU. This tale’s basic plot is gothik-approved. (PS: If by any chance anyone is interested in writing something for one of my AUs, please say so!)

I own neither Warhammer 40K nor Star Wars (which this is NOT a crossover with, if anyone was wondering).

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The Emperor has turned to Chaos. The dream of the Imperium has become a nightmare. But Horus and his Coalition stand against the dark, here at the end of time.

Lorgar's Betrayal
(https://www.heresy-online.net/forums/...te-heresy.html)
What was broken has been mended. And what was burned away can never be reforged.

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post #2 of 36 (permalink) Old 08-15-12, 08:09 PM
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look foward to reading this when i come back on line if its not ready by friday. You do me a great honour for taking part in this thank you and good luck
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gothik: Thanks! The prologue should be up by Friday, BTW, but there'll be plenty more to read after you come back.

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The Emperor has turned to Chaos. The dream of the Imperium has become a nightmare. But Horus and his Coalition stand against the dark, here at the end of time.

Lorgar's Betrayal
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What was broken has been mended. And what was burned away can never be reforged.
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Renegades 5: Perfection’s Cry

PROLOGUE

The light was dim in the Hall of Rites. It had been some time since the Andronius had been back to Chemos to recruit new warriors. That time, Ancient Rylanor of the Emperor’s Children hoped, would come again soon; it was necessary a year ago.

Two warriors now stood in front of him, though they were not new recruits by any measure. To Rylanor’s left stood Lord Commander Eidolon; to his right, the equally ranked Vespasian. Both were more magnificent than ever in armor rather too decorated for Rylanor’s preference; odd, jarring sigils littered it. Off to the side, Rylanor could see First Captain Julius Kaesoron in even more convoluted plate.

“Why have I been awoken?” Rylanor rumbled.

“Times have changed,” Vespasian answered.

“It was considered necessary to inform you,” Eidolon added.

Rylanor groaned. “Is Fulgrim still our lord? Do we still serve the Emperor? Is our aim still perfection?”

“Of course,” echoed both Lord Commanders.

“Then I will stay here and maintain my vigil over the fallen.”

Fabius Bile’s modifications to the Third Legion’s gene-seed had had a massive detrimental effect on recruitment. Casualty rates had gone beyond all reasonable bounds. It was Rylanor’s fault as much as Bile’s, though; a closer watch could have saved many of those Initiates.

He had failed. Not as gravely as Fabius- though the Apothecary, to his knowledge, still had Primarch Fulgrim’s favor due to his alterations’ effectiveness- but too deeply for a perfect Legion nevertheless.

Vespasian and Kaesoron accepted the refusal and walked off, their slow footsteps echoing across the massive hall. Eidolon stayed. “The Emperor,” he said, “has made certain… changes.”

“What is hanging below your chin?” Rylanor inquired out of honest curiosity. The organ looked like a deadly disease of some kind; if the Dreadnought’s cameras were right, it was actually hanging out of the Lord Commander’s power armor through a dissolved hole.

“Apothecary Bile has bettered me. I feel sorry for you, truly; your organic body will never be improved by his touch.”

“I never thought I would be glad I have died once, but you have led me to that. Well done. Now GET OUT!” Rylanor roared the last two words, trying to put as much of his righteous fury into them as possible. It worked- Eidolon rushed from the hall, which shook with Rylanor’s scream. Its vibrations produced a harsh music of their own, echoing Rylanor’s rage over and over.

Insulting an elder was never acceptable, especially not with Eidolon’s flippancy. But worse, Eidolon was not lying. The Commander was truly glad Bile had worked his horrors on him. And when Rylanor remembered the sight of the other two Astartes, he recognized Kaesoron and Vespasian had accepted the modifications too, albeit less of them.

What was Fabius doing to the captains? What was he doing to the Legion? In past times, Rylanor would have contacted the Primarch with such problems, but now it seemed even Fulgrim’s judgment was clouded.

With no answers, Rylanor turned back to the marble statues that he had spent painstaking months creating- marble statues of the neophytes whose would never become Children of the Emperor due to his folly.

“Tasober,” he muttered, “Apkalus, Olastalil….”

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The Emperor has turned to Chaos. The dream of the Imperium has become a nightmare. But Horus and his Coalition stand against the dark, here at the end of time.

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great start, Rylanor truely is an ancient to be reverred and the way he sent Eidolon scurrying made me like the ancient more then i already did. well done
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Two minor notes:
1. I slightly modified the introduction text.
2. This is near the lower end of a chapter's length- expect future chapters to be about 90-150% as long as this one.

CHAPTER ONE

Captain Erikon Gaius, Twenty-First Company, Second Chapter, Thirteenth “Ultramarines” Legion, was still shocked by the events of the past few months.

There were a lot of details- the initial gathering, the news of Venus IX, Horus’ first decision of rebellion, Prospero. It was not official outside the Legion’s highest ranks; it was not announced; it was rarely talked about. But, more and more, it was becoming clear: the Ultramarines were betraying the Emperor of Mankind.

Gaius wasn’t certain how he felt about that. While Roboute Guilliman was choosing to follow Warmaster Horus over his father, Gaius had been crusading against orks in the Argent Stars. He had only recently been recalled, along with the entire Second Chapter, to meet with the Third and the oversized First under the command of Marius Gage. Ultramar would be an empire once more, a counterpart to Terra.

For the most part, Gaius believed the reports. For the most part, he simply couldn’t imagine anything besides those tales of worlds burned and cultures exterminated that could turn Guilliman away from his father. For the most part, he trusted his gene-father’s judgment that the Emperor had simply gone too far.

But the seed of doubt was there, as it rarely was for Gaius. And it was for that reason, more than any other, that Captain Erikon Gaius was immensely glad his duties were to be purely defensive.

He was walking now towards the Chapter Master’s throne. No other from his company was present; Akrit Honoria of the 23rd walked to his left. Gaius could see his own hesitation reflected on Honoria’s features, and the other Captain’s wary glance told him that, perhaps, Honoria was even more paranoid now than Gaius.

“Brother-Captain Honoria,” Gage greeted the arrivals. “Brother-Captain Gaius.”

The Captains bowed.

“I am sure you have heard the rumors,” Gage stated. “Unfortunately, we don’t have much more than rumors. The Primarch has commanded us to fortify Ultramar, for it appears the Emperor has betrayed the Imperium.”

“The Emperor is the Imperium,” Honoria argued.

“Then,” Gage said, “let it be known that the Emperor has betrayed humanity. On a dozen worlds, first among them Prospero, we hear of Astarte Legions attacking civilians and destroying entire planets. The Emperor is unwilling to discuss the subject. Horus has risen in rebellion. Our Primarch has done the only moral thing and sided with the Warmaster, though victory seems doubtful. But while he leads the majority of the Legion- including several Companies from my own Chapter- to war against the Word Bearers, a conflict without precedent, a conflict that is nevertheless a practical and not a seditious theoretical, we are left here.”

“To mind the fort,” Gaius completed.

“To mind and expand the fort. Ultramar will grow, I am certain; Ultramar must grow. Here the core of an Imperium Secundus will be forged.” Gage looked at the Captains intently. “We have no theoretical for this course of action- we never could. So make one. The two of you and your companies are responsible for the Carenn sector.” Gage waited for questions for at most a second before nodding. “Dismissed.”

