Barrel of a gun.
“When Lord Commander Salanas died, Lord Mandeaus became the new Lord Commander, but, whereas the beloved Lord Salanas did not want to subject his brothers to the changes of the Legion, Mandeaus was given no choice. But the choice he made would shape the 28th Grand Company for the future.”
Remembrancer Jolene Nereson, documentariest attached to the 28TH Grand Company Emperors Children.
Following the Legions Line
He stood looking at himself in the full length mirror that adorned his quarters. He had returned from the Pride of the Emperor a few hours ago, his initiation as Lord Commander complete, and yet he mourned the death of his mentor and friend. He had his suspicions about how Salanas had died and he would find out, one way or the other. He had been Yusuf Salanas’s favoured Captain, Fulgrim in his wisdom had accepted that he was Salanas’s heir, however Gates Ferrara had not and, as the Primarch had named him Lord Commander, he could see the envy in the other Captains’ eyes.
This was a problem that he suspected would not go away. He had ordered Ferrara to be transferred to the 32nd Grand Company, one that Fulgrim had accepted and Ferrara had snarled at. For months, since the Larean, Salanas had resisted the call for his Company to be implanted but now, now Fulgrim had made it clear that he wanted the new Lord Commander to do as he wished. Elias Mandeaus turned from the mirror and sat himself in his chair of command. It was strange without Yusuf, they had come up through the ranks together at the first inception of the Legion and his heart would be a lot heavier without his beloved friend and brother by his side.
He had a choice, he could do as Fulgrim asked and have himself and his brothers implanted, or he could go rogue, but that was dismissed. One did not betray Fulgrim without consequences. There was another way, a thought that Yusuf had been toying with before his death on Jucinda VI. He had wanted his Company to be different; he had wanted his brothers to follow the goddess in a way that was different to his brothers and his father. Now Elias had to make that decision, have his former Commanders wishes seen to, or go against The Primarch….in the end there really was no choice to make, and as the figure emerged from the shadows he narrowed his eyes a little.
“Your decision Lord Commander” He asked, with no more interest than one who had just swatted a fly.
“This is what I want you to do Bile” Mandeaus slowly raised to his feet “and if you try anything more than what I tell you, you will not be returning to the Pride of the Emperor, because I will let it be known that you are working to your own agenda and not the Primarchs”
“You have proof of your absurd accusations’?” Fabius Bile snorted disbelievingly.
“Enough to know that Fulgrim would like to know of the deal you made with Erebus”
Now the smug expression vanished. For the last few months Bile had been sending bodies to the Word Bearers high Chaplain and in return he was being left to conduct his own experiments behind Fulgrims back. Mandeaus kept his features poker straight; he had friends within the sons of Lorgar, who did not like what Bile was doing. He had his own agenda that much was true and what had also become apparent was that he was determined to unlock the Emperors design for the Primarchs, one that was so closely guarded and known to the Emperor alone, Mandeaus may not have much love for the Emperor anymore, but there were just things you did not dick about with and that was one of them.
Bile bowed his head and removed himself to the Perfection of the Emperors Apothecium. Mandeaus briefly glanced skywards for a moment then left to speak with his brothers and tell them what was going to happen.
A polite cough made recently promoted Halter Jovotch turn and smile a rueful smile at three of his oldest friends. Recently returned to the rank and file following the Nikea Edict, Abel Condenzana, wearing the rank of Sergeant, beside him was Sergeant Xander Benaslon, and beside him was Nikial Joas.
“Congratulations, Captain” Condenzana spoke first “the brothers of the company have long waited for you to ascend. With Elias becoming Lord Commander of 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th and 30th Companies it is only fitting that you become Captain of the 28th”
Jovotch rubbed his jaw and shrugged a little “I am sure there were other worthier brothers Abel, but I am proud of the Captains advancement, rather him then Ferrara”
The others muttered an agreement, as his senior Sergeants’ they took their places and was finally joined by newly promoted Chaplain Demara, he bowed his head a little and apologised for his tardiness.
“So, we have to all report to that madman Bile” Jovotch sighed, “I for one do not want to end up like some of the men I have heard about.”
“I am all for being the perfect army of the Emperor, to war in his name and his image across the galaxy in the name of mankind, but, and although I find his body language somewhat barbaric, Captain Torgaddon was correct when he said, we are not the Emperor and no one could even hope to emulate him.”
