The Eightfold Path
'No man has ever strayed from His light to that of the Dark Powers because he thought it better. Corruption is a cancer that takes root whenever faith is questioned, and if not excised quickly it will spread and spread until a virtuous soul is blackened and tainted with heresy.'
- Unknown, attributed to Ecclesiarchy
The city of Hive Caedus had been reduced to a smoking crater, war had been waged here by the chosen of the Emperor, blessed be his name and rule, when His arch-enemies's servants had come to pillage and destroy all in the name of their foul gods. Over 20,000,000 loyal Imperial citizens had died here, the majority of them killed when the battle had actually begun rather then the invasion by the Traitor Marines, and at least a hundred Battle-Brothers had perished in the conflict. And for what?, to see a ruined crater returned to the Imperium that was of no financial, strategical or holy importance. It had been a waste of resources and life. These thoughts raced through Brother Alekxadre, 4th brother of the 1st squad of the Eagle Warriors 3rd Company, as he sat in a shallow impact crater, likely made by a grenade, and looked at the corpse of a Space Marine. It was the corpse of Brother Haldrek, Alekxadre's sworn honour-brother and his best friend. They had both joined up with the Eagle Warriors together when they were recruited from Tarsis Ultra, before its destruction. Alekxadre and Haldrek had served together for two centuries, both being chosen for the same company and both being chosen for the 1st squad. It was almost as if the Emperor himself was keeping them together... and now Haldrek was dead, killed in the battle that had meant nothing. Alekxadre had seen it all, and it kept replaying in his head over and over again, a constant stream of Haldrek's death.
It had happened so fast, the 1st squad had raced ahead, Brother Malfarion toting the squad's Flamer and laying down a stream of searing white death against the gibbering Cultists that occupied the gun-nest ahead. Sergeant Aristol was shouting out orders to take out the gun-nest and the heretics along with it. Haldrek was snapping off precise shots that shredded a heretic with each bolt, Alekxadre right behind him and following suit. Then he appeared. A large Chaos Marine wearing ornate armour, decorated with foul runes to the Dark Gods and chains caked with dried blood hanging from his belt. Two skulls on pikes, each with their mouths wide open in a horrific rictus grin crossed on his back and over his shoulders, just behind his head. He was a disgusting sight indeed, and his next action had been even worse. Raising a Bolter with a muzzle the shape of a snarling Warp Daemon he had fired several shots, each like a flaming bolt that changed colour rapidly. Brother Malfarion fell, his head immolated into a smouldering mess. Sergeant Aristol fired back only to be blasted squarely in the chest, his body exploding in a shower of blood and bone shards. Alekxadre had cried an oath of hate at the Traitor and emptied an entire clip into the Traitor, each shot finding its mark in his chest and exploding violently. The Traitor fell back, dying but as he did he fired back in response, a spiteful last attempt at taking a loyal soul with him, a quick pivot to the left had saved Alekxadre from the corrupted bolt and in turn had doomed Haldrek, the shot had raced past Alekxadre and blasted Haldrek right in the neck, shearing his head clean off and setting his falling body alight. Alekxadre's soul shook, Haldrek was dead, and in his place. Alekxadre had lived and in turn Haldrek had died.
'Brother Alekxadre?,' a voice asked cautiously. Alekxadre's eyes snapped open and he looked up, it was another Eagle Warrior resplendent in his blue and white armour. 'Who are you?,' Alekxadre asked, he did not recognize this Space Marine. The man had a perplexed look and looked around confused, finally answering Alekxadre's query, 'Brother it is Kaleb, we are both of the First Squad,' Kaleb answered. Alekxadre's eyes widened, had he really been so dazed he had not recognized Brother Kaleb, an honourable brother who Alekxadre had been friends with for a century. 'Oh accept my apologies Brother Kaleb I am... still hazy from the battle. What with so many brothers dead and all, it... it...,' Alekxadre found he could not finish his sentence. Kaleb nodded and put his hand on Alekxadre's shoulder-plate. 'We have all lost comrades today brother, you are not alone in your grief,' Kaleb responded solemnly, looking at Brother Malfarion's corpse. Alekxadre remembered that those two had been good friends as well. Kaleb said his goodbyes and left, having other duties to attend to, Alekxadre envied him for that, he had nothing but free time until the next deployment and that time was killing him. He had been here for at least two hours, although it had felt like ten, just staring at Haldrek's corpse and wondering why. Why had the Emperor forsaken Haldrek?, he was a loyal warrior and devout to the Master of Mankind's rule, if anything Alekxadre had always been a bit lax on his devotion to the Emperor. Why had he not taken him instead?, Alekxadre would have gladly swapped places with Haldrek who had so much to give. There had been talk he would make Sergeant one day, and now that future was dead.
A glint caught Alekxadre's eye. He turned and saw it, that accursed Bolter on the Traitor Marine's still smoking corpse. Alekxadre rose and walked over to it, looking at the hateful thing. It was an abomination and yet... it had killed so many. How could it function that way, Alekxadre had never seen bolts turn to flame before, surely this weapon was more powerful then the Chapter Master's own, and it was here in front of him. He could take it, alter it himself so that nobody would know where it had come from. No!, such things were heresy and wrong Alekxadre thought, but it was so powerful. Would a minor heresy be forgiven if it led to great acts of purity?, Alekxadre could not decide. Part of him wanted to turn the weapon over to the Librarium for disposal, and part of him wanted to keep it. He ran a finger across it... when had he picked it up?. Alekxadre looked down and saw it in his hands, glinting in the sunlight that peeked through the smoke, he didn't remember picking it up. It felt right in his hands, like a weapon of the Emperor made manifest. He noticed a blade on the Traitor as well, it was as black as night and dripped blood from its tip, yet strangely no blood was on the rest of the blade. Another tainted weapon, it should be disposed of and let that be that, Alekxadre knew he should have thought. But all he could think about was Haldrek, dead and gone. This weapon had killed him, he couldn't just throw it away. Nobody was around, Alekxadre made his choice. He quietly took the Bolter and Power Sword and ran off, wanting to get a better look at these where nobody would find him.
The hills outside the city were blackened by shelling and covered in tank treads from the Rhino Transports that had ferryed the Eagle Warriors into the city, but Alekxadre paid those no mind. He was more interested in the two weapons that lay on a rock before him, a Bolter and a Power Sword both more powerful then the lone Astartes had ever seen in his service. They were tained with the warp, but he couldn't destroy them. If he could unlock their secrets and prove them to be pure then the Astartes chapters would have such powerful new weapons, good men like Haldrek need never die again. Alekxadre bent down to touch the bolter and felt a sting, even through his gauntlet. 'You are wrong,' a voice whispered. Alekxadre turned, thoughts of discovery racing through him.. nobody was there and the hills were silent. Alekxadre dismissed it and began going over the sword, 'The Emperor did not forsake your friend,' the same voice uttered, it was dry and ghostly like the wind yet hid a core of evil. Alekxadre rose up and looked around, 'Make your presence known!, do not hide like a coward!,' he shouted to nobody. Was he going mad?, had Haldrek's death driven him to insanity. 'It has driven you to truth and clarity,' the voice responded. It knew Alekxadre's thoughts, this was not good. 'What truth?,' Alekxadre asked, he must have gone made for he was talking to spectres. 'The truth of the Emperor. He is no god but a withered corpse!,' the spectre replied, stressing the last words. Alekxadre cursed it, 'The Emperor is our shield and protector, he...,' the words died in his throat. If the Emperor was a protector then why did he not protect Haldrek?. 'Because he did not care,' the voice stated clearly. 'No!, he.. he does care. We are the Emperor's chosen, he does not abandon us!,' Alekxadre shouted defiantly. The voice chuckled, 'Really?,' it asked, 'Then why do so many of your brothers die?, the answer is because your Emperor does not care whether you live or die.' Alekxadre wanted to defy the voice but he found himself thinking it over. Haldrek had died for nothing, perhaps the Emperor did not care.
'He really doesn't. You fight for a false god, distant and uncaring of your efforts. Your brothers die in the dozens every day and what is your reward?. Nothing,' the voice said with pity. 'A Space Marine needs no reward, service to His Imperium shall be his wine and sustenance and his soul shall be content,' Alekxadre quoted the Codex Astartes. 'Quoting an ancient book that your gene-givers slave themselves to isn't going to change the fact that your brothers are dead,' the voice stated. Alekxadre knew it was right, they were dead and the Codex was wrong. Duty was not a reward, it was a burden and a joyless one at that, the Emperor did not care and he fought for nothing but an uncaring being's will. 'If he does not care.. then what should I do?,' he asked, the voice knew so much perhaps it would know what Alekxadre should do. 'There are beings who do care about their servants. They reward success, and welcome every new follower with open arms. As long as you serve them you will be joyous and know higher powers care about your fate,' it answered. Alekxadre wondered what such wondrous beings could be, where could he find them and what rewards would they give. 'I will show you what they can give,' the phantom offered. Alekxadre nodded his agreement and closed his eyes, he felt the air around him quiver and as he opened his eyes he saw a whole new world.
He was running. His armour was red, the colour of blood and his short white hair was covered in dried blood. He had a roaring chainaxe in his hand and a smoking bolter in the other, the same bolter he had been looking at but scant moments ago. Around him others who wore the same armour ran with him, howling praises to their master. Alekxadre felt so much, he felt elation and joy. These men lived in the now, past and future mattered nothing to them, and their lord rewarded them with more foes to fight, to test themselves against and to prove their worth. Alekxadre charged ahead, slashing his chainaxe into the enemy, hacking through their weapons and their flesh, the blood pouring from them and staining his armour crimson and pooling at his feet. The enemy were Space Marines, those of the False Emperor's chapters, how could they be so blind to fight for such an uncaring being?, but this mattered nothing as Alekxadre drove his chainaxe into the head of the last Space Marine, the grinding teeth cutting through the metal and flesh and bone and brain until it was ripped out. This was incredible, such freedom, the freedom to fight for all eternity, to test himself against the strongest of foes and know that who lived would be lauded and that if he died then his skull would grace his lords throne, forever remembered and forever with his god. Alekxadre shouted a praise to the heavens, knowing that his lord was watching and was proud. 'Blood for the Blood God!, Skulls for the Skull Throne!.'
'But that is only one of the many paths ahead of you. And they are all open to one with your talents,' the voice explained. Another vision overtook the last one.
The smell was all around him, to others it smelt like decay and ruin but to Alekxadre it smelt like... immortality. He looked at his hands and his armour, they were green and rotting, covered in blisters and sores, and yet they were strong. Battle raged around him, bolts blasted into his skin but he felt no pain, he felt no pain!. It was glorious, an existence free of the suffering and misery of life, to know that you are doing the right thing. He felt no sorrow for Haldrek anymore, knowing that in death he was free from the pain. Alekxadre raised his weapon, the same bolter he had collected earlier, and fired into the crowd. The Guardsmen dropped in scores, flaming bodies dropping to the ground and sliced body parts flying through the air. He smiled as he slaughtered them, freed them from their wretched life of servitude. Raising his head to the sky Alekxadre let out a cry to his lord, knowing that he was smiling at this. 'For Grandfather Nurgle!.'
'The paths are many but all grant such rewards. But which appeals to you I wonder,' the voice queried, for once not knowing the answer. The vision changed again.
His body was alight with pleasure. Every nerve was singing with joy at the bliss being wracked throughout his body, it was the attacks that did it. Every bolt that seared against his pastel pink and midnight black armour put such pleasure into Alekxadre that he screamed in ecstasy. The pitiful Eldar around him could do nothing but amuse him as they fired their spindly guns at him and cursed his very existence and that of his lord. Smirking at their words Alekxadre laughed and as he raised his Bolter and fired he felt their pain as they died and loved it. Every shot cracked a soul stone, and their frail bodies with it, Alekxadre sung in the dark tones of his lord as he did his holy work. He could feel his master's joy at these deeds, every death meant more souls to feast on and share the delight of eternal pleasure, and pain. But pain was pleasure, just a different form. Alekxadre could feel the Eldar screaming as he sent them to his god, knowing that he would be rewarded for this was the sweetest knowledge of all. This was paradise, where no such thing did not bring pleasure, for pleasure could be found anywhere, be it from a new chemical stimulet caressing his veins with its silken touch or the sting of a shuriken round as it grazed his skin and let sweet blood drip from his wound. Screaming a joy-racked cry to his lord Alekxadre made his joy clear. 'Suffer and scream in the Warp, children of Slaanesh!.'
Alekxadre was amazed. It was beautiful, he could see Gods who cared for their subjects. They welcomed them and only asked that they serve, and they would reward them amply for it. 'Yes they will, and once you serve them they will reward you too,' the voice explained. The vision changed, for the last time.
The Warp was running through him. He could see so far, the fleets of his former Chapter roaming space in their mistaken beliefs that a corpse on a throne had a will and that they needed to fight for it. He could see the drones of the Imperium, scurrying about their tiny lives unaware that they were inconsequential in the grand scheme. He could see Terra, the bastion of lies and the throne of falsehoods. Alekxadre sneered, his skin a light shade of blue and his eyes glowing as green as the grass of an Agri-World. His armour was covered in pulsing runes and glowing glyphs, he carried a tall staff that was forged from the finest Warp-touched metals and was ornamented with his lords symbol on the tip and the scales of a serpent decorating its long shaft, and the hint of a tail at the end almost life-like. His lord had granted him such gifts, the power to command the Warp as a Sorcerer, to bend reality, and best of all.. to serve the plans of his God. They were incredible, they spanned all of time and creation and everything had a place, even if that was just to die. Alekxadre knew his place in the plans and he was happy for it, his role was a big one to play in many of them and that would continue. It was mind-shattering, to know that you were a piece in a being so far beyond your comprehension's plan, and if you were a pivotal piece then it was the greatest feeling of all. To know that your god needs you, needs you to serve his plans for his inevitable succession. Alekxadre shouted to the Warp around him, the vermin humans all around him dying as his flames of sorcerous might destroyed them all. 'Know that Tzeentch has a plan for you. And be grateful that your deaths are a part of his grand plan!.'
Alekxadre saw all of these futures for himself and then he saw the galaxy. It was decadent and corrupt, the weak held the strong back with their own neediness and pathetic lack of will. The Imperium was dying for its refusal to move forward into the future, content to stay in the past and decay away while the true warriors fought on for an uncaring false god propped up by lies and the weakness and fear of mortals. Aliens besieged the walls of man, and battered away at already falling apart defences, it would only take time but if things continued this way then the xenos would win and everything would end. The Imperium and Chaos would cease to be, Alekxadre saw the galaxy in its entirety. The stars burnt brightly and began to connect along the lines of fate, connecting and connecting with more and more stars until the entire galaxy took on a shape of its destiny. A star with eight blazing points and a giant eye in the centre that saw all, it was Chaos. And it was the future.
The visions ended with a whoosh of air. Alekxadre looked around nervously, wondering if anyone else had seen it but nobody was there, he was still alone with the tainted weapons. 'You see it now. You know it now. Your path.. is the eightfold path,' the voice stated sure of itself. And it should have been. Alekxadre smiled and nodded, he knew his path now. 'Seek out the Black Legion, they will welcome you to the cause. They are still here, engaged in orbit. If you hurry you can join with them,' it explained. Alekxadre realized that time was of the essence, he grabbed the weapons and replaced them in his holsters. His old weapons were quickly discarded as he ran, with all his strength and will Alekxadre ran back towards the dispatch area. He knew how he would get back. As he ran he thought of his future, the True Gods were waiting but which would he serve. The Blood God would offer him a lifetime of war and challenges, the Lord of Decay would save him from the pain and give eternity, the Prince of Pleasure would turn his pain to pleasure and show him the door to experiences unknown, and the Shaper of Fate would give him purpose in the grand schemes of the True Gods. But Alekxadre wanted to serve them all, and that is what he would do. He would worship them all, serve each God and bask in their combined might. Chaos Undivided would be his path, and the Black Legion his new home. But first he had to get there, and how to offer himself?, they would not just take him, Alekxadre would need gifts to give and prove his worth.
As he saw the Thunderhawk ahead, its engines priming he leapt aboard and was met by the gazes of his squad. Brother Kaleb was there and smiled at him, welcoming him back just in time. The others nodded and welcome him though a few noticed the weapons at his belt. Kaleb saw them and a look of confusion, poor fool Alekxadre thought, spread across his face. 'Brother Alekxadre, what are those things?,' he asked. Alekxadre smiled and unhooked the Bolter, swinging it up and activating it. The others realized what it was and what it meant, but were already doomed. 'The key to my future.' The sounds of gunfire echoed through the Thunderhawk as it lay docked, the engines masking the sound. The enchanted Bolter spat death across the gunship as the brothers inside were caught without their weapons, limbs bursting and blood splattering across the craft. Inside none had survived but Alekxadre, all were dead and this was his gift to the other servants of the gods. The armour and weapons of at least 20 former brothers, their gene-seeds for an Apothecary to take and create more loyal servants of the True Gods and a Thunderhawk gunship for what would hopefully become his new allies. It was a fine offering, it would surely get him into the Black Legion Alekxadre thought as he moved into the cockpit. A quick shot dispatched the pilot and his corpse fell to the floor as Alekxadre took his place, he had learned how to pilot a Thunderhawk half a century ago and was the squad's co-pilot. Those skills were only another boon towards his path as the Thunderhawk took off, none outside aware of what had happened within, and strode towards the stars and towards its sole passenger's destiny.
The Battle Barge was truly resplendent. Icons of the True Gods were everywhere, loyal servants of Chaos were preparing to move out and the scent of Chaos was in the air. Alekxadre knew this was his destiny, and he had been welcomed cautiously. He had been able to maneuver the Thunderhawk into the Chaos-controlled space of the warzone and had hailed the Black Legion Battle Barge successfully, promising gifts if they brought him aboard, he had been allowed to land and was escorted by Chaos Marines on-board. Their black and gold armour, covered in symbols of Chaos and the True Gods was inspiring and a sight that filled Alekxadre with pride. This was where he belonged now. They had accepted his gifts of gene-seed, armour and weapons, and even a Thunderhawk with gratitude and had given him a place amongst them. He was a Black Legionnaire now, no longer a dog of the False Emperor fighting for lies and weak mortals. It had been a few days and now he was a Chaos Space Marine, a servant of the True Gods and a warrior of the black faith that was Chaos. The True Gods had guided him here so that he could serve those worthy of his deeds, he was done with the Imperium. Alekxadre thought of Haldrek and wished that he was here, so that he too could see the truth that Chaos had brought and embrace it as Alekxadre had done, he then wondered if Haldrek would have embraced it. He was sure, Haldrek was smart and would have seen the truth in Chaos and the lies behind the Carrion-Lord of the Imperium, Alekxadre had and he knew that Haldrek would have as well.
As the Battle Barge began to enter the Warp Alekxadre chanted his first prayer to the True Gods. 'Gods of Chaos I beseech thee, a humble servant brought to your truth from lies shacked around me since birth. I swear eternal loyalty in life and death to the True Gods, to their vision for the galaxy and to their ways. I forsake every oath I ever swore to the Corpse-Emperor and his lapdogs, I am no longer an Eagle Warrior. I am Black Legion, I am a servant of Chaos and I will do thy bidding, True Gods.' Alekxadre smiled cruelly, his armour now black and gold and his chapter heraldry carved out with a blade, replaced with the Eye of Horus, the True God's most powerful servant before his fall to the False Emperor. Alekxadre felt revulsion towards Horus, he had borne so many hopes of Chaos and the faith of the True Gods was placed in him and he had failed. But a new Champion had arisen, Abaddon the Despoiler, the chosen of all Chaos and Alekxadre knew that it would be the Despoiler who toppled the Imperium. And he would be there, fighting in his ranks to bring the truth of Chaos to the galaxy, and to watch as the Imperium burned. The Battlebarge broke into the Warp and Alekxadre knew that his destiny had only just begun.
The skies above Corius XII were ablaze as the guns of the Black Legion fleet laid waste to the cities of the Imperium. None would be spared, their devotion to a corpse on a throne would cost them their lives. In orbit the Black Legion Battle Barge Chaos Ascendant
turned its mighty guns onto the planet, and rained death from above and delivered the judgement of Chaos. On board a lone figure stood at the head of the bridge, clad in the blackest Power Armour with golden markings, a mighty black blade at his side and a Bolter covered in the markings of Chaos at his hip. His helmet bore an eight-pointed star of Chaos as its face, golden metallic and fearsome to all who saw it. A mighty cloak of blackened wolf fur reminiscent of Horus's own hung from his shoulders and extended down to his knees, the Eye of Horus adorning its centre in blood. Alekxadre, Chaos Lord of the Black Legion, watched as his fleets destroyed this worthless world. For centuries, perhaps even millennia, he had served Chaos and had been rewarded beyond his wildest dreams. He had an entire army ready to march and die for him, a mighty fleet that could scour an entire world and he was well on his way to the eternal embrace of Daemonhood and a place at the True God's side. He understood so much now and was so much, and he finally had an answer to the question that started it all. Why did Haldrek have to die?, the answer was obvious now. Haldrek had to die so that Alekxadre could discover his true destiny. The eightfold path had beckoned Alekxadre, and he walked the path of Chaos. He had been born into the wrong destiny as a servant of the False Emperor and the True Gods had seen fit to right this wrong. Haldrek's death was the catalyst that set Alekxadre onto the eightfold path, and set him free from the False Emperor's lies.
'Yes. You see the truth. You are free. You are rewarded,'