Servants of Mankind
“I see your application for the Guard was mishandled gravely, Haamon. Perhaps start by looking for some keepsakes from that brothel you were born in.” – Brother Sergeant Reuenthal Arken of the Sons of Corax.
The blackness seemed never-ending. Neophyte Darius stood at a viewing port on the Imperial Navy vessel, the Orion
, gazing into the endless black of night. This he thought, was the ultimate irony of the universe. All that he looked upon was holy property of the Emperor of Man, and thus the Imperium of Man. He was to die fighting for this, this emptiness.
But, just as the silence around him was a heavy, and somehow full quiet, so too was this magnificent void full. Out there, he knew, there were entire worlds that had not seen or even heard of most of the enemies of mankind. For this peace - this wellbeing and safety, he knew there was a price to be paid in blood. He shifted his weight nervously. His life was pledged in service to the God-Emperor, and to the Imperium of Man. For the holy Emperor, and to protect all of humanity, he felt his life was the least he could pay. He was not afraid to die. What did unnerve him however, was the severity of this charge. If he failed in his duty, entire worlds could fall, to be consumed in the fires of the enemies - entire peoples wiped out, or worse.
He looked down and smiled solemnly. He had worked hard to get to where he was, a Neophyte in the Brotherhood of warriors of the Adeptus Astartes whose home world was near his system – The Sons of Corax
. A long history of bloody service to the Holy Emperor was behind this chapter, though it remained a comparatively obscure one. He looked at the weapon he had been given, and reflected that his sacrifice had been well worthwhile. He raised his arm and stared at his hand in wonder. His arm now rippled with strength that would have been impossible before his acceptance to the Chapter. The rest of his body was a similar story - a twisting, bulging cacophony of muscle and sinew. His skeleton was closer to armor than bone; he was able to shrug off wounds that would be fatal to even the strongest un-enhanced human and was more resistant to poisons. He stood almost twice the height of his non-Astartes counterparts, and would live for centuries to come. His body had been infused with a gene seed of the Adeptus Astartes, improved upon in every way. This was his weapon, and he would use it to serve the Emperor of Mankind wherever possible.
“Admiring the Real Estate?” said a voice next to him. Darius started slightly, and turned to see a scarred and cratered face staring out into the abyss.
“Brother Sergeant Arken - I didn’t hear you approach, Sir.” he replied, staring at the long scar that started at his sergeant’s right eye and ran down to his mouth. There a large triangle of flesh was missing from what would have otherwise been his upper lip and part of his face.
Sergeant Arken turned to face him, and Darius, feeling suddenly very aware of himself, saluted briskly. Arken grimaced and turned back to the stars.
“No need for that kind of formality here, Neophyte. By rights I shouldn’t even be acknowledging your existence outside of combat.”
This was true, Arken was a celebrated veteran of hundreds of campaigns, and had long served alongside fully realized Marines. He paused. “In other words, the very fact that I’m speaking to you should tell you we’re past the niceties.”
There was a deep silence for several moments, during which Darius wondered if he should speak to be polite, or if it would be considered impudent. He decided to take the Sergeants words at face value and ignore formality, figuring a gruff warrior such as Arken wouldn’t be too concerned about reading into the politics of his actions in any case.
“Sir, the other Neophytes and I are wondering why so many men have been deployed,” Arken seemed to stiffen at his words, “What foe could be out there to require so many of the Astartes to stop it?”
After a moment, the Sergeant suddenly smirked.
“Well you see, youngling, we have a bit of a problem in the Chapter at the moment...” He grinned evilly at Darius, who blanched.
“Sir, what would that be?” Darius noticed a certain mischievous twinkle in his Battle Brother’s eye.
“Well, we have so many damned recruits messing up our ranks we don’t have enough marines to hold their hands.” He looked mock-serious “But let me assure you, through the Divine Will of the Emperor, we shall find a way.”
Darius let out a nervous chuckle, and grinned at his commander.
“But in all seriousness,” the Sergeants change of tone caught Darius’ attention instantly. It was almost concern. “We are just going on a simple, routine mission. Heretic scum has been discovered at our destination, and as we have no idea as to their numbers, or how widespread they are, we’re simply making sure we have enough men to cover the area.” he noticed the slightly panicked look of the young Neophyte. “I’m talking about entire planets here recruit. We might have to spread out over an entire system. As I’m sure you can appreciate, that could take years with a small detachment. It’s nothing to do with the ferocity of our enemy, merely the vast scale of the terrain.”
Darius nodded, and Arken threw him one sideward glance, before turning to leave.
“Besides, that’s not what you should be worried about,” he said as he walked out the cold, metallic room, “There’s something you’ll soon learn about routine missions Neophyte.”
“What’s that, Sir?”
Arken paused at the doorway. “There’s no such thing.” he turned, “Begin preparing for planet fall, we drop in 72 hours.”
He walked out, leaving Darius feeling a lot more shaken than before.
“Planet-side in five mikes
,” a tinny voice shrilled out over the vox communicators, barely audible over the deafening rattling and shaking of the stuffy drop-pod.
“Five minutes until landing!” roared Sergeant Arken, the Marine in charge of the small group of fresh recruits huddled inside the confines of the small vehicle. He held up a hand, showing all three of his fingers, as well as his robotic thumb and index finger.
Darius swallowed hard, his bolt pistol clutched tight against his chest plate, and the long sword that most of the Sons carried held between his knees. The Neophytes in other chapters were afforded very little in the way of armaments, usually taking the role of scouts. The Sons of Corax, however, relied heavily on scouts due to their fast paced tactics. Thusly; they saw scouting as a highly honorable position, and it was rarely awarded to any. To be awarded a position of specialist reconnaissance was an honor almost on par with being awarded Crux Terminatus
. This was lucky for Darius and his fellow recruits, as they were given full power armor and weaponry, painted in matte black and various grays, with their troop type icon on their right shoulder and the chapters symbol - a sword passing through a winged, jawless human skull from top to bottom - on their left, painted in pure white.
The Sons of Corax also favored melee combat, feeling that it was not only a more honorable way to fight, but that it enabled them to be much stealthier. Seeing a blade as a weapon of discretion, they were largely favored by the chapter as primary weapons, in lieu of firearms. They prided themselves on closing range quickly, and destroying their opponents in close quarters while being as silent as possible in doing so. They even coated their blades in a matte black finish to avoid a gleaming weapon giving them away.
Next to him, Brother Neophyte Amon vomited. Arken decided to look the other way, pretending not to have seen this. Arken could have rightfully executed Amon for showing weakness, as well as defiling a vehicle in the Emperor’s service. Darius had great respect for Arken, who showed good understanding of the recruits. He was not lenient with them, but he was fair.
” came the shrill voice again.
Over the shaking and deafening roar of descent, Arken stood up and bellowed “Okay brothers, suit up! Bring the wrath of the Emperor to his enemies!” He looked around at the group of fighters, a terrifying gleam in his eyes, “Time to lose your virginity!”
The fighters’ morale lightened with Arken’s blood-lusting jubilance. The brothers fought with no helmets, seeing it as not only more honorable to do so, but also to allow themselves to rely better on their super-honed and enhanced senses, rather than electronic equipment. They performed last minute checks of their weapons, loosening their swords in the scabbards and cocking their pistols, pulling back the slide slightly and peering in to ensure a round had been chambered. Brother Markus lit the pilot light of his flamer.
“Prepare!” thundered Arken once more. Moments later, a jarring thud threw most of them from their seats. Arken remained standing, resolute, unperturbed. The pods thrusters had kicked in, to stop them becoming a bloodied black tangle of metal, ceramite and Emperor-fearing gore. Amon exchanged glances with a grinning Markus, who imitated his vomiting, grinning. Amon glared at him and quickly used his arms to throw back an offensive gesture of his own. Darius caught Brother Markus’ eye and they both chuckled.
The drop pods continual shuddering was suddenly exacerbated, followed by an enormous collision. This time, less of the Neophyte brothers were thrown from their seats. “Opening hatch
” came the tinny voice of the pods automatic systems.
“Get out there boys, show me I didn’t make a mistake by putting you in that armor!” yelled the Sergeant. The recruits nearest the door flooded out in a slightly disorganized storm of clanking, blackened ceramite. Darius waited for Amon to stand, followed suit, and went through the opening in the side of the pod in pursuit of his battle-brother.
They emerged on the outskirts of a large city. Arken swiftly pointed them in the direction of a stationary column of Rhino transports. As they neared them, at a brisk jog, a marine stepped out of the lead Rhino. It was a Brother Sergeant.
“Too good to march, Neophytes?” he grinned widely.
Darius grinned back as Arken walked up to the man, as fellow Brother Sergeants, the two were on equal ground.
“Greetings, Velerious”, spoke Arken.
“Likewise, old friend.” Velerious returned the greeting, placing a gauntleted hand on the shoulder pad of his counterpart. He led Arken off to the side, and began a lengthy discussion with him.
Standing awkwardly beside fierce looking Battle Brothers of one of the famed Echelon
fighting squads, the recruits kept their mouths shut out of respect.
Arken and Velerious continued their hushed discussion for several minutes, by the end of which both warriors had rather serious looks on their faces. They patted each other on the shoulders, and then started back towards their respective squads.
Velerious motioned to the Echelon
warriors, they fell in behind him, and he moved off to the south, Echelon IV
in tow. Arken raised his voice above the racket of the idling Rhinos; “We head north. En-route those of our chapter that were riding in the Rhinos intercepted several vox communications from all over the area. We believe the cultists are more densely concentrated to the South, and that’s why you saw those members of Echelon IV
head in that direction.”all of the Brother-Sergeants teasing had evaporated now that they were in the theater of war; he became a lot less intimidating to the recruits, and showed them some respect, albeit slight in comparison to what he showed fully inducted Battle Brothers. “While we may not be esteemed fighters of an Echelon
battle squad, we are still Adeptus Astartes. No enemy of Man can stand before us. Remember men, you have all passed selection into a chapter of Space Marines, this is no small feat. Today, prove your worth to the Chapter; spill the blood of your enemies in their hundreds.” he looked around, making eye contact with each of them in turn, giving some simple orders; “Keep alert, and kill them all. Move out.”
Arken immediately turned on his heel and walked off, leaving the Neophytes to catch up. They passed through street after street, littered with burning vehicles and charred remains. The city had long since passed beyond the control of the local PDF, and even the nearby garrisoned force of Imperial Guard. Though the warriors of the Astartes often criticized the fighters of the Guard, they all knew very well that these were the best soldiers of the un-modified human race. For an incursion to pass beyond their control, it had to be quite powerful. This was the reason it warranted the attention of the Sons of Corax.
As the small group of genetically enhanced warriors passed deeper into the Northern Complex – the large, almost sub-city north of the center of Aartmar – they encountered more and more bodies. Many they now found were without heads. Those that retained their heads had their throats slit from ear to ear, and were pale, as if their blood had been purposely drained. A strange geometric symbol was painted in blood in many areas. When Darius looked directly at the symbol, his eyes stung and his head throbbed with pain, dull but very powerful. He knew it must be a symbol of the Ruinous Powers, one of the daemonic gods of Chaos.
Arken knelt down and brushed one such symbol away, using a nearby fallen branch, which he then ordered Brother Markus to burn with his flamer. As the warrior let forth a wall of flame, incinerating the branch and cleansing the spot that the mark had been on, Arken turned to them. “Brothers, it is the mark of the Blood-God” he smirked; “In some ways this is good news – the followers of the Blood-God don’t care whose blood is spilt, as long as someone’s is – that includes their own. They’ll make easy targets.”
Darius wasn’t convinced that the Brother-Sergeant was even slightly pleased by this turn of events.
“Yes Sir?” came the reply.
“Burn any symbol you can. We will cleanse this place and re-take it for the Emperor.”
Markus nodded and adjusted part of his weapon, before walking over to a nearby symbol and dousing the entire area in purifying flame.
Arken continued in his now calm and serious tone; “Try not to look at it; it is corrupting to the soul.”
They journeyed further and further north, nearing the center of the Northern Complex. They had encountered groups of savage looking people, covered in blood, but all such groups had retreated away from them before the marines could react to their presence, always towards the center of the complex. Looming ahead was a tall tower that marked the center of this area. It had been clearly visible for the last hour, dominating the twilight skyline. Darius got more and more anxious the closer they came to the tower, and it seemed so close now that they must be almost at its base. He was not afraid, but hyper-alert. The squad rounded a final corner and came to a long, wide street stretching to the Central Northern Tower. In front of them it was eerily empty, all the way to the tower, which had the mark of the Blood God scrawled all over every inch of it that was reachable to the heretics.
“Seems we’ve reached our destination” remarked Arken casually. He motioned the recruits into a nearby burned out building.
“Okay, listen closely. I want a box formation around one man, center point in the middle of the street and wide flanks of two each side, close to each other – so if you’re not on point, you’ll be a lot closer to whoever’s with you on the flank than you will the point man. After all, we see nothing on the street which makes ambush from the sides a lot more likely. Markus, I want you in the center with your flamer, keep an eye out – especially for snipers. I don’t want to carry that thing back myself” - the Neophytes knew though this sounded like a joke, it most certainly wasn’t one. Arken paused for a moment, looking thoughtful. “I’m putting you there why?”
“To respond to either flank as necessary quickly, Sir, and to reduce the threat of the heavy weapon falling due to an ambush.” said Markus.
Arken nodded his approval. “Good. Remember you’ll be the eyes on the windows above us, so keep a sharp lookout for snipers. Don’t worry about the flanks, unless you think one of your brothers isn’t up to the task.” he waited, as this was a serious point. Markus remained silent, and Darius was thankful he trusted them. “Very well. Swords out brothers; check your weapons.”
Darius slid his blackened sword out from its scabbard almost reverently. He felt a surge of pride whenever he saw it. It had been custom built and weighted to his preferences, and had the date of his acceptance into the chapter inscribed just above the hilt. It was the physical manifestation of his warrior spirit, the end of the swords hilt fashioned into a winged skull. Every one of his Battle Brothers had such a sword, and in this way the proud chapter was represented very clearly wherever it was found. Few who ever saw the dark marines fight with the deadly sword ever forgot it, and so the icon of the chapter was widely feared amongst their enemies, and respected amongst other fighters of the Imperium.
Traditionally, when a marine died, his gene-seed and organ implants were harvested using his own sword, and his body then buried along with it. It was considered disrespectful to use anything apart from the dead warriors own blade.
Darius brought the flat of his blade up to his face. He turned his chin slightly upwards, so that he faced the heavens, pressing the blade against his lips and speaking a silent prayer to the Emperor of mankind.
After allowing the brothers a moment to offer their prayers to the eternal Emperor, Arken stood up and went to the door of the shelter. “Time to leave” he said.
Suddenly an echoing crack followed a brief flash of red light, and the room was showered in shattered ceramite and gore. Arken dropped to his knees, wide eyed in disbelief. There was a gaping hole in his lower right abdomen. He slowly and almost pensively brought a hand up and touched the wound. Blood ran out of his mouth, as four more cracks rang out. Only one missed its mark and impacted on the floor to the left of Arken. As he fell forward, they saw several entry wounds, many in vital areas. The Brothers swiftly grabbed the dying Sergeant and pulled him in further to the building.
Arken had been hit by high power lasguns, designed to be used as sniper rifles. He looked slightly hysterical, and he grabbed Darius’ by the forearm and pulled him in near, “Lead them.” he managed to say, through a wall of bloody spit. Darius looked down at the centuries old warrior, who was still trying to get out one word... “S..Sep..”
“Seppuken?” Darius breathed into the Sergeants ear so that only he could hear it, denying the others an audience, even with their super fine senses. He hoped that was not what Arken was trying to say. But Arken nodded fervently.
Darius exhaled heavily, as shots rang out, hitting the floor and walls around the marines.
“What in the warp do we do now?” bellowed an enraged Amon. “They’ve only gone and shot our bloody Sergeant!”
Haamon and Markus looked at each other, and Haamon was the first to speak. “Darius, he told you to lead us, what do we do… Sir?”
Hearing himself referred to as Sir made the hair on Darius’ neck stand on end. He said only one thing.
Darius crouched down and pulled the sergeants sword from its sheath. Slowly, carefully, he brought it up perpendicular to the sergeant’s body. He had been charged with performing the rite of Seppuken, the Sons most sacred art. Seppuken was seen as the ultimate warrior’s death; a truly honorable one. It was when a marine that knew he was dying would have his gene seed and enhanced organs removed while he was still alive and conscious. Even for a Space Marine, the practice was horribly painful, but in that the Sons of Corax found the true beauty of the rite – to endure that much pain in dedication of the Emperor was seen as a true enhancement to merely giving ones life for the Emperor. The recipient of Seppuken was not given anything to dull the pain, because that would negate the entire point.