Gaius and Honoria exited silently, though only until Gage’s ship was left behind. Gage was far from ostentatious, and in fact reserved a specific contempt for rich trophy rooms; his ship was similarly spartan. The throne itself was pure, almost certainly uncomfortable plasteel.

“Well,” Honoria said upon exiting, “that was interesting.”

Gaius felt the question he now had was absolutely vital. “Will you side with the Primarch?”

He tried to keep his voice questioning, though he knew his own side.

“Yes,” Honoria said, “because I will not be a traitor to the Legion. But I’ve had moments of doubt.”

“We all have,” Gaius said with tangible relief.

“The margin was narrow. But you needn’t worry; if I had sided with the Emperor, I would’ve killed the First Chapter Master then and there. My mind is made up, and nothing will move it. What about yours?”

Gaius’ first instinct was to react with anger, but he knew it would be a lie. His own mind was made up for Guilliman- he thought. But there were too many variables he wasn’t aware of to be sure.

The Captains flew in silence until- when the shuttle was about to dock- Honoria finally stated where he was going.

“I’ll be on Seb. You can take care of Carenn itself. Leave a few Marines on every world south of Jesta. And like Gage said, run abundant theoreticals.”

Gaius simply nodded as Honoria, on the spaceport’s slick floor, marched off to the shuttle that would take him to his own vessel. For his part, he waited a few moments, then marched towards the surface shuttle. Perhaps talking to Carenn’s current governor would calm the confusion that was making inroads into his psyche.

Probably not, though.

The second shuttle was almost torturously slow in its descent to Carenn’s surface. One of the westerly planets within the five hundred worlds of Ultramar, Carenn was a Hive World of towering spires and great, barren plains. It was a world of Ultramar, and so it was not in the squalid condition that so many of the Imperium’s Hive Worlds existed in- a lower layer filled with criminals, several upper levels inhabited by increasingly rich people fleeing from the aforementioned criminals. Indeed, as one of only a few Hive Worlds in Ultramar, it was often the site of visits by Chapter Masters or the Primarch himself.

In general, Guilliman discouraged the building of large Hives; though popular in the wider Imperium, the Ultramarine Primarch considered them recipes for disaster. There was little else to do on Carenn, though- it was too far from its sun and too dry to be much of an agricultural world, and there were no useful deposits inside it to mine.

As it was, constant communication with at least one Agri-World was required to keep Carenn from starving. Fortunately, there were several in the vicinity.

To distract himself from the potential- no, real- betrayal that his Legion was committing, Gaius considered how he would reorganize the sector. Having the capital at Carenn made sense. Most enemies would not be interested in quickly capturing Hive Worlds- they held little short-term strategic importance, except as places where a lot of innocents could be killed quickly, which- consistent as it was with the Imperium’s current policy- was not a valid strategic aim. Agri- and Forge-worlds were more typical targets.

Gaius sketched out how he would place the void shields and citywide defense systems. Carenn was not built for warfare, and thus presented an interesting challenge; nevertheless, by the time Gaius arrived at the palace, he had a rough plan of what he was fairly certain was the optimal placement. Orbital bombardment would have minimal effect under the system, and the enemy would be forced to take severe losses in a foot or bike assault.

The Captain was rather satisfied with his calculations. Carenn, under this system, was virtually untakeable, especially the center of the hives where an evacuation would send the people. And though the alterations would be expensive, they would make the planet an ideal location for a military base- not a bad idea in any case.

Gaius thus landed happy and, mentally humming Macragge’s anthem, headed towards the governor’s palace- fairly successfully, despite bumping into a couple of clerks on the way.

Governor Itacia Remasna’s office was open. Gaius wasn’t sure how sturdy the door was, so he walked in without knocking.

The governor- an elderly, spectacled woman who clearly had taken a fair amount of rejuv treatments in the past, putting her quite possibly at older than Gaius himself- growled at the Marine’s entrance. Carenn was, in principle, a republic; but the Lord (or Lady) Ruler was elected for life, which could be… exploited… with the right technology.

“Here to relieve me of my duties, are you?” Remasna asked, her voice more screeching than any other Gaius had encountered anywhere.

“Er-”

That single word, combined with a slight arm motion, caused two precariously balanced meter-tall stacks of paper to topple, leaving about twenty.

“Astartes, you say. Superhuman, you say. Taking our jobs! I’ve guided Carenn through rich and poor for seventy-five years, and here you come and expect to just take over without comment.”

People like this, Gaius recognized, were what kept Ultramar running. Besides, he didn’t specialize in civil governance anyhow, so he blurted out- before Gex could really roll into her rant- a loud “Wait!”.

The governor paused, and Gaius clarified, “I’m only here as a defense advisor at most.”

The governor looked slightly shocked, then shrugged. “Then by all means! Come and defend us! From what, anyhow? Isn’t the Imperium supposed to be safe?”

“Civil war,” Gaius explained. He didn’t go into any more detail; old people were usually more conservative, and the last thing he needed was a rebellious governor.

The ancient woman made no reply and restarted filling in papers at her desk. Gaius was amazed at the speed- she was quite clearly reading everything that came her way, but at her rate the stacks in the room would be done in two hours at most.

“Well?” she asked after a couple minutes. “Are you going to make a suggestion or are you going to leave? Jakane is going to bring more papers in in a minute.”

Wondering about the government’s deviations from his theoretical, Gaius briefly explained his plan to the governor. Itacia Remasna did not seem to understand much and said only that she had her own defense advisor, with whom Gaius should confer, but that if Carenn really was in danger there was no sum she wouldn’t give.

“But still,” she said at the end, “I rather regret that Carenn must become a fortress.”

And Gaius stayed silent, for he knew that every other world in the sector- every other world in Ultramar- would have to become a fortress too.

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The Emperor has turned to Chaos. The dream of the Imperium has become a nightmare. But Horus and his Coalition stand against the dark, here at the end of time.

Lorgar's Betrayal
(https://www.heresy-online.net/forums/...te-heresy.html)
What was broken has been mended. And what was burned away can never be reforged.

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post #7 of 36 (permalink) Old 08-19-12, 10:13 PM Thread Starter
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gothik: (belatedly) Thanks!

CHAPTER TWO

The Pride of the Emperor had changed, Marius Vairosean noted.

He was walking the Triumphal Way with the Brother-Captain of the Second Company, Solomon Demeter. Vairosean himself headed the Third Company of the Emperor’s Children, the Third Company of the Third Legion; there was an honor in that he wasn’t sure he deserved.

Months ago, on the bloody world of Laeran, Vairosean had been bogged down in heavy fighting and failed to meet his objective in the final, decisive battle of the campaign. It was his shame, shared among the Emperor’s Children only, perhaps, by Ancient Rylanor. But while the Dreadnought had little control over the malfunctioning of Initiates’ experimental implants, strategy was Vairosean’s life.

“Are you stuck in your head again, Marius?” Demeter asked him.

The Second Captain was a good friend, but sometimes he was simply exasperating.

“Solomon,” Vairosean said, “I failed. The Phoenician does not tolerate that.”