Jovotch nodded in agreement. He had fought alongside the Luna Wolves many a time, he admired their strengths, but, like many of his brothers, found them almost as barbaric as the Wolves of Russ, or Angrons insane sons.
“It would seem our father wishes to step up our path to perfection” Joas picked up his wine “Which is all well and good. Just I can’t help thinking that perhaps our father does not know the extent of Bile’s work.” Joas set his goblet down and looked around to see the others faces intently watching behind him.
“Please Brother, continue”
Joas froze and turned to see Mandeaus behind him, a slight smile touching his lips. He hastily got to his feet as did the others and bowed his head in deep respect to their new Lord Commander.
“Enough my brothers, please retake your seats, Joas, you were about to enlighten us?”
Joas cleared his throat “With love and respect to our father, my Lord, I believe that even he does not know how far Bile will go to unlocking the secrets of the Primarchs”
“The father has asked him to do what he has to in order to perfect our Legion” Mandeaus carefully said.
“We know Lord that it will not stop there.” Joas countered “And now we are to become his lab rats”
Jovotch glanced to his Lord “What is to be our new implants?”
Mandeaus smiled a little and sat forward a little “Nothing that has been done to the other companies, ours will be the Combat Drugs,” They all fell silent as Mandeaus explained “I have been to the other Captains, my apologies for leaving my favoured last, but I like our little chats away from the rank and file. I have instructed Bile to enhance the combat drugs. Now it will take a little while to adjust to the altered way the drugs will affect us, however, I believed as did our father, that by enhancing the Drugs we use in combat, we will become the finest example of the Emperors Children”
Jovotch rose to his feet “Then with your permission My Lord I will instruct my brothers to attend upon the Apothecaries”
“Good, and boys, do not let Bile do anymore to you then I have instructed him to do. No one in my companies is going to end up like anyone in Eidolon’s.”
They bowed their heads and peeled off to get their squads ready to follow the Captain to the Apothecaries.
The Apothecarian of the Perfection of the Emperor was a place of pride for the Apothecaries that saw to the needs of the Legion. It was here that the Apothecaries saw to the future of the Legion, and lain to rest the past. They would strip the armour from a dead Brother and send it to the forge where it would be repaired and its war spirit placated for use by another rising brother. They would dress the dead in the robes of the Legion and prepare them for transportation to the home world, where they would find rest and peace with their brothers until the end of days when they would rise up and fight the enemies of mankind once more.
There were occasions when, after battle, a brother was still active in his mind, even when his body was all but destroyed, given his character and his deeds for the Legion, he would become a Dreadnought, interned into a living sarcophagus of war, stirring his brothers to valour with words that would still ring true, even as they did in life, so they did in this extended life. Some would return to the Pride of The Emperor and serve alongside Ancient Rylanor. Jovotch knew of only one brother who had received that honour and that was Brother Brutain, his valour in life had earnt him a place amongst Ancient Rylanors brothers.
As Halter Jovotch lay on the medical bed, awaiting whatever that saw bones wanted to do with him. He had very little contact with the upper echelons of the Legion; he was in more distant areas of the galaxy fighting the perfect war of the Phoenician. He had heard rumours of course, of how strange things were happening to the Legion, captains of once high standing were now being ostracised for not agreeing to this strange new edict. He had no idea what was going to happen to him or his brothers, but if this was the will of the father then so be it.
A son should never disobey his father. He was naked and he could feel the cold hard bed beneath him. He was aware that there were others in the room with him, his Sergeants’, his Chaplain and even his apothecaries. He did not know what effects if any this was going to have on his men then time would tell.
“I ask a boon of you Captain Jovotch” Bile stopped beside his bed, reading his slate and the machines above his patients head.
“A small request really, nothing of real consequence, are you comfortable?”
Jovotch felt a shiver crawl up his spine, he did not feel fear, no marine did, however that being said, he did sense a kind of trepidation, one that made him think of Bile as nothing more than one of the ancient Predators that roamed the lands and skies of Chemos. A memory of his grandfather telling him and his brother and sister tales when they were younger surfaced, he recalled being terrified as a boy and for the briefest of moments, that childhood fear was the same now. Bile was unlikeable, even amongst his own brothers.
“Which is what saw bones?”
If Bile was bothered about the disrespect in the Captains tone, it did not bother him and it did not show, after all he cared little about what anyone else said or thought about him.
