The Tale of Brother Armiel
I am dying. I have already accepted this, I accepted it hours ago before I even set foot on this vessel of the damned. But now standing in the halls of a ship older than my Chapter, now a nest for abominations and aliens that even now hunt me like an animal, I can truly accept that I will not leave this place. I will die here. But I will not fail in my duty.
I continue to arm the explosives that stand before me. They are old but I recognize them as warheads, though I cannot identify exactly which kind. I know that once they explode they will destroy this ship, and by doing so cause a chain reaction that will annihilate the greater portion of the Space Hulk that this ship is a part of and deny the creatures that roam this unholy place the conquests and massacres that they have dreamed of. This was the duty that my squad, known as Reaper Squad, was to accomplish. But now I am all that remains, my brothers are all dead. Their gene-seed will never be recovered, and they were unable to accomplish the duty they had been given. The thought makes me realise my own gene-seed will end here. The thought saddens me, my gene-seed once belonged to the very first Elder of the 5th Brotherhood. It is not old but has honour and now no future battle-brother will carry it within him or look back and see me as his genetic predecessor. That is my only regret.
I am unafraid to die here. My duty will soon be accomplished, and I did not expect to survive anyway. But I cannot help but think of what led to this moment. Why I, Brother Armiel of the Knights of the Abyss Chapter, descended from the hallowed Dark Angels Chapter and through them the Primarch Lion El'Jonson, am currently standing in an ancient Imperial vessel, arming warheads that are older than even my own gene-seed to destroy a vessel that will surely bring darkness to many of the worlds that my Chapter shepherds in these dark times. Why I will die here, likely in the next few minutes, and why my brothers are not alive to witness this moment and why I do this for them to ensure that their souls can rest until the end times call for us to march once more.
I think back, and realise it has only been three hours since I was on the Strike Cruiser Faithful
My Bike's bolter is jammed. I suspect that it was caused in our last engagement when I ran over an Ork that attempted to climb onto it and club me to death. Perhaps some part of the Ork is trapped in the cyclers, or perhaps it was just unsettled by being used as a blunt instrument to smash an alien's skull. Regardless it must be fixed in the next few minutes, it annoys me that I do not have time to perform a full diagnostic and preventative maintenance, but time is short and this will likely be the last time I ever work on my steed.
It's name is Messenger
though only I and the Forge Master know that. It was one of the first Bikes in my Chapter and once belonged to a brother of the Ravenwing, that elite Dark Angels brotherhood of riders and hunters that the Blackwing Brotherhood that I am a brother of was based off. It has been through hundreds of engagements, and it saddens me that this is likely the day it's service and legacy will end. Nobody else will ever ride this Bike again. I shake my head and turn from morbid thoughts to preparation for duty.
The arming bay around me is a storm of noise and activity but I am immune to it. When I work on Messenger I am absorbed by it, to which some have commented that I go into my own private world. This is true. I am surprised that others do not when they work on their steeds.
A slight pressure increase on my shoulder-plate alerts me that Corva has found me. My Shade-Raven whom I raised from a hatchling perches on my shoulder, she is beautiful if somewhat small for her breed. She makes no sound, her species never make a sound in their entire lives, as she ruffles her feathers and observes me working. We are bonded the two of us, I can sense her and she can sense me. That is one of the benefits to having a Shade-Raven as your own, I am the only brother in my squad who earned the honour of being given a hatchling as my own. In battle she aids me in hunting enemies using her psychically-active senses to track prey, and her claws and beak can easily cut through flak jackets and carapace armours. She has killed many in her life, and it makes me sad that she too will likely die soon. I consider leaving her behind but I sense anger from her as I think it, she will die with me if that is my fate. Her loyalty is worthy of a Space Marine and it makes me proud to have raised her.
I hear footsteps approaching me, I can tell without turning around that it is Brother Sariel. He is of my squad and I consider him a friend. He is fully armoured, as I am, and his own Bike is awaiting him. His armour, like mine, is the darkest black all across it's frame apart from the dark grey trims around our shoulder-plates and other edges. Even the Aquila across our chest-plates is of the darkest black, only their red eyes breaking the pattern as our own crimson-coloured optics do. Sariel kneels without a word and begins checking his Bike, performing his own last check on it before we ride into the storm.
He turns to me and nods. I nod in return. He asks if I have spoken with the Chaplain about the mission, I have. Chaplain Raziel has told me the entirety of the mission, what to expect and the odds that we will likely not return. He is nothing if not honest. I inform Sariel that I will brief the entire squad once we are aboard the Thunderhawk that sits nearby, idling as it waits to deliver us to our deaths. Sariel nods at this, he has already figured out that the Chaplain and I do not expect us to survive what is coming. He has always been rather morbid, but I am a firm believer in divine fate. If it is the God-Emperor's will that Reaper squad and I perish, then we will do so. But if it is his will that we live to fight another day, then we shall do so. But Sariel has never believed in such things, I do not think less of him for it, rather I am impressed by his iron-clad belief that we make our own fates. Perhaps he is right, but I do believe that the Emperor has a plan for us all in mind. And perhaps His plan for me is coming to fruition now.
Only time will tell.
The Thunderhawk is quiet apart from the soft rumbling of our Bike engines. All of my brothers, the five members of Reaper squad are waiting. We sit on our Bikes in a row, I am in the centre with Brother Sariel to my left and Brother Iuriel to my right. Brothers Eriel and Quariel are on the far left and right respectively, I have served with all of these men for a century and a half and I am proud to call each of them my squad-brother. I know they feel the same way. Our Bikes growl quietly, eager to be on the ground with their tires burning against the cold metal of the Space Hulk that we are about to board. Minutes are all that is left before we enter the ship and prepare for what is likely to be our final mission. I activate my vox with a blink and speak into the link that we all share.
"Brothers, hear my words. We are close now and the time has come for you all to know what awaits us aboard this unholy place."
Their silence is the assent that they are listening. I continue, telling them of what we will face and what we must do.
"This Space Hulk has been identified as
Nest of Abominations. It has appeared twice before in the neighbouring sectors and each time a world died. It has been known to carry the advance guard of the revolting Tyranids, the Genestealer broods. But our psykers have also confirmed a moral threat is aboard, a Daemonic presence."
They mutter oaths and curses. I too share their disgust, a xenos incursion in our space is insult enough but to have the foul creations of the Archenemy enter the sector under our protection is the highest of insults. Our Chapter will redress that insult and we are the instruments of justice and revenge, we will be the spear that pierces this unholy monster's heart and destroys it. I tell my brothers exactly this.
"But know this my brothers. We will likely not return from this place. Chaplain Raziel and I have spoken and I share his opinion. This is a one-way trip."
They are silent. Perhaps they disagree and feel that we will survive because we have survived everything the enemy has thrown at us so far. If so then I will not gainsay it, they have the right to believe what they like as long as it does not hinder the mission. I do not believe we will survive, and yet part of me does not accept that we will die. This bothers me, I am less than optimistic about our chances and yet a part of me refuses to accept that we will die. I understand this, this is the innate reaction of an Astartes. To never surrender, to never give up, to never allow a single iota of doubt to pervert our minds. I do not doubt that we will succeed, but I do not believe that we will live to celebrate our victory.
"Steel yourselves my brothers. Embrace purpose and deny thoughts of defeat. Reaper squad has never failed yet, and so long as a single brother here has defiance and faith in his heart, we will never be defeated!"
My words spur them, raising their fervour to a new height. They chant the Litany of Faith and Victory as penned by Chaplain Karsheth. I join them, even though I find this particular prayer to be too concise. A prayer should be long and be harder to memorize even for an Astartes, I have always maintained that the Emperor finds the longer verses to be more pleasing. But I will not deny them this, what is likely the final time we shall pray together before a battle. We have done this many times before over the last century and a half, and many times we believed it would be our last then as well. But we walked into the fire and the storm and emerged, victorious and having done our duty to Chapter and Emperor.
I think on that for a moment. Perhaps I am allowing the scale of this mission to affect my judgement on whether or not we will return. A part of me wishes to believe that this is true, that I am merely being pessimistic and that Reaper squad will be victorious and we will return to sign the Hymns of Victory and Duty once more. But my instinct tells me that this will not be the case, that we will never sing the hymns again and that the Space Hulk that is rapidly coming closer to us, this Nest of Abominations
, will be our grave.