“It’s true- Fulgrim doesn’t tolerate failure.” It really was- recently, Lord Commander Verona of the Third Legion’s intelligence arm had been executed for a disastrous operation on the world of Racas. It was deserved, and Vairosean didn’t think his failure was as deep; but the element of fear was there.

“So why,” Captain Demeter asked, “has the Primarch not even censured you? Why are you still in his inner circle? I didn’t reach the temple on Laeran either, if you remember.”

“You couldn’t- your transport crashed!”

“And you encountered impossible resistance. Would you have sacrificed half your Company to get to the temple, brother?”

“I didn’t have to. I’ve ran simulations-”

“With information you didn’t have at the time.”

Vairosean loudly sighed. Demeter didn’t understand, but how could he explain? Ever since the failure on Laeran, he had been in need of redemption.

He refused the implants of Fabius Bile, alone among the Legion’s Captains- he needed to regain his honor himself, without the aid of Fabius’ modifications. Bile was a Lord Commander now, and Fulgrim seemed to spend most of his time with the Apothecary; but Vairosean had received special dispensation not to receive implants until he had proven his worth.

As for Demeter, the Second Captain had received a couple implants to make his feet faster, but had refused Bile’s more radical surgeries outright. He looked as he always did- short hair, tan skin, wide features that seemed to suggest profound emotion even when Demeter wasn’t feeling any.

“You notice the changes,” Demeter noted with a bitter mirth, “don’t you?”

Vairosean did, in fact, see the changes. The Triumphal Way was still decorated with statues of Legion heroes and remembrancers’ paintings, but the black columns were now multicolored and the honor guard was halved. The departed Astartes were replaced by spears with mangled skulls of fallen enemies on them.

“It almost feels like a Space Wolf ship,” Vairosean observed.

“Or a World Eater one. Though neither of those Legions have much appreciation for art.”

Vairosean nodded, still largely lost in thought. The Legion was changing; the Imperium was changing. That was normal, and the command hierarchy of the Emperor’s Children, at least, was still unbroken; but the Captain heard other Legions had been forced to conduct purges. Yet others- among them, tragically, Horus’ Luna Wolves and Sanguinius’ Blood Angels- had refused to accept the changes and rebelled completely.

The Ultramarines had, too. The Legion that Vairosean considered the greatest (besides, of course, his own) had turned its back on the Emperor, beloved by all, and joined the Warmaster’s rebellion. It was almost impossible to believe, but the Third Captain knew it to be true.

“But I don’t think,” Demeter stated as the Captains came up to the Phoenix Gate, “that Verona should’ve been killed.”

“It was the Primarch’s decision,” Vairosean said.

Then, almost suddenly, the Captains arrived at the Phoenix Gate.

“Captain Solomon Demeter.”

“Captain Marius Vairosean.”

“Both admitted,” said the Phoenix Guard at the doors, and slowly they swung open.

Fulgrim had, apparently, decided to bring his senior Captains closer together, as the Brotherhood of the Phoenix was meeting more and more often. Lucius of the 13th and Saul Tarvitz of the 10th were the newest to be admitted into the warrior-lodge. Others sat closer to the Primarch; the nearest were Lord Commanders Eidolon, Vespasian, and Fabius. The chairs behind them were reserved for First Captain Julius Kaesoron, Demeter, and Vairosean himself. There were other seats, too- Daimon of the Eighth, Krysander of the Ninth, Damas Axalian of the 29th, Korander of the 37th, and others, seated in rings around the throne at the center of the Heliopolis. That throne was as yet unoccupied- Fulgrim always showed up precisely at the time of the gathering, but none of the officers wanted to face the Primarch’s wrath for arriving late.

Demeter and Vairosean silently took their seats. A few minutes later, Julius Kaesoron rushed in and hurriedly sat down himself. The Brotherhood of the Phoenix was now almost gathered- the only remaining member missing was the Primarch himself.

And then, slowly, majestically, the Phoenician entered the room.

He was clad in full violet battle-plate. An ivory cloak billowed in the artificial wind. His perfect face was uncovered, and he held no weapons; yet none who looked at him could possibly conclude he was anything but a god of war.

Fulgrim took his throne.

It was Eidolon that broke the brief silence. “Well,” he said, “where are we going next, lord?”

“The Great Crusade must continue,” Fulgrim simply declared. “We are currently in Warp transit to the rebellious Unbroken Stars, from where we will continue to the equally traitorous Ultramar.”

Ultramar.

“It will be tragic to destroy a realm so close to perfection,” Vairosean said, with a softness he could not control. “If Guilliman had not betrayed the Emperor, beloved by all…”

“Then our job would be a lot easier,” Vespasian concluded. “But the Ultramarines are traitors, and that proves their flaw.”

“Their arrogance is astounding,” Daimon observed. “With five hundred planets under their control, they think they can defeat an Imperium that owns hundreds of thousands of worlds?”

“Karas etnom le garikul; karas arokafratz in bul,” Julius Kaesoron quoted. “Names are feared; but a foe one has not considered terrorizes no one. The Imperium of Man is not what they need to fear- the Imperial Army and our Legions are.”

“We all know,” Tarvitz said with an intangible air of regret, “that each of us would follow our Primarch to the end of the universe; of course we will go to Ultramar. And of course we will triumph, given that Guilliman’s Legion is still crusading.”

“Yes,” Demeter noted, “but there’s an unrelated question I wanted to ask. Who put up the skulls in the Triumphal Way and why?”

“Eidolon did,” Fulgrim said.

The Lord Commander gave a small smile. “Are skulls not as much a symbol of our victories as paintings? And are they not, also, art, given my modifications?”

“What about the reduction of the guard?” Demeter pressed, likely emboldened by the lack of open hostility to his previous question.

Fulgrim shrugged, though like everything else he did the movement was epic. “Fewer volunteers. It is a rather boring duty, after all, and anyone who attempts to board this ship will be sorely disappointed anyhow.”

That was a proud statement, but try as he might Vairosean couldn’t think of anyone who could board an Astarte Legion flagship and win. The exception was, as always, other Astartes; but the Pride was among the most powerful vessels in the Imperium, even when compared to its brothers.

Captain Demeter nodded, suddenly almost sorry. “I apologize if I offended you, father; I was merely curious.”

The Second Captain’s disapproval was evident, but his honesty was equally clear. Vairosean imagined all men must be so transparent to one such as Rylanor; but Demeter’s openness was unique in that it was painfully obvious, and painfully charismatic, to all who saw it.

Vairosean, in all honesty, shared Demeter’s distaste; but the decorations of the Pride of the Emperor were beautiful, and would probably be beautiful even if they were painted in pus and built of feathers. What concerned him more was the guard. It was a tradition, and order required tradition.

“There was a time when guarding the Triumphal Way was seen as an honor,” he carefully noted.

“Honor, aye,” Dasara of the 25th said, “but things are changing.”

Fulgrim nodded. “It is possible to reach perfection in standing and beautifully holding a weapon; yet it is much more worthwhile to reach perfection in using it. Times are changing indeed, Vairosean, and I would like you to be among those at my side as they do.”

“I always will be,” Vairosean stated.

“Then why,” Eidolon attacked, “have you still not received Commander Fabius’ augmentations?”

Fabius opened his mouth to protest, perhaps to say he had enough willing volunteers as it was- he had used that argument no less than thrice before- but Vairosean waved him to silence. “I will accept the implants after my next victory,” he declared.

It was as if a weight had been lifted off his feet. It was something he had to do, sooner or later. And he would put the past behind him yet. He had, after all, done it before.

The Phoenician’s face filled with radiant content. “So be it,” he said. “The Third and Twenty-Fifth will fight on Slodi in the first battle of the Unbroken Stars campaign, both with individual strategic control. And I do expect victory, Marius. Victory and perfection.”

“I can allow myself to give nothing less,” Marius said.

There were some quick words after that, several congratulations, but the campaign was a few days off yet and the Legion would not yet feast in honor of the victory to come. The gathering ended on the highest note Vairosean had felt in some time. It was only as he exited that he felt the cold eyes of Commander Fabius glued to him and a slight chill- a tiny sliver of the fear Astartes were not supposed to feel- ran down his back.

He did not greet any other Captains on the way out, instead turning from the Triumphal Way to find his Company. They had felt the same shame as their Captain after Laeran; they had spent the same number of months practicing swordplay and strategy. They would be as uplifted by news of the Slodi deployment as Vairosean. The Third Company had not sat idle since the failure on the atoll world, but they had never been deployed in full and never independently.

“Gather in the Triple Hall,” he voxed his sergeants and staff. “I bring good tidings.”

For his own part, he stopped in his quarters before the Triple Hall. They were clean and organized, though richly decorated; most of the paintings on the walls were realistic depictions of Terra. All the paintings, save a couple made by artists recently assigned to the fleet, predated Laeran; besides being Vairosean’s own shame, that planet changed those humans that had depicted it. Many of the Astartes, and all of the Remembrancers, who had seen the central temple had been affected by gases within. The Phoenician had explained to the Lord Commanders and the first three Captains that the effect was of the god Slaanesh and that there was nothing bad about it; but Vairosean could not look at or listen to the works of artists who had seen Laeran without being reminded of a flaming wreck.

Admittedly, the effect had been worse on first exposure, and now Vairosean could at least bear post-Laeran works. Still, as he put on his armor, his eyes took in Voyage of the Kartella- a legendary painting of the first human ship to arrive in the Chemos sector. It was the oldest work in the Third Captain’s collection, dating back two millennia.

Once ready, Vairosean marched into the hexagonal Triple Hall. Three massive marble columns supported a richly decorated ceiling, painted entirely in varying shades of violet. In the center a huge statue of the Emperor, recently completed by Fleet remembrancer Ostian Delafour (who had, due to unclear circumstances, not visited Laeran and thus still produced great work), stood behind Vairosean’s throne.

Most of the Company was already gathered; 100.34 seconds after the Captain entered, the last member of Squad Terogil hurried in, and Vairosean began his brief speech.

“Third Company! Today the Phoenician himself, Lord Fulgrim, has deigned to grant us an opportunity to redeem ourselves after Laeran. Today he has assigned to us the honor of fighting on the planet of Slodi, alongside- but independently of- our brothers in the Twenty-Fifth.”

A great cheer went up as Marines slowly, individually understood what had been promised, knocking its way across the Company.

“We will fight well, of that I have no doubt. But the Phoenician expects nothing less than perfection. We must give it to him! I will upload the operation specifics to the Company database. Train well; mankind needs you. Children of the Emperor!”

“Death to his foes!” the Company echoed, this time as one.

They began to file out immediately; Vairosean was among the first. Sergeant Terogil tried to get up to the Captain to apologize, but Vairosean waved it away; he was not the Primarch, and he did not get offended at minor lateness. It would be hypocritical, to say the least.

He returned not to his quarters but to the simulator room and began to replay, for the hundredth time, the operation on Laeran, though this time he fought with a concrete determination he had previously lacked, in the light of the coming victory. When he succeeded- against resistance twice as difficult as he’d actually faced- he picked up his best blade and headed toward the dueling cages.

For hours on hours, Captain Marius Vairosean fought ceaselessly.

And around him, the galaxy changed.

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CHAPTER THREE

Marius Gage stood in the hall of the Vengeful Spirit, watching demigods argue.

“Roboute,” Warmaster Horus Lupercal said, “I have nothing but respect for you. But you can at least wait to divide up power until we’ve won this war!”

“I’m not trying to grab power, brother. That’s the last thing I want to do! I’m merely trying to quantify what we’re fighting for.”

“We all know what we’re fighting for,” the Warmaster said with a sigh. “The ideals of the Great Crusade- enlightenment, justice, order. Ever since our father forsook them….”

Guilliman obviously couldn’t continue the debate, so he merely nodded, a hint of tears in his eyes, and quickly exited with Gage.

“Well,” he said as they walked towards the shuttle, “that could’ve gone better.”

“What was your goal,” Gage asked, suddenly curious, “in reality? Did you just want a constitution to spell out Horus’ power, or-”

“A republic,” the Ultimate Warrior said.

They were silent until the shuttle, at which point Guilliman continued, “A republic. What right do we have to rule people- humans!- that do not desire it? Conquest is one thing, but we should not act like conquerors on our own soil.”

“Not so long ago, you were proposing replacing the governors with Astartes,” Gage noted, his curiosity and mild confusion not satisfied with Guilliman’s response. “What changed?”

It was a bold question to pose to one’s Primarch; but Gage was the First Chapter Master of the Ultramarines, second in command to Guilliman himself, and the Ultimate Warrior was far less choleric than most of his brothers.

“Father changed,” Gage’s Primarch answered. “When I met him, I had plans to turn Ultramar into a republic; but he said we were more than human and able to rule without the threat of corruption.” Guilliman let out a short chuckle, but it was a dark, cynical one. “What was he thinking? Power always corrupts, Marius. There is no way to escape that. And in the absence of planned perfection, one might as well let freedom build its own.”

“And Horus-”

“Horus is not corrupted, but he understood my suggestion as a power grab. He wants the Imperium Secundus to be established before he decides what it is.”

“A dangerous name,” the Chapter Master noted. “Some might think of an Imperium Tertius.”

“If we continue on this path,” Roboute Guilliman said, “an Imperium Tertius might yet become necessary.”

This time, the silence continued throughout the shuttle ride and into the Macragge’s Honour, up to the Primarch’s blinding throne room. It was a sign of pride, which Gage rarely forgave; but this was Guilliman. When Gage had first arrived at Ultramar, he became as good as an equerry to the Primarch, devoted beyond imagination; this was his gene-father! That had passed only when Guilliman had rebuked him for overly focusing himself on the Primarch’s person. “You fight for humanity and for Ultramar,” he’d said, “not for me.”

And he’d been right. And that had been why, when- decades later- Lorgar had been set back for worshipping the Emperor as a god, Gage made no comment except to utterly back his Primarch and Emperor.

And that was in large part why, now, he did not even consider turning his back on the former and following the latter.

“Marius,” Guilliman said as he sat down on the throne. “Do you have anything else to say before I depart?”

“I would like to once again request the First through Seventh Companies to remain with me.” Gage made no comment on the unprecedented breaking-up of a Chapter; Guilliman defied precedent. Nevertheless, that was the reason for his apprehension- he didn’t want his command divided.