Darius briefly closed his eyes and exhaled one last time.
“Whom do you serve?
” he roared into Arken’s paling face.
“The Emperor of Terra, Emperor of mankind and of the Holy Imperium.” Arken spat back, spraying blood everywhere as he clutched his ruined torso. Much of it landed on Darius.
“To what end do you give your life?
“The destruction of…” he stopped briefly, coughing up blood and unknown lumps of gore, before continuing with an extremely pained look on his face, “the destruction of traitors to Him, The Emperor of Man. To the protection of His servants; and to the spreading of His Divine Will.”
“Your soul is entwined within the very steel this blade is forged from. Do you agree?
“As a child of the Holy Emperor, you acknowledge the presence of His Divine Spirit within this blade also?”
Darius felt ill, but pressed on with the rite, pulling off the sergeants breastplate as he did so. “You hold within your mortal body the keys to the creation of another generation of warriors who will pledge service to the Emperor of Man, and do his will. What say you?
Arken looked like he wouldn’t last much longer, this needed to be done fast. By the door, Markus vomited, knowing what was next. Amon glared at him.
“I pledge these to the service of mankind, and to the protection of the Imperium. I request they be removed from my body, to be used again in service to the God-Emperor. Hear my charge, and answer.”
Arken looked into his Sergeants eyes once more. They held a fierce determination that almost frightened the Neophyte, and even so close to death, blazed with fire. “Brother-Sergeant Reuenthal Arken of the Sons of Corax, warrior of the Adeptus Astartes, servant of mankind; you are deemed worthy of this divine rite. Your organs will be harvested, to be re-used to forge the strongest warrior known to man – a Space Marine, to act in your stead. Hear me and make your peace, brother, for death comes to you! You are to sit at the Emperors right hand for eternity!”
Holding back the urge to vomit like Markus, Darius grimaced and plunged the blade into Arken’s body, which convulsed and twitched beneath the blow. He placed a hand firmly on the Sergeants shoulder, and pulled the long blade back toward himself. Arken screamed in agony, over and over.
Darius worked as quickly as he could, because only after all the organs vital to the creation of a new marine had been removed could they put him out of his pain, to do so earlier would be a dishonor to Arken, and to himself.
Cutting a large C in his Sergeants body, he lifted the flesh in the center of his torso, and blood flowed freely as Darius exposed his rib plate. There was a thin slice in it, where Darius had put the sword too deep – he cursed himself silently, he had only needed to cut the flesh. No wonder the Sergeant had screamed so much.
Darius wasn’t sure what to do now, meanwhile Arken was fighting to keep calm. Blood was almost streaming out of his mouth.
“Darius, open it
!” yelled Haamon.
The genetic enhancement of the marines had fused their ribs into a single, solid plate, coated in armor. Darius pointed the sword skyward, and tried to smash the plate using the butt of the hilt. This caused Arken to roar in pain, but did little to his rib plate, merely causing a slight spiderweb crack.
“In the name of the bloody throne…” cursed Darius, standing up. He raised his right foot, and stomped on the Sergeants chest, hard. The combined force of the enhanced warrior’s strength, combined with the motors and weight of his power armor, cracked a hole in the plate. Arken was deafening now. Darius quickly knelt down and pulled out the broken fragments of bone and armor plating. He quickly located and removed all the implanted organs he could find, placing them religiously in the cavity of the upturned breastplate of Arken’s power armor. He then opened a hole in the Sergeants neck, removing several more precious lumps of flesh. Arken began to calm, the pain subsiding as his body gave up, especially as he had lost a lot of blood. Darius hoped he had not died yet, or the whole exercise would have been in vain.
“Arken!” he yelled in the marines face from mere centimeters away.
Arken did not respond. Darius raised his hand and slapped the Sergeant, hard. His eyes slowly opened.
”Is it done?” he rasped, dried blood caked around his mouth.
“Yes Sir, it is done. You die with the highest honor.”
Arken smiled. “Even recruits have their uses I suppose” he chuckled briefly before coughing up yet more gore.
Darius smiled slightly, and felt incredibly honored to have heard the warrior laugh. It meant he considered him a friend. Darius placed his hand on the man’s shoulder. “It was an honor to serve with you, Brother.”
Arken looked him in the eyes with a bloodshot stare “You will go far, Neophyte. The Emperor protects.” and went limp.
The recruits stood silent, dumbfounded, for several minutes, the sharp crack of the enemies lasguns forgotten entirely.
“Holy Terra” said a recovering Markus. It was obvious from the sound of his voice that he had barely managed to limit his vomit to one outburst.
Darius felt a new fire within himself. “Brothers, our Sergeant has been killed by traitors to the Imperium. This is an act that will not go unpunished. There is only war - let us bring it to our enemies! We will not let Brother Reuenthal Arken have died in vain
!” He looked around at them, a fierce rage building up inside of him. Raising his sword high, he roared; “For Terra! For Humanity! For Arken
!” his brothers chorused.
They charged out of the building, lasfire landing on the ground around them and bouncing off their armor. They ran in a broad line towards the Tower, roaring at the top of their superhuman lungs.
Darius saw a round pass straight through Amon’s shoulder, exiting in a spray of blood. But the warrior remained unperturbed, continuing towards the enemy at full speed. They saw a group of about twenty cultists in the doorway ahead of them. They ran towards them, straight into their fire, and half the heretics broke rank and ran toward the oncoming Astartes as fast as they could.
They were slaughtered in moments, the blackened steel of the Space Marines blades swinging in wide arcs, dismembering the traitors and reducing them to bloodied piles of limbs, without the warriors ever breaking stride. Markus unleashed his flamer in the direction of the door, the purifying clouds of fire billowing out the windows as they consumed the remaining cultists and everything else in the room.
The Marines barely paused, running into the building. The room was empty, several spot fires smoldering in the corners. They found a hallway that had several rooms branching off either side as it went down.
“Leave that to me,” said Markus eagerly, running down the hall and out of sight.
“Brothers, up the stairs! Find every last traitor and reduce him to nothing!” shouted Darius, leading the charge. For an hour, the marines climbed floor after floor, clearing countless rooms. They whirled their swords, fired their pistols, becoming the very embodiment of the Emperor’s fury, as they expunged every last bit of taint they could.
Eventually they came to the top of the tower – a single, large room. It stretched out ahead of the three brothers into an impossible distance, adorned with unholy symbols, and filled with innumerable cultists. Some of them had grown extra limbs, some had armor, yet others held weapons that glowed with unholy power.
”Brothers! As one!” roared Darius.
Amon and Haamon came to his left and right. The three warriors stood with their shoulder plates pressed together in a resolute triangle of death as cultists screamed and ran at them without hesitation.
The Brothers set to work, carving the heretics apart with cruel strokes of steel, sending blood and gore in all directions. No enemy was spared, the brothers letting forth unbridled retribution, consuming their enemies in stroke after stroke of blackened steel death.
But the cultists seemed without limit. As they killed one, it seemed four would take his place. Following the approach of heavy footsteps, a torrent of flame suddenly engulfed the nearest swarm of heretics. Markus roared with righteous fury as he unleashed death. The heretics continued to swarm, with no sign of relenting.
“No enemy of man can stand before us
”recalled Darius, and laughed aloud as he joyfully swung his masterfully crafted sword, doing the Emperors will.
Word Count: 4,999 (haha, I know right?)
This was my first time attempting to write any kind of story. I would appreciate any constructive criticism to help me improve!
Also please note I'm a little hazy on WH40k lore.
One thing I will point out.. the more well-read among you may point out to me that the reason new recruit marines do not wear power armour is because they physically can't - as the subcutaneous organ that allows them to do so has not fully matured and spread across their body. However, in the spirit of pointing out things, I will point out the ultimate out-pointers (erm), the Grey Knights. Their recruits do wear power armor immediately. In other words, I haven't made up anything that's never been seen before. It's already in the lore somewhere, I just used it for my guys.
A second quick point, I don't know how many of you will be wondering if I have extremely convenient typos that appear as totally different words, but mikes = military jargon for minutes. ie; its no typo
Thanks to all who read it, and I hope you enjoyed it!
Writing 5000 words in just two sittings (about 7000 if you count what I was forced to cut out) has worn me out. Hope it was worth it.
So yes, I hope you all enjoy it, please, any and all feedback is more than welcome.
PS: Ploss - enjoy reading all the entries, wow you must have the stamina of a racehorse mate.