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post #1 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-28-10, 06:04 AM Thread Starter
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Default Beneath And Beyond The Eyes Of Gods

“If a pure man were to enter hell, the very essence of that infernal place would unravel and be undone”-Text found and translated from Old Earth library archive.

Part 1: At The Edge Of The Storm

The first sign that something big was happening came when Astartes of the Word Bearers legion left the men of the Imperial 45th Army Group. Packing into their Stormbirds the Astartes offered no word as to why they were leaving, only that “A greater calling beckons us”.
As the stone grey assault craft soared into the sky seventy thousand mortal men of the 55th Expedition Fleet were left alone on a world with a war against the barbaric orks only half-way prosecuted.
As the first uneasy night fell, the perimeter patrols, tripled in number since the events of the morning, heard the first cries of the ork natives in a month. But that alone was not frightening to the men of the Glison 33rd Regulars, veterans in their own right commanded by the accomplished Colonel Fortensen. The fact that they were cries of victory did.

The next morning brought little comfort.
Colonel Fortensen was in the command center, a prefabricated structure designed for army commanders on campaign. Pouring himself a cup of caffeine, mixed with battery acid if the taste was any indicator, Fortensen looked out the window to see a dying yellow sun rising to bring a new day to this miserable world. The sun gave the land a sickly hue, but that wouldn’t last long. In just a few hours the second sun would appear on the horizon and bathe the world in a blinding white light that would require the men of the Imperial Army to don special eye-wear.
‘How’s the caffeine this morning?’ asked a slightly younger lieutenant colonel as he walked into what was half jokingly called the “rec room”.
In the corner of the room two majors from the other regiments conversed quietly, occasionally looking in Fortensen’s direction.
‘Shitty Mortun, shitty like how you say hello every damn morning,’ said Fortensen.
‘The day I don’t ask how it is is the day it tastes like fine wine,’ replied Mortun.
‘That fails to explain why you think it’s a good way to say hello and it brings up the question as to why you think wine is a good thing to partake in in the morning,’
‘After yesterday I think we could all use a damn drink,’
‘You’re right on that account at any rate,’
Mortun grunted in response and took the caffeine pot offered by Fortensen.
‘I think we’d better just take these to the war room and not waste time here,’ said the senior officer.
‘Right right right,’ said Mortun.
Walking into the war room, where all operations for this war had taken place under the leadership of the Primarch Lorgar’s chosen Astartes, the Champion Lord Tor’Kalrion.
In the center of the room was a large holo-image projector table with a 3-D image of the Imperial Army base and surrounding landscape.
Gathered around the projector table were thirty Imperial Army commanders, each with a portion of the Imperial force on the world under their command. Without the presence of the Astartes commanders that had been here just a few hours ago, the room seemed almost empty. Without the Champion Lord, the room seemed to have been built for absent gods.
Fortensen looked around the room at the crowd of colonels, generals and other officers. Then he looked at the empty command throne that the Primarch had sat in when planning campaigns against the ferocious greenskin that thoroughly inhabited this world like a hive of insects.
Looking at the crowd of officers gathered Fortensen noticed one absence that didn’t leave him hopeless.
General Kor’Farrah, commander of the Colchis Royal Guard wasn’t here. That was good, the arrogant bastard was always using his favor with the Champion Lord to boss the other officers around and get whatever he wanted. Fortensen was glad of his absence.
Fortensen remarked on this to Mortun.
‘Maybe his lord took him and his men with him,’ he said.
‘No, I saw their tents out in that little eight pointed pattern they seem to be so damn fond of,’
Their curiosity was put to death when all other commanders in the room turned to the entrance and looked in the direction of Fortensen and Mortun.
Mortun looked behind his companion and himself.
‘Fort, I think we’d better get out of the way,’ he said.
‘What for?’ said the older man before turning around himself, and he saw why.
Standing just outside the doorway was Kor’Farrah, with five Astartes in dried blood red power armor providing a body guard.
‘Move aside Colonel,’ said the General.
Fortensen obliged, too taken aback by the Astartes.
What happened next took shocked him even more.
Kor’Farrah sat on the Primarch’s command throne.
Several of the gathered officers let out asps of disbelief, some of anger, all of surprise. Such a brash act could only be made by one with absolute knowledge that he could. The five Astartes guarding him would certainly lend aid to that belief.
‘Gentlemen,’ said Kor’Farrah, ‘Thank you for coming today,’ he continued as though today were like any other and there were no ork horde within a hundred miles of the Imperial Army camp that just witnessed the greater three thirds of the Imperial force leave.