“And I will have to once again deny that request. I need them- Ventanus, Cestus, Damocles…. Evexian of the Eighth, Lorchas of the Ninth, and the others will stay with you.”

“Then I would at least ask the entire First Chapter, including myself, accompany them. You can leave the Fifth and Twelfth behind instead- they haven’t rendez-voused with us yet.”

“Marius- do you really want to fly with me as I disassemble the Imperium?”

That stung. And it stung even more because Gage knew that his Primarch was right, that he could not wage offensive civil war. He was devoted to Ultramar above all; but to mankind, and thus the Imperium, equally. It already discomfited him that the Ultramarines were helping to pull it apart- how could he bear to kill other Astartes?

“Request rescinded,” Gage said. “Permission to leave?”

“Wait,” Guilliman said. “This is a long war we will wage; Ultramar will be threatened. You must defend it, reorganize it, command it.” He stood up from his throne. “I will take the Perfect Honour. The Macragge’s Honour, until my return- if that return comes, for these campaigns will be harder than any that have come before- is yours. Until I come back, you are officially the Regent of Ultramar.”

Regent of Ultramar.

It was a massive honor, one Gage had never even contemplated receiving. He was, in effect, the temporary dictator of the Five Hundred Worlds. This was not where he had been born; he had originally hailed from Terra. Yet this, from the gardens of Prandium to the hives of Carenn, from the caverns of Calth to the mountains of Macragge, was his true home, ever since he had taken the first step upon Guillimani soil.

“An honor,” the Primarch said, “but also a responsibility.”

True, but also a vast understatement.

The next minutes and hours passed in a haze- congratulations and departures, rushes and speeches. It was only the last of those, given by vox-network from the Perfect Honour as it prepared to leave the system, that Marius Gage truly listened to.

“Defenders of Ultramar!” Guilliman exclaimed, determination and respect mixing in his infinitely powerful voice. “You remain now in the core of what should become the greatest empire the galaxy should ever seen. We depart to wage war against our near-equals, against our brothers. You have the more honorable duty; you are the stewards of Ultramar itself.

I do not need to tell you not to let it fall. Yet perhaps I should remind you that that is not enough. Improve Ultramar. Expand Ultramar. Make it so, on our return, we will be blinded by the brilliance of what you have created.

You are more than soldiers, my children. You are guardians. For the Warmaster. Courage and honor!”

And the Ultramarines fleet jumped into the Warp.

Marius Gage watched it depart, ships vanishing into nothing via everything. Eyes resisted gazing too long at the Warp- there were things there, creatures that were supposedly beyond logic. That, of course, was false, but it was true that Warp-spawn did not obey the laws of physics. Human emotions affected them, and some scholars said human emotions created them.

The Emperor had supposedly allied himself with these “daemons”, though how that was possible Gage didn’t know- the beasts certainly didn’t look sentient when they lurked outside a ship’s Gellar field.

As the last ships disappeared, Gage sat down into Guilliman’s throne. It was oversized, of course- Ultramar was never meant to be ruled by a mere mortal, or even a Space Marine. Captains Evexian and Sattolo of the 14th were in the room, but otherwise the chamber was empty. Guilliman’s extensive decorations remained; Gage considered taking them down for a moment, then dismissed the idea as being an insult to the Primarch.

“So what now?” Sattolo asked.

“A brief database search of the regions surrounding Ultramar,” Gage noted, remembering Guilliman’s words on improvement and expansion, “indicates a number of prominent human and abhuman civilizations. The Outer Sphere and New Draconic Federation are probably the ones that will most readily join us.”

“What about the Inner Sphere?” Evexian suggested.

“The Inner Sphere has a close relationship with the Vespid Empire to their galactic southeast. For obvious reasons, that relationship cannot continue once the Inner Sphere joins Ultramar. Emissaries will, however, be sent to several other nations, such as the Conitian Empire to our east-northeast.”

Evexian nodded, satisfied. “So who will go where?”

“Sattolo will defend, together with Bosteton of the 16th, the southern extremes of the Five Hundred Worlds; thus I will be joining him as I go to negotiate with the Outer Sphere. Evexian, you will stay with the Tenth in order to fortify Macragge. Lorchas and half of the Ninth Company will negotiate with the New Draconics, while the other half will follow me to the Outer Sphere. The Tetrachs will be sent to negotiate as well, along with their private forces; specific dispositions will be determined later. After diplomacy concludes, I will return to Macragge; for now, Guiliman has more or less optimized Ultramar’s output. We will respond to changing factors as they occur. “

“And if they occur while you are away?” Evexian inquired.

“Reach me via astropath,” the Chapter Master said, before waving away the Captains. They gave deep bows, almost reminiscent of the ones tradition demanded they give the Primarch; Gage, for his part, considered them misplaced. He was the Regent, true, but that was for civilian rule; among the Legion, he was the First Chapter Master, and any honors should have been based on that.

Still, he wasn’t particularly offended. And before departing to the Outer Sphere, Gage decided he needed to visit Macragge and oversee construction projects. Perhaps he could even help personally- yes, that was a good idea. The Regent of Ultramar now ruled a realm at war, true, but Ultramar was more than that. It was going to be perfection.

And perfection did not indicate riches, Gage noted as he looked through the illuminators at the blue, green and gray surface of the planet below. Perfection indicated happiness, and happiness was culture, too; and relaxation; and progress; and safety. And in the end, happiness was freedom. Perhaps, in the end, the perfect empire was one that didn’t appear to exist. Perhaps a benevolent anarchy-

But without a central authority of some sort, well-being could not be optimized. And moreover, there was the eternal problem of crime. Realizing he had turned his gaze up from Macragge to the stars, Marius Gage of the Ultramarine Legion looked down to soil once more, ceased philosophizing, and ordered his shuttle to be prepared.

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CHAPTER FOUR

“The danger now,” Lord Commander Vespasian had recently said to Solomon Demeter, “is no longer our aim, but the lack of it.”

Demeter considered Vespasian a voice of reason in general, and this comment he saw as particularly insightful. The Emperor’s Children were too close to losing their decency. Ever since Fulgrim had executed Lord Commander Verona, the morality of the Legion had declined. Leaders of failed operations- including two Captains- were regularly executed, sometimes even without Fulgrim’s orders. Enemy civilians were massacred. Remembrancer Serena d’Angelus’ last work had used blood as a medium; she insisted it came from rats, but based on its tint Demeter suspected a more sinister origin.

So now he stood outside Vespasian’s office to request a formal inquiry. Fulgrim was unavailable as always, spending his time either working with Bile or discussing religion with Lorgar Aurelian via astropath. And of the Lord Commanders, Fabius seemed not to care about the Legion’s decay- being consumed in his work- and Eidolon actively contributed to it.

“Come in,” Vespasian said, and the Second Captain of the Emperor’s Children did.

“Captain Demeter.”

“Lord Commander Vespasian,” Demeter began, and then stopped because he recognized he had not been welcomed by Vespasian. “Lord Commander Eidolon?”

“We were just,” Vespasian said with an undercurrent of anger, “discussing the matter of Serena d’Angelus.”

“And I repeat,” Eidolon said, “she was within her rights. It was for art, Vespasian!”

“I have seen her so-called “art”,” Vespasian grimly replied, “and it failed to inspire.”