“Should in the unlikely event one of your command should, succumb to the new alterations and no longer be of use to the company, then I would consider it a boon if you were to allow me to take over their care”
Warning signals went off in Halters mind, and although he felt he had to agree, as at the end of the day Bile was a Lord Commander, the very thought of one of his own brothers being left in the caring hands of this monster made him disgusted to the core.
“That would be up to my Lord Mandeaus” Jovotch evenly said.
“But, as the company Captain it would be down to you”
Bile seemed eager for the Captain to agree to his request but Jovotch was having none of it and shook his head.
“You ask the impossible of me, now are we going to do this?”
Bile decided to leave it be for now, but he had other ways of getting what he wanted, he had gone through protocol but now he would do it his way. He put Jovotch into a deep sleep and began his alterations.
The new perfection
The Perfection of the Emperor translated into the Tuscola System, close behind it came Fulgrims Wrath and then the other vessels of the 28th Expeditionary Forces, as they closed on the planet everyone went silent as floating at high anchor was the one ship they did not expect to see here. Admiral Gayale Foriza cleared her throat and pressed the vox.
++My Lord, you may want to come to the Bridge++
Mandeaus stopped his training with his equerry Captain Deran Kelax, the commander of his personal guard. He heard not just the nervousness in her voice, which made him concerned, Admiral Foriza was normally such a hard headed woman who ruled her bridge with an iron rod, and yet was respected by all the crew for her coolness under fire. There was nothing that made her nervous and he had never heard that tone come from the woman the crew had nicknamed The Iron Lady.
There was also a tinge of awe ringed around her tone and it was not a lot that caused her to be awestruck, not in his opinion anyway, it was why he liked her, why his former master had liked her, she was not awe struck by the Astartes, unlike the rest of her crew and he had heard her stand her ground with Halter Jovotch a few times.
++Is there a problem Gayale? ++
There was a pause for a moment or two and obviously attempted to keep her voice from cracking
++ The Pride of the Emperor is here, My Lord the Primarch is here++
The auditorium was full to capacity, every member of Mandeauss command was here. From the Imperial Army unit of the Archite Palatines, to the initiates, novitiates and scouts of the Emperors Children followed by Battle Brothers and their Sergeants’ of the 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th and 30th Companies. In front of them were their Captains.
In front of the 26th was Captain Josef Zaria, beside him was Captain Mikhail Kananga of the 27th, Halter Jovotch was beside him, and then there was Captain August Manlien of the 29th, and finally the youngest and newest Captain of the group, Constantine Loroza of the 30th. Each of them had their helms free showing their face to the empty podium. Their hearts, like those of their brothers behind him and even the humans were beating fast. This was an unexpected honour but it was a welcome one, Jovotch and his brothers had only seen the Primarch maybe twice in their lives, it was still in his mind as if it were only yesterday. You just did not forget that moment ever.
He turned a little as the doors opened to the left and the Lord Commanders personal guard, The Firehearts, led by Kerax walked in alongside the Phoenix Guard and then there was the expectation. No one breathed, no one moved until they saw him with their Lord Commander. As one the entire crew, soldiers and Astartes moved to one knee, their heads bowed, their hearts pounding and Jovotch could hear the almost silent weeping of the humans. He did not blame them, for tears found their way down his own face. It was only right that Astartes and Humans alike should weep in the presence of such beauty, such perfection, for they would not see his like again.
“Rise my sons, my daughters, honour is done”
As one they all rose and gazed upon the majesties that was Fulgrim. The Phoenician stood centre as one the Astartes roared his name and the humans, unable to look too long upon his visage without losing the will to move or spoke, chanted his name, although they did not look at him directly.
Fulgrim accepted the adulation and spoke for a moment or two thanking the naval crews and the Imperial Army for their tireless efforts, and although they were not Astartes, they were no less his sons and daughters. He ordered that the gunnery crews and the lower decked crews be given extra ale as a thank you from him, then politely dismissed the humans. No one complained for in reality he had come to see his Astartes.
Mandeaus nodded at the Admiral who led her crew out and Fulgrim waited until the humans were gone. He swept his gaze over the assembled warriors, a smile visible on his face. He loved his sons with all his heart and the duties on his shoulders often kept him away from his other companies who were distant from their beloved father.