‘While the great and noble Primarch Lorgar of the 17th Legio Astartes and the greater portion of his legion’s strength depart for the Isstvan system, this war here still needs to be finished, which is why I, chosen of Colchis have been left in overall command, with twenty-five Astartes and the 45th Imperial Army group at my disposal,’
Fortensen couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Kor’Farrah was a madman, a manic who reveled in shedding the blood of his enemies, even if they were human and had surrendered already, he made and ideal man to pit against the greenskin, who did not know what surrender even was, but he was a terrible man to serve under.
The Colonel spent the rest of the command meeting only half listening to Kor’Farrah; he was too preoccupied with thoughts on how to get his men as far away from here as possible. There just wasn’t something right about the new commander and he didn’t want to know what it was, he just wanted to be far away from it.
When the meeting was adjourned Fortensen stalked out of the command bastion as fast as he could, with Mortun right behind him.
‘This is all bullshit,’ said the younger man.
‘You’ve got that right kid,’ said Fortensen.
‘What the hell are we gonna do with that madman in charge now?’
‘I do not know, try to survive this war, get a transfer to another expedition fleet would be the best option I think,’
‘That’s the only option I think,’
‘Right again. Just get to your men, tell them what’s happening and get them ready, we don’t know when Farrah is gonna send us into the meat grinder,’
‘Weren’t you listening?’ asked Mortun
‘Somewhat, I was too distracted, why?’
‘Both our regiments are going straight to the front for the next phase of the operations here,’
‘Shit,’ said Fortensen.
Shit was right.
Howling like daemons the orks swarmed into the defense trenches amongst the men of the Glison 33rd Regulars. Spearing bayonets into their bellies and firing their lasguns full auto the Regulars took many orks with them, but it was a hard fight, and many Regulars would not fight again.
Private Clarkson thought as much as he hurled a frag grenade down a section of trench that had been taken over completely.
Flame and shrapnel ended many orks and their death cries pounded the ears.
‘Take it back!’ shouted sergeant Hansen and forty Glison Regulars charged into the stretch of trench and stabbed any orks they found, some men abandoning their lasguns when they ran out of ammunition picked up the mare barbaric greenskin weapons.
Clarkson charged with the rest unloading on the enemy and beating them back over the top of the dusty earthen trench.
‘Push them back!’ shouted someone, somewhere.
As if they had been inviting the greenskin in for tea and biscuits earlier.
As more orks were cut down by las-fire more and more poured into the trench.
‘Where’s the damn artillery?’ shouted someone, Clarkson had no idea who and cared even less. It was a valid point though.
In answer to the question the sound of incoming fire washed over Clarkson’s ears and he risked looking up, away from the fight, even though he knew it would be impossible to see the shots fired.
He felt their impact though.
Crashing into the ground just in front of the trenches the artillery shells blasted apart scores of orks, but more importantly, blew the earth apart as well.
Rock and earth blasted into the air in all directions, some landing in the ork horde, some coming down to cover the embattled Imperials.
Clarkson raised is arm to shield his eyes from the stinging dust just as the force of the explosions knocked him and his comrades off their feet.
The rocks and the hard earth dug into Clarkson’s back and pained him even as he tried to get back on his feet, but a massive ork was charging towards him just as he opened his eyes.
He tried to grab his lasgun but it was just out of reach of his outstretched arm, his fingers just barely managing to touch the blazing hot barrel.
He reached for his sidearm instead, knowing it couldn’t possibly stop such a brute, but refusing to go down without fight all the same.
He blasted away with the laspistol, firing five shots at the greenskin’s head and doing little more than burn it.
The creature gave a barbaric war cry and raised its chainaxe above its head.
Clarkson closed his eyes in anticipation of the end of his life.
The axe came down.
But Clarkson felt no pain.
He heard a ringing in his ears and looked to the left; there the axe was, embedded in the ground and the haft quivering.
He looked back at the ork that had just been about to kill him and saw that where once a head had been, there was nothing but a burnt and smoking crater between the shoulders.
Clarkson looked behind him and saw Colonel Fortensen, one hand holding his power blade, humming with deadly energy, and the other holding a plasma pistol aimed at space the ork’s head had formerly occupied.
Fortensen didn’t spare him a glance as he ran past him blasting away with his pistol into the ork horde charging through the breach into the trench. The men of the Glison 33rd followed, lest their beloved commander fall.
Clarkson fought his way to his feet, picking up his lasgun as fast as possible and bringing it back up to his shoulder to fire once more into the ork horde.
‘Damn that man, damn that man!’ shouted Fortensen, ‘he knew he was firing too close to the trenches and now we get the shit,’
Clarkson didn’t know who he was talking about, and he would have pitied that man, whoever he was, had he not almost been responsible for his death.
Fortensen raised his voice once more for him command vox.
‘Mortun now would be a damn fine time!’ he shouted.
Clