Just a quick exercise, trying to get back into writing (I may or may not continue this). Initial concept: What was the worst possible lineup of 9 Loyalist Legions?
Saul Tarvitz could barely believe it.
Horus Lupercal was the greatest of the Primarchs, even – he was forced to admit – including Fulgrim himself. The Luna Wolves’ martial record was unmatched, and Horus’s closeness to the Emperor of Mankind was also second to none. And of all the Primarchs, it was Sanguinius that stood closest to Horus in, if not military record, then the esteem of his brothers.
And now Horus had betrayed the Emperor, Sanguinius and Magnus the Red by his side.
Captain Uthizzar of the Thousand Sons had led the cruiser Tarkovsky
back to Terra, carrying news of the Warmaster’s devastating betrayal upon the sands of Istvaan III, where the traitors’ own Legions had been purged of loyalist elements. In response, a fleet of all available Legions had been hastily assembled. Seven Legions, and seven Primarchs.
Tarvitz’s Emperor’s Children had been in the first wave, alongside Lion el’Jonson’s Dark Angels and Vulkan’s Salamanders. But the fighting had been fierce, and Fulgrim was forced to lead a tactical retreat to connect with the second wave, which had already fortified itself in the landing zone. The Space Wolves, Raven Guard, Word Bearers and Iron Hands were assembled, a show of force the like of which had been seen on only a few singular occasions during the Great Crusade.
The tired Tarvitz could already see their lines, the guns mounted therein –
The guns, which were opening fire.
They were stuck between two fires, and Fulgrim knew they needed a fighting retreat above all else. There were still landing craft; they were not stuck on Istvaan V’s charred surface.
But they were close.
The Tenth and Thirteenth Companies were with him, Tarvitz’s and Lucius’s groups. Eidolon was dead. Vespasian was dead. Vairosean and Demeter, likewise.
The vox had reported that Vulkan was gone, presumed dead. Captured, at best. Lion el’Jonson was still alive and fighting, but surrounded. Fulgrim knew his only hope was escape, though it took every gram of willpower within him not to wade into the thick of the fighting, killing as many of the traitors that had been his nephews and brothers as he could.
But he prevented himself from doing so, because the one former brother whose head he wanted more than anything was so close.
And, instants later, his hammer clashed with Ferrus’s sword.
“Please,” Ferrus begged. “I don’t want to do this.”
Fulgrim was silent.
“You’re my brother,” Ferrus exclaimed as Fireblade snaked within Fulgrim’s guard. “I love you!”
“I thought you were my brother too,” Fulgrim said, and suddenly Fireblade flew out of the Gorgon’s hands, smashed aside by Forgebreaker’s might. “Now I know better.”
And Fulgrim Phoenician drove Forgebreaker into its maker’s skull.
He stood for a split moment, looking at the body of his former friend. What had driven Ferrus to this? Could he have prevented it, somehow?
And then there was a spear in his back. He knew without looking that it was Sanguinius – and it was a good thing that he did not need to look, for the throw had been perfect, and the spear apparently poisoned. He slipped, collapsing to the ground.
His last sight before the darkness took him was the Tenth and Thirteenth Company closing ranks around their Primarch.
The Lion swung again and again, and Space Wolves fell all around him; but by now, it would not be long. He was alone at last, Nemiel having fallen to prevent a mortal wound to his Primarch.
It was unfortunate indeed that his sacrifice had been in vain.
Some of the Emperor’s Children Stormbirds were lifting off, even now, taking Third Legionnaires to, perhaps, salvation. There might have been some Dark Angels who escaped, too. Others were never here. Luther, on Caliban, was among them.
And then he heard the howl, and two wolves pounded towards him. Their master was with them. Leman Russ raised his blade.
They clashed, and clashed again, and Lion el’Jonson thought of asking why, but truthfully he knew no answer would make sense to him anyhow. And then Russ reached his head into the Lion’s shattered breastplate, and pulled out his heart. Lion still did not understand how it had happened, and so quickly….
He was fading, and fast. What now, with the galaxy gone mad?
“That clash was pleasing, Lion,” Russ said. The Wolf King was bleeding, too, from both sides, and his face was clenched in pain; but he would live. “What words shall we bury you with?”
“The sun rises again, tomorrow,” the Lion whispered, not sure why himself.
And then, only darkness.
Saul Tarvitz looked at the cursed system from the battle barge’s windows. It had been the only one of the Loyalists’ capital ships to make it out of twice-cursed Istvaan alive, and that only barely.
Lucius walked up to him. There were scars on his once-perfect face.
“Fulgrim is stable,” the Captain of the Thirteenth said. “He may never fully recover, though. In truth, I do not know whether he will live at all.”
“We can only hope,” Tarvitz said, turning away from the porthole. “We must warn the Emperor of this second betrayal. I have set a course to Terra.”
Lucius nodded. “Terra it is. And then the galactic war begins.”
Malcador looked at the assembled Custodes.
They would fight until the end, of course, but that did not change anything. The Emperor would have to leave the Golden Throne soon, while there was still a chance of escape. In any case, Terra was lost. Magnus’s psychic attack had been the first blow, but with the daemonic plagues now spanning the Throneworld, it was almost irrelevant.
“We will leave when the time comes, Malcador,” the Emperor psychically sent. “It is impossible for the moment, but rescue might yet come.”
Malcador nodded, as he walked to the gates of the Throne Room. In the distance, he could already hear the pounding of siege weaponry.
He hoped the Istvaan attack had gone well, but if the Master of Mankind fell, it was irrelevant. But, even now, he wondered – how could he have acted to prevent this?
How could he have suspected Rogal Dorn?