“Most of those who fought on Laeran find it inspiring.”

“Most of those who fought in the temple, you mean.” Vespasian turned to Demeter, quickly copied by the other Lord Commander. “What are you here about, Solomon?”

“The same, actually. I was about to request an inquiry.”

“I’ve already carried out one,” Vespasian said. “Serena d’Angelus murdered crew members Aseka Terpesi and Taur Taodor and used their blood for her paintings.”

“Murder?”

Demeter was aghast. Executions- even ones ordered by Eidolon instead of Fulgrim- were bad enough, but murder on an Astarte vessel was simply- simply unthinkable, really. Even when Demeter had suspected d’Angelus was lying about the blood’s origin, he didn’t really consider-

“Murder,” Vespasian confirmed, “and Lord Commander Eidolon considers it acceptable. As well as executing Saul Kisteus, who was a Sergeant under MY indirect command!”

“Those structures no longer matter, what with Kisteus failing in MY operation,” Eidolon noted, “and who are you to complain about death? How many humans have you killed in war? How many-” Demeter pressed his blade to the Lord Commander’s neck, but the speaker seemed not to notice- “sentient xenos? Death is natural, and there is nothing profane about it.”

“Would you like to experience it, then?” Demeter inquired with grinding teeth.

“Mutiny, on the other hand,” Eidolon proclaimed, finally realizing the danger he was in, “is unforgivable. So please let me go.”

“You are already gone,” the Second Captain said, a cold hatred for this slime filling him.

Eidolon looked to Vespasian, but the other Lord Commander was unmoving. And then, just as the chainsword’s teeth were about to spring to life, the Phoenician entered.

It was clear Fulgrim had not been expecting this; as soon as he saw the scene, a luminous and despairing rage filled his features. He was dressed in only a white robe, but he was as majestic and mighty as ever; light, or steam, seemed to go up from his lilac eyes.

“Release him,” Fulgrim said with the temperature of vacuum.

Demeter could not disobey. Yes, the Legion was declining. Yes, they were flying to do the unthinkable- to fight another Astarte Legion. Yes, Solomon Demeter suspected Lord Commander Fabius’ implants had a hidden, dark purpose. Yes, the last recruitment visit to Chemos had, even after gene-seed compatibility testing, met with a 99% casualty rate. In sum, yes, Demeter doubted his Primarch.

But now, at this moment, against this glorious perfection, there was no way Demeter could deny him. Murder on an Astartes vessel had been unthinkable so recently- had he really been on the verge of committing fratricide?

“Now,” Fulgrim said, simultaneously seeming murderous and melancholy, “what happened?”

“My lord father,” Vespasian answered, “Eidolon endorsed Serena d’Angelos’ murder of Terpesi and Taodor. Moreover, he endorsed murder in general. Demeter, understandably, considered that a license to kill the Lord Commander.” It was a daring response, and Vespasian took a moment to gather his breath before continuing. “My lord, please, stop this madness. The Legion I have fought for for so long, your Legion, is degenerating into- into nothingness. Into the void of death.”

“I know,” Fulgrim said. “This is precisely what I wanted to avoid.” He glanced at both Eidolon and Demeter as if they were squabbling children, and Demeter knew that was precisely what they had been- yet their struggle had almost ended in death. “Eidolon,” the Phoenician said, “I will clarify two things. First of all, remembrancers must be punished for murder. The pursuit for artistic perfection should not involve criminal acts. Secondly, and more importantly, you do not lead this Legion. When you killed Kisteus, you killed your brother. That was too far. Both of you will be publicly censured for conduct extremely unbecoming of the Legion.”

“Father,” Eidolon let out, “the Second Captain threatened a senior officer!”

“And you have threatened Fabius- don’t think I’m unaware. Marius Vairosean might not like it, but command chains change naturally, in the process of perfection. In another month, you may well be the junior officer.”

Eidolon nodded. Demeter could not even move, much less speak, in uttermost awe and shame.

Then the glare of the Phoenician left, his anger spent and the melancholic humour dominating his classical features, and the Second Captain could think again. Censure was not too difficult a punishment for what he had done, what he had almost done; he could easily have been executed, like Verona. Perhaps Fulgrim thought there was already too much death among his children.

“Thank you,” he said.

“Why?” the Primarch asked, seemingly ignoring him. “Why must you make this so difficult?”

He seemed distracted, nebulous somehow, and Demeter wondered again at how much was changing. Vairosean did not see it, locked within his training cages all day as he was, but some torrent had been unleashed after Laeran, a torrent which was now filling up the pool of tolerance and spilling out into madness.

“Demeter,” the Phoenician instructed, “bring Serena d’Angelus to me. Her, I will have to kill, no matter how beautiful her paintings. We will meet in the front of the vessel, at the Navigator’s hall.”

Demeter didn’t wait for further instructions. He respectfully went to do his duty, remembering Verona’s execution as he did so. This was different; Demeter did not argue that d’Angelus had to be punished. But as he crossed the Triumphal Way and gazed at Eidolon’s beloved mutilated skulls, the Second Captain found himself wondering if there was no other way.

There is none. If she was to be imprisoned, Fulgrim would be saying he had erred in executing Verona, and he did not.

Yet for all that the Phoenician was now trying to stop his Legion from going too far down that path, Demeter felt his trust in his lord had been broken forever.

Perhaps it was his way of war. The precise opposite of Marius Vairosean, Demeter fought without excessive amounts of foreplanning, individualistically, emotionally. Vairosean said that his methods were perfection, but Demeter felt perfection included leaving time for other matters, such as art.

Like Vairosean, Demeter had not been at the Laeran temple that had changed the Legion’s aesthetics; his gunship had crashed on the way, and he’d barely survived. He had taken up painting in the aftermath, drawing images that parodied traditional war art; they had smoothly turned into images parodying post-Laeran art, creating which was becoming more and more difficult as post-Laeran art became more and more ridiculous.

Entering d’Angelus’ studio, Demeter was immediately struck by the smell. Blood, sweat, salt, various perfumes, body waste, industrial waste and much, much more assaulted his olfactory organs. Demeter was a Space Marine, and his body could take punishment on a demidivine scale; but this was too much. Immediately, the Second Captain of the Emperor’s Children retched into a corner.

Serena d’Angelus didn’t even notice him. She was crying and painting with the tears, which dried into nothingness as soon as they came into contact with the paper.

The odor crushing Demeter’s melancholy, and the Second Captain decided that anyone who created it- he vomited again- deserved to die. “Humph,” he said.

d’Angelus turned around. “This is my newest work,” she said, “The Meaninglessness of Life. It’s- oh. You’re here to kill me?”

“I’m here to take you to the Phoenician,” Demeter truthfully said, and dragged the remembrancer out. His nose was elated.

“May I- may I see Ostian Delafour before the end?” d’Angelus asked, and Demeter suddenly realized just how much radiation she was emitting. Fortunately, he shouldn’t have received any serious damage yet, but he hurriedly put his helmet on and turned rad-shields to maximum nevertheless.

And this, he remembered, was supposedly one of the remembrancers least affected by Laeran.

“I will summon him. Gaius Caphen,” he voxed, “call remembrancer Ostian Delafour to the navigator’s hall.”