“My sons” He began his voice soft and yet carried across the auditorium with ease “My sons, allow me to join you in your mourning of Lord Commander Salanas, I too miss him deeply. His practical approach to battle always ensured the most perfect of outcomes to a battle. His love for his brothers and the way he took your concerns on board marked him out as a true son of perfection. To that end his image is even now being created by the finest artisans aboard the Pride of the Emperor and he shall be mounted along the hall of heroes with other fallen heroes of the Legion.”
The cheer and roar echoed around the chamber, the pride made them swell inside; their beloved fallen Lord Commander was being honoured in the greatest way possible. To stand amongst the heroes of the Legion was the greatest honour any of them could aspire to. Fulgrim raised his arms and silence fell.
“I have been informed that you have all undergone the programme of perfection that I am bringing to my sons. We are going to test this new chapter in our lives, below us is a world that has not come to the true way of thinking, a world that needs illumination, a world that needs perfection brought unto it. This, my sons will be your proving grounds, the war that will enable the enhancements’ that Lord Commander Bile has worked into your bodies to come to the fore and, whilst others would stand and watch the records that are recorded, I, I my sons will be with you”
The cheer went up again; the four Captains looked to each other, the pride mirrored on their faces at the thought of warring with their father alongside them once more. Fulgrim stepped down and with Mandeaus beside him, he walked the length of the floor passing each company Captain and taking a moment to appraise them. He made the return walk and stopped before The Captain of the 28th Company.
“Young Halter Jovotch” Fulgrim smiled and Halter straightened even more, honoured that his father even remembered him. “Your blood brother is doing well within the 13th under Captain Tarvitz, he speaks very highly of him, and I have also heard that you too are making your Lord Commander proud. I understand you have a fascination with methods of information gathering, is this true?”
“Yes My Lord” Jovotch raised his chin high “I have taken an interest in all ways the ancients from across the Imperium used to gather information. It’s a hobby of mine”
“Good, I like my sons to have something other than war to occupy them, it is what sets us apart from the barbarians in other less…educated Legions.”
Fulgrim turned to Mandeaus “If the Captain does not mind, I will join his company and war alongside the 28th”
Mandeaus saw the look on the faces of the brothers of the 28th and addressed an almost speechless Jovotch.
“Well Captain Jovotch, would you mind if the Primarch joins your men?” he could barely keep the amused tone from his voice.
So overwhelmed by the Primarchs words, Jovotch and his company moved to one knee and bowed their heads before their father.
“My sword is yours Sire” he almost stammered “It would be our honour to have our father beside us”
Fulgrim nodded “Shall we depart, I am eager to bring enlightenment to this world. Win this world for me Captain and you shall have the honour of renaming it, other than what the bloody cartographers have labelled for it”
The 28th rose to their feet and Jovotch slammed his closed fist into his chest plate twice. For some reason the sign of the Aquila was no longer appropriate and for the life of him, he did not know why.
The People of this world that the astro-cartographers had designated Seventy-Six dash Grand twenty-eighth, were no easy task. As the Astartes and the Imperial Army made landfall, it was plain to see that this was not going to done in a day, but it was battles like this that Jovotch relished, taking the fight to the enemy, fighting as warriors and not like skirmishers.
The Dreadnoughts cut down the enemy with contemptuous ease, their brothers beside them pulped the enemies’ forces into nothing more than blood and bone. However, even their vast firepower couldn’t breach the magnificent walls. Jovotch looked down at the field of battle and saw not only the dead of the enemy but the Archite Palatines dead too. He would ensure they were given warriors funerals, but his anger at the dead of his brothers knew no bounds. That wall was coming down and he would trample their dead to the mud.
He could feel his combat drugs flowing and give his body the strength to go past beyond human endurance, his eyes glowed and his muscles’ bulged suddenly he fell to his knees, like his brothers around him as whatever Bile had done to the drugs in their warrior bodies began to break free. Fulgrim watched as his sons began to feel the euphoria of the combat drugs released into their system.
Jovotch gritted his teeth and got to his feet, the hunger in his eyes mirrored those in his sergeants’, Chaplain and Apothecary’s. He focused on the walls and roared an affirmation to his Primarch, not the Emperor, for the first time since becoming an Astartes he did not care for the Emperor; he cared only for the Primarch. His roar was echoed by his brothers as across the land, the other companies also emerged themselves in the drugs that rolled through their system.
The Emperors Children began to move in their battle manner but their violence went far beyond anything that had ever been seen before. They tore the arms off their enemies and anything that hit them seemed to bounce off. The order came through from Jovotch, he wanted the leaders left alive, even as his body revelled in the glory that ran through his blood, he still was a commander and as Fulgrim moved alongside his son, he knew there was a warrior of legend in the making.