As the hatch opens I am the first out. Messenger
is silent as I send it forward through the hatch, it's engine muffler silencing any sound it makes, it's wheels spin in the air as I fall to the ground. It is not a long fall but it is long enough that the impact shakes me, though not enough to dislodge me. My brothers follow immediately, but I have always been the first on the ground in every engagement and if this is truly to be our last mission then I have kept the streak alive. I grin as I give Messenger
it's full head, allowing it to race through the hangar that we have landed in and into an open corridor. Corva flies alongside me, my ever-present companion in life and now in my final hours.
The Thunderhawk takes off, it's pilot wishing us luck. It will be waiting nearby to collect us but I do not think we will be returning to it, and neither I think does the pilot. I do not blame him for this, for I share his belief.
"Thank you Brother Camael, and if we do not see each other again in this life, then I shall see you at the right side of the Emperor."
"Acknowledged Brother Armiel. The God-Emperor be with you."
I cut the vox and look at my internal chronometer. Chaplain Raziel and Librarian Kaarah were very clear that the Space Hulk will disappear within the three hours that we have to accomplish our misson. The chronometer continues to run down, we have three hours in which to reach our target and destroy this abomination, and if possible to escape and call for evacuation. I turn away from thoughts of survival, now is the time to focus on the present and my duty.
The corridor that we race through is not of human origin but I recognize it all the same. It is crafted from a strange material that appears very malleable, almost like soft marble, yet appears to have grown naturally like a plant. It is an Eldar vessel and likely a piratical one if the slave cells that we are passing are anything to go by. I realise that unless the Eldar build their cells with the benches on the ceiling then we are upside down. The thought briefly amuses me before we enter the tunnel. It is large and could easily admit half a company marching abreast of each other. I blink a rune to the squad, ordering them to disperse. If we come across an enemy I do not want us to be boxed against each other.
I hear something and cut off all auditory distractions. It sounded like something hissing but I cannot see anything. The darkness inside the Eldar ship is total, only our headlights show us what is ahead. I hear it again, that sibilant hissing. I hear another sound too, the sound of metal shrieking as something lets go of it.
That is the first sign of attack.
The Genestealer falls from the ceiling and lands on Brother Iuriel's Bike, latching onto the front with all of it's limbs. It is as spindly and hideous as the rest of it's kind, it's carapace is a dull red and blue in colour and it's claws glint in my headlights. I cannot shoot at it without hitting Iuriel, and none of my other brothers can either. Before he can raise his bolt pistol the Tyranid screeches and slashes, it's claws tearing through Iuriel's throat and sending his head across the room. I no longer have an obstacle as I open fire, my mounted bolters shred the creature and send it to the floor as a pulped mess. Sariel turns to look at Iuriel as we pass by, his voice cuts in over the vox and is agitated.
"We have to go back and get his body, we can't leave it for these abominations to feast on!"
I agree with him in theory but in practice we cannot afford to do so. We cannot heft a body around with us, and I think that our brother's gene-seed has been ruined by the Genestealer's attack. I say as much to Sariel as we continue down the tunnel, a narrow light now visible at the end of it.
"I know brother, but Iuriel would not want us to fail in our mission even if it means recovering his body. He is with the Emperor now and will have his revenge at the end times."
And as I hear the hissing again I know we are about to have our revenge for our fallen brother.
Genestealers begin to drop from the roof of the tunnel, falling towards us. One lands on the front of Sariel's Bike but he is quick to blast it with his bolt pistol, the creature slides off and rolls as we leave it behind. Each of my brothers activate their mounted bolters and open fire into the horde that descends upon us, our weapons annihilate many of the hated enemy in payment for Iuriel, but some make it through. One manages to slash Brother Quariel in the side before he smashes it with his hammer. I see Corva flitting through the hail, avoiding the falling aliens as she keeps close to me, her psychic sense allowing me to feel the conscious aliens as they fall towards me.
I look up as one lands on the front of Messenger
, and before I can shoot the creature it parries my bolt pistol. The force of the blow knocks the pistol from my hand and it is lost to the darkness. Before the creature can attack again I draw my power knife and slash it's eyes, the 'stealer howls in pain as it forgets me entirely. I backhand the creature, my knife held in a reverse grip, and cut it's throat wide open. As it falls I forget about it's existence as the light from the end of the tunnel surrounds us. We are clear of the Eldar ship at last.