They walked through the winding corridors of the Pride of the Emperor, and as his sensors reported various extremes of chemicals in the air, Solomon Demeter swore to never take his helmet off in the remembrancers’ section again. In one spot, an odd reddish growth hung from the ceiling; after banging his head on it, Demeter voxed a sergeant to clean it up, reminding him to put on his helm before doing so.

The navigator’s hall was at the front of the ship. It was more or less the community center for the ship’s human inhabitants, including the remembrancers. The hall itself was a private space no one but Navigator Cranutus himself intruded on; but outside, a lounge of sorts extended for several hundred meters.

The region was undecorated, the only part within the Pride of the Emperor to be such. Therefore, it served as a neutral region of sorts, one where both those who had seen the Laeran temple and those who had not could meet without tearing each other’s throats out about- well, previously Demeter assumed it was simply the art style, but now he suspected the smell had something to do with it too.

Not all post-Laeran works were particularly malodorous, but Primarch, that studio!

Fulgrim himself was already there as Demeter and d’Angelus entered between the pipe-covered walls, as well as Eidolon and Lucius of the 13th- the latter was perhaps the single Space Marine most devoted to the Legion’s decay. There were rumors he was involved with a female remembrancer- utterly impossible, of course, given Astarte physiology, but demonstrative of how people felt about the decadent, proud Captain.

Ostian Delafour, a sculptor, entered seconds after Demeter. “Why am I here?” he sputtered. “I- oh.” He deeply bowed to Fulgrim.

“Why is he here?” the Primarch asked.

“The remembrancer requested it,” Demeter explained.

“Very well,” Fulgrim stated. He took out his blade, taken from the Laeran temple. “When I was originally gifted this blade,” he noted, “there was a Warp entity in it. The Emperor cleansed it, but the markings, the promises of doom, are still there. Today they promise doom for you, Serena d’Angelus. For murder of two crew members on my ship, I condemn you to death.”

Cranutus- Demeter wasn’t sure when the Navigator had appeared in the lounge- smiled. He was as close to a leader as the non-remembrancer crew had, given that the captain’s chair officially and indisputably belonged to Fulgrim. Indeed, that was probably for this reason that the execution was taking place in the lounge and not the Heliopolis. It was clear the Navigator desired vengeance for Terpesi and Taodor, and Demeter remembered that when he had pressed his blade against Eidolon’s throat- a horrible, senseless mistake- he had been smiling as well.

“Lucius,” the Phoenician said with a tragic air, “I will not sully my hands with the blood of this pathetic woman. Execute her.”

Fulgrim handed the 13th Captain the blade. Lucius moved d’Angelus closer to himself, into the center of some sort of symbol. The woman looked to Delafour, but the uncondemned remembrancer only glanced at Lucius and nodded.

He was not afraid, Demeter recognized with some surprise. Perhaps Delafour, having been with the fleet for a long time, was simply used to having Emperor’s Children around him. He certainly hadn’t been afraid during Demeter’s visits to his studio, to discuss the philosophy of art. The remembrancers were both averting their eyes from Fulgrim, however; it was impossible to get used to a Primarch.

Lucius’ blade swung down slowly- not because of the illusionary nature of time at deciding moments, but simply because the 13th Captain was being dramatic. At the last instant, the Laeran blade swung faster. It collided with d’Angelus’ neck, and Demeter watched the remembrancer’s blonde head roll to the floor.

And then there were daemons.

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CHAPTER FIVE

Juilus Kaesoron had been reading Ignace Karkasky’s latest poems when they appeared.

It was a tangible itch at first, one the First Captain of the Emperor’s Children, lord of the self-proclaimed “Lions of Chemos” First Company, didn’t fully understand, especially as he felt it so often around the ship. Then a disembodied pink claw swung out at air from the room’s center. Kaesoron dodged, then grabbed his powersword and disintegrated it.

Only when a red, bear-like beast began to appear in the chamber did Kaesoron truly recognize the threat.

“Gellar field breach!” he screamed over the vox.

Kaesoron always had his helmet on now. Lord Commander Fabius had said that his implants to the First Captain’s trachea made a helmet’s filtration systems obsolete; thus, Kaesoron had upgraded his helmet. What he had was probably sliding into paranoia, a compulsion to isolate himself from the outside world; after Laeran, however, he would prefer that to ever having to face an airborne poison again.

Kaesoron swung at the bloody bear, cutting off half of its head. Even now, however, he was hearing whispers in the air, whispers of a malignant power still waiting to claim him.

“You think you can escape us so easily, Space Marine?”

It was a soft voice, one that tried to pull Kaesoron into its embrace, to once more-

“No!”

The First Captain of the Emperor’s Children ran from his room without looking back.

It had begun on Laeran. After fighting in the xenos’ temple complex, Kaesoron had discovered his favorite poems and other works of art no longer induced any joy or awe in him. He had gone to a Phoenician with the question of why; Fulgrim, for his part, had contacted the Emperor.

The days without a response had been agony. Kaesoron could remember it, days of utter ennui, days without Karkasky or Xantelle or Pserio, days when he doubted he would ever feel pleasure again. But the reply had come, and Fulgrim had gathered his Lord Commanders, with then-Apothecary Fabius and the first three Captains, to explain the situation.

The thing on Laeran, he’d explained, had been a Warp toxin. It was cleansable, and so Apothecary Fabius cleansed it from Kaesoron; but it was not malevolent, merely a token of the god Slaanesh. It was simultaneously with that response that the Third Legion had been summoned to Terra, and only weeks later that the Great Crusade had changed forever.

Kaesoron believed in the Emperor- he truly did, though with nothing approaching the faith of a Word Bearer. But he could not bring himself to trust this other deity. Thus, when a week ago Fulgrim began to crack down on some of Laeran’s more extreme effects and the Legion’s resultant disorganization, Kaesoron had backed him even more than Vairosean.

Demeter was… well, Kaesoron wasn’t sure if there was anything Fulgrim could do to get Demeter back.

Voices without bodies whispered to the First Captain, but Kaesoron automatically shut them out. They were the speech of daemons, the speech of Slaanesh. They were lies.

“Get to the engineering deck,” he voxed as he ran to the Company armoury. “Gellar breach plan 2-Alpha.”

Few ships survived a Gellar field breach; fortunately, Kaesoron knew a quick path to the generators. He’d planned it out specifically for this sort of emergency. Slaanesh dwelled in the Warp, and a Gellar field breach was precisely the moment to fear the god most.

Within the armoury, Kaesoron clipped his powersword and took up a plasma cannon, which limited operational reports suggested was effective against Warp-spawn.

As he sprinted away from the armoury, the cannon’s heavy weight trying to pull him down, Warp-spawn- “daemons”- swarmed in front and behind. The First Captain shot again and again. He was alone- the rest of his Company was, it seemed, delayed somehow.

Then he saw the door to Sergeant Perio Wascero’s room. He knocked it open, almost crushing it with gauntleted hands. Inside, the Sergeant stood, approaching a singing female daemon. She turned to face Kaesoron, her beautiful face-

Kaesoron shook his head, dispelling the illusion, and pulled the trigger on his plasma cannon.

Her face became a flaming mess, and her image faded.

“Wascero!” Keasoron called.