He led his sons from the front, pleased at what he saw, there was no World Eater savagery, there was no by the book Ultramarine roboticness to them, they were warriors of perfection and they were his sons. They took the enemy head on and prevailed. The Titans, reacting to the drugs that were in their Princeps whom Bile had also tampered with on more of a whim, stood before the walls and hammered at them until finally they began to fall.
Many of the defenders fell to their deaths, others were trampled under foot by the mighty tread of the Titan, deum belli the God of War, a large Emperor Class Titan who led by the front. Fulgrim breached the gates with his sons behind him and with his sword held high began to bring the will of the Legion to the people within. His sons, caught in the rapture of the drugs that were purging and coursing their way through their systems giving them strength and endurance beyond even normal Astartes took the city in blood and honour, but not honour to the Emperor, honour to their father with whom they looked upon with rapt adoration.
Fulgrim stood before the leaders of this world who were on their knees amongst the blood and viscera that flowed. Even though the combat was over, the Companies of Mandeaus were still on a high from the drugs that refused to slow down, they wanted more, and it was the sheer presence of their Primarch that reined them in, and also the presence of their Lord Commander and Captain Jovotch, who all looked like wild eyed predators of ancient Chemos.
“You are surrendering to a power greater than even you can comprehend, I salute your warriors for they did not surrender and they did not retreat under the overwhelming fire of my sons. It is time for you to accept that this war cannot be won by you or your peoples. If you refuse my one offer of peace, I will destroy this world”
He paced along the line of leaders and cocked his head a little, his beauty never more radiant then now and finally his sons began to calm their choler’s, and soothe their humours, it was a not easy and some of them could not, they were quietly led away by their brothers who had. The brothers that could not stop the madness of the combat drugs would later rant and rave for days in their cells until the release of death was all that soothed them.
“You are the Osatha” One woman whispered.
“The what?” Mandeaus demanded his breathing heavy and his fingers gripped tightly around the hilt of his sword.
“The Osatha, it means the king of kings in our tongue. The warrior king who will become a god” She pointed to a beautiful painting that sat in resplendent colour along the one wall of the city that was not touched by battle.
Jovotch almost buckled as the image was of his father, down to the intensity in his eyes, and the perfect proportions of his face. Fulgrim was taken aback, he had never been to this world and yet here he was rendered in glory more than any of the Remembrancer cadre could render.
“Name this world Halter” Fulgrim whispered “Give it a good name, not one that speaks of Sycophants, I have enough of that already”
Jovotch cleared his mind, through sheer effort from the need to feel the rush of the drugs in his system once more. He recalled a tale that he had read in the archives. It was an old tale, one that almost had not survived; a tale that spoke of a great walled city that could not be defeated, until it was brought down by a warrior who blew a large instrument.
“Jericho” He whispered “Jericho 149, we lost one hundred and forty nine warriors from the Astartes and the Imperial Guard, it is only fitting this world remembers that”
Fulgrim looked to Mandeaus and smiled “A good name Halter” He replied “Kill them all and dedicate the kill to this entity, it’s one that has smiled upon our Legion and given us good victories” He whispered the name into Jovotchs ear.
Jovotch almost buckled once more as his Primarchs silk voice touched his ear, he composed himself and drawing his sword cut the heads off the leaders of the city.
“In the name of the Primarch and the name of Slaanesh”
Bile looked up as Halter Jovotch stormed into the Medical area that he had been given and before he could say anything he was punched across the Apothecarian.
“You will return their bodies butcher” He snarled “They are not for you”
Bile laughed and wiped his mouth, surprised that he tasted his own blood
“You can have the bodies, they are of no use to me anymore” he grinned and to Jovotch it looked like the bringer of death “I have what I want”
Jovotch stared in horror at the sight of the anatomy jars that contained the insides of the Astartes Bile had secreted and cut open with no more thought than if he was butchering a pig. Jovotch wanted to kill the bastard, how he dare do this to their honoured dead was beyond belief.
“There will come a day Bile when I will have your head adorning my Company barracks.”
“I look forward to it” Bile sneered.
Jovotch clenched his fists and ordered the Astartes with him to take the bodies of the fallen warriors and take them to the resting chambers. The look he fixed Bile made even the Lord Commander step back. He could find no words to describe that expression except death.