We ride in silence. Each of us is thinking about Brother Iuriel, the youngest of our squad. I had planned to nominate him for a term in the Nightwing before this mission came along, now he will never serve in the elite stealth company as I did. Before I can offer a prayer for my fallen brother I hear someone else speaking.
It is a woman.
Or at least I believe it to be a woman. I know of no brother of mine with such a soft voice. But then I hear the words it speaks and my rage builds. It hisses and promises us such dark pleasures and terrible wonders, things that I shudder to even think about. I know what this is, for I have seen and heard such things once before.
It is a Daemon.
It appears before us, seeming to stay at a distance from us despite that we are moving at 120mph and it is standing still. It is a lithe creature, it's left breast exposed by it's leathery outfit. It has large claws instead of hands and it's knees are bent the wrong way. But is the aura of perversion and excess that surrounds it that makes me sick.
Before I can shout an oath it attacks, as do it's sisters.
They run alongside us, their claws snapping, tongues lashing and their lips whispering soft promises and cruel threats. But that is not what I worry about, for I notice that my brothers and I are much closer to each other than we were before. The corridor of this new ship, an Imperial vessel of some kind, is much tighter and we are being forced closer to each other. That is all the advantage our enemy needs.
One slinking Daemon flips over Brother Quariel and snaps her claw at him, taking his right arm off at the shoulder. The sudden loss of a limb causes him to crash, the force destroying his Bike and sending him into a wall. The snap I hear makes me grimace, another brother has fallen. I have no time to curse as I see a bulkhead approaching us, if we can get to it and close it we can trap the Daemons that follow us behind the door while we advance.
But it is not to be. A Daemonette slashes at Brother Sariel's Bike and snaps it's brake-line, before he can respond another rams into it and sends his Bike on a collision with mine. We fall from our Bikes together and land in a pile, both Messenger
and his own Bike are ruined. Brother Eriel stops, though not because he is coming to help us, his head is missing. I see a Daemonette kiss it in her claw before she hurls it to another of her sisters as a ball. The sight enrages me.
"Death to the unclean,"
I roar as I unsling my bolter and destroy the abomination holding my brother's head. Sariel joins me, the Daemon shaking under our assault as her body turns to mist. The others swarm us before we can close the bulkhead. Their claws snap at us as we hammer at them with our bolters, using the edges to drive away attacks.
Sariel attempts to shoot one at point-blank range, but the cackling monster knocks his bolter to the side where the bullet shoots. I am silent as I see it hit Messenger's
fuel-tank. The explosion is immense, and as it catches myself, Sariel and the Daemons in it's fury I think two things.
First, that I am strangely happy that Messenger
died killing the enemy that killed it. Second, that this was not how I expected to die.
I awoke slightly dazed, the first thing I saw was the closed bulkhead. As I rose the second thing I saw made me sigh, the charred corpses of Sariel and Corva. They had been closer to the explosion than I and paid the price for it.
"I shall see you at the right side of the Emperor my brother and sister,"
I whisper as I rise to my feet. The bulkhead had closed in an automated response to the explosion, and either through luck or the Emperor's will, none of the Daemons had survived. But that was not the thought that ran through my head.
I was alone. My entire squad was dead, Reaper squad who had rode into enemy strongholds and rode out without a single loss. We were all dead, and our objective was not even in sight. My grief was strong, I felt a single tear roll down my cheek as I thought of my brothers, now with the Emperor, dead with their duty unfulfilled.
Sucking in a breath I banished despair and welcomed rage into my heart, I would do their duty for them. As I said to them, as long as one member of Reaper Squad lives with faith in his heart, we can never be defeated!
I picked up my bolter and my knife and set off into the darkness, my duty consuming the very fibre of my being.
As I ran through the corridor of the ship I found myself in I knew I was close. This was the ship that contained the armaments, the ancient warheads that would destroy this damned vessel and fulfil Reaper squad's final duty. It was an Imperial ship, a warship, and one clearly built for mortals as I had to keep my head down as I sprinted.
The Genestealers were everywhere, hunting and feeding. A few times I came across them battling the Daemons, and doing fairly well. Though my warrior-soul yearned to leap into battle and deal death to both forms of heresy made flesh I held myself back and focused on the maxim I chanted under my breath. Duty before vengeance. Were it not for my time in the Nightwing, the elite stealth company of my chapter, I would have surely died already. But I know how to move silently and in the shadows, and before long I reached the arming chamber of the ancient warship. As it opened, dust falling onto my armour, I beheld the warheads stacked against the wall.
And the pair of Daemons that stood between me and them.
They were tall and lanky thin, their skin was crimson and seemed to burn with an inner fire. Horns curled from their heads as they snarled at me, two flaming swords brandished at me as they charged. I brought my bolter up and fired, spending an entire clip, the shells catching one and sending him off course to land in a pile of lasguns. The other slammed into me and slashed it's coruscating sword at my head, I barely brought up my bolter to block in time only to see it cut in two. Discarding the remnants of my gun without hesitation I quickly drew my knife and stabbed the monstrosity though it's mouth, the energy field crackling as it met the unholy flesh and carved through it, but as the monster died it used it's last seconds of existence in this realm to thrust it's blade through my left thigh.
I screamed in pain and anger, the blade had done a good deal of damage. I could barely stand up straight, it took all my energy not to collapse on the floor, but I was unable to turn for an instant. The other Daemon took this as a chance to slash it's blade down my back, I howled as I felt the flaming blade tear through my skin and muscle, the wound bleeding heavily despite the heat. I fell onto my side and stared up as the Daemon approached me slowly but surely, it's eyes burning with glee at it's victory and the prospect of more blood. As it raised it's sword high I leapt forward, ignoring the pain in my back and my leg, and rammed my knife into it's brain. It shuddered before collapsing into a red mist.
Ignoring my injuries I turn to the warheads. It is finally time to fulfil my duty.
I am dying. The Daemons have wounded me too greatly, and the explosion did not help. I am too injured to escape this craft, and I will die here. But as I think on my brothers and know that they can now rest until the end times, I count myself fortunate for one blessing.
I can choose how I will die. I can sit here in this armoury and wait for death to come to me, or I can stand up with my knife in my hands and find my death, which even now I can hear through the vents and the walls. The monsters are hunting me, but I am a Space Marine and I will die like the warrior I am. With my weapon in my hands, a battle hymn on my lips, and with my faith burning in my heart as I do what I was made to do. Kill in the Emperor's name.
I rise and limp to the door, ready for whatever will come to me. But as I do I think on my purpose, I wonder if this is the duty that I was born to achieve, that if when the Emperor first created me he had this charge in mind for me alone. Was this what I was destined to do? I do not know, and I will never know. But I wonder what will come next when I meet the Emperor and my resting brothers, will I join them in their rest until we march again in the end times?
Or does the Emperor have yet more purpose in mind for me?
+++VOX REPORT AB109. CURRENT DATE: 875.M41. LOCATION: CODECIR. SENDER: CHAPLAIN DARYEL
My lord Zariel. I bring joyous tidings from the world of Codecir.
My brotherhood and I have succeeded beyond our wildest dreams in this routine patrol, one of the ancient enemy has been taken alive and even now we transport him to The Rock where our parent-chapter will have him confess his sins. Our redemption lies one step closer.
But this is not the only reason that I have contacted you. The events behind this capture are... strange at best.
It began with Brother Remiel who claimed to have seen a dream-vision from the Emperor. He told me he witnessed a brother-marine of our glorious Chapter, armoured in an older suit of MK V Power Armour and who carried our Primarch's sword inverted. A Shade-Raven clung to his shoulders, his eyes were molten fire and the word Codecir was whispered to him. Of course we immediately set course for the planet.
But two other brothers claimed to have seen the exact same thing. We were not sure what to believe after that. No marine has ever had the exact same dream-vision as another.
When we arrived at Codecir we quickly discovered that the Planetary Governor was a Fallen in disguise. But when we ran him to ground some of our brothers claimed to have seen the shade of their visions watching them from nearby, as did two others who had not seen the vision.
One of these two brother-marines, Bother Gordiel, identified the shade as Heroic-Brother Armiel who perished a century ago cleansing the Space Hulk
Nest of Abominations. Now some of our brothers are claiming that Heroic-Brother Armiel somehow survived the destruction of the hulk, or has returned to us as an Angel of the Emperor. I do not know what to think.
I trust the brothers who claim to have seen this shade, they are level-headed and not prone to exaggeration. But could Heroic-Brother Armiel truly have returned to us? We must discuss this further when I return from The Rock, lord. This could be a truly significant event.
In the name of the Lion and the Emperor.