The Sergeant blinked the glamours away and turned to his Captain. “Brother-Captain, I’m-”

“We need to get to the generators. Go!”

They ran together now. As they did, three more Marines joined them from a side passageway- Sergeant (formerly Epistolary) Saul Jasnian, Battle-Brother Venitro Eseter of Squad Jasnian, and Battle-Brother Quartus Nitran of Squad Renaekarn. They battered their way towards the generators with swords and bolters; Kaesoron’s cannon was ripped apart by a large, rotting daemon which the Astartes squeezed by without killing by the passageway’s side. It crushed Jasnian as the Emperor’s Children made their escape.

“Brother-Sergeant!” Eseter turned a begging eye towards his Captain. Kaesoron felt for the young Marine’s loss, but there was no reasonable way to save Jasnian.

“Eseter, you are promoted to Sergeant in his replacement. Just keep running. Children of the Emperor!”

“Death to his foes!” the Astartes cried in response, though their breath was already all but spent on the endless combat.

Their eight hearts pumping in unison, the Emperor’s Children crushed their way to the Gellar field generators through overwhelming opposition in seven point five minutes, though it felt like a lifetime to all involved. They fought as one, even though they had never fought together before, because they were fighting by the precepts of the Emperor’s Children.

They fought as one, because each of them fought with equal desperation.

The generators were largely undamaged when Kaesoron arrived, though a lilac-hued blob of Warp-stuff was beginning to rip one apart as the Space Marines entered. A bolter round from the newly promoted Eseter took it down, and Kaesoron rushed to fix it. It was quick, given the damage was mostly superficial; the other generators were completely uninjured, merely turned off for some incomprehensible reason.

The other Astartes surrounded the generators with a storm of fire and steel. Bolter shells exploded and chainswords flashed as, bit by bit, invading daemons were torn apart. But that could only buy time; from the corner of his eye, Kaesoron saw Nitran get torn apart by a putrescent Warp-creature similar to the previous one- perhaps it was, in fact, the same daemon.

Daemon. It was odd how quickly Kaesoron had managed to settle into using the name; but this was no time for introspection.

“We’re not here to hurt you,” a creature said, even as the repairs were completed.

Julius Kaesoron turned on the Gellar field.

The effect was immediate. Slime and body fluids began to disappear. The daemons disintegrated, one by one. A large, winged one tried to rush Kaesoron as the field’s effect took place, but it was too slow.

Within twenty seconds, the Pride of the Emperor was clear of daemons. It was then that Tenth Captain Saul Tarvitz shambled in, flanked by one of his Sergeants- Marius Xaerus, according to the armor.

“Thank you, Julius,” he said. “The Warp-spawn almost killed me.” Indeed, his armor was crumpled, apparently from impact with a wall.

“You’re welcome. Do you know what happened?”

“I do,” the Phoenician said.

Fulgrim came in flanked by Captains Lucius and Demeter. He had no armor on, only a robe; this did not lessen his intimidating visage. The Captains looked exhausted, but Fulgrim was as tranquil as he ever was.

“My Primarch.” Kaesoron knelt, simultaneously with Tarvitz and the Sergeants.

“Rise,” Fulgrim said. “Now. Captain Lucius, of the Thirteenth, why did you execute Serena d’Angelus in such a way as to let these Warp creatures in?”

“I… I was informed of a ritual. I believe I misunderstood its purpose.”

“And,” Fulgrim said, his tranquility fading, “how many of my children died because of your misunderstanding?”

“I-” Lucius faltered under the unrelenting gaze of the Primarch. Kaesoron had an uncomfortable moment of déjà vu; Fulgrim’s incandescent anger was the equal of that he had felt at Lord Commander Verona.

“The daemons weren’t aggressive,” Lucius finally mumbled.

“Aye,” Fulgrim said, “they didn’t attack us before we attacked them. I have few enough qualified senior officers as is, so I will not execute you- Battle-Brother Lucius.“

Kaesoron watched the spectacle with increasing amazement. Demeter’s feelings appeared to be similar. Tarvitz glanced at Lucius with regret- Kaesoron knew of the Captains’ friendship.

“Lord Father,” Tarvitz asked, “is there any way- I know Lucius meant the best for the Legion on its new path-”

“The Legion,” Fulgrim said with a deep power, “is on the same path it has always been on- the path to perfection. Lucius unforgivably deviated from this path, and he must be punished. He will be censured along with Captain Demeter and Lord Commander Eidolon, and then stripped of his captaincy and assigned to a squad. I do not tolerate failure!”

Lucius nodded and went to one knee.

“Dismissed,” Fulgrim said. “The new Captain of the Thirteenth will be announced tomorrow, once Lord Commander Vespasian has reviewed the options. All but Captain Kaesoron, dismissed. Julius, come with me.”

They walked through the engineering deck with Fulgrim. “You did well in the Gellar fields’ restoration,” the Primarch noted.

Kaesoron beamed with pride. Given how little preparation he could reasonably have had, he did consider it a rather successful mission.

“However,” Fulgrim continued, “Lucius was right- the Warp beings were not aggressive. How many of your party died before they could reach the generators?”

“Two.”

“Two of my children, and surely there were others attempting to restore the Gellar fields. If you had reasoned with them, as you should have, the Warp beings would not have killed you.”

“They would simply have let us restore the Gellar fields?” Kaesoron asked with some skepticism.

“No. But you should not have risked your life and the lives of others to restore the fields a minute before I arrived there.”

Inside, Kaesoron felt gravely offended, but he did his best not to let it show- after all, he reminded himself, this was Fulgrim. “That minute saved Tarvitz.”

“That was circumstantial. Your companions’ deaths, however, were not. Again, I am not punishing you; but the forces of the Warp are our enemy no longer. I will accept they make for unreliable allies. But this is the path the Emperor himself set us on.”

“The Emperor and Lorgar.”

“Yes- Lorgar played a role as well. But this is the Emperor’s work we are doing. You do not doubt our assault on Ultramar, after all, and indeed no one in the Legion does. Why do you doubt this decision?“

“I believe in the Emperor,” Kaesoron said. “I believe in the golden road he has put humanity on. I believe in the Imperium of Man, too, and the new Imperial truth. But I believe in perfection, in sanctity, in art, as well; and I cannot look at post-Laeran works without weeping of disgust. Where are we going, father?”

“Where the Emperor wills,” Fulgrim said. “Is that not enough?”

And thinking of the daemonic assault, of Nitran’s last cry, but also of Terra and the many-faced glory that was humanity’s leader, Kaesoron knew- as he often knew things after a battle- that he only had one answer.

“Yes,” Kaesoron said, looking down in the vague direction of his Primarch’s feet. “Yes, it is.”

Renegades Saga contributions
(https://www.heresy-online.net/forums/...tions-cry.html)
(https://www.heresy-online.net/forums/...s-scarlet.html)
(https://www.heresy-online.net/forums/...lesh-weak.html)
The Emperor has turned to Chaos. The dream of the Imperium has become a nightmare. But Horus and his Coalition stand against the dark, here at the end of time.

Lorgar's Betrayal
(https://www.heresy-online.net/forums/...te-heresy.html)
What was broken has been mended. And what was burned away can never be reforged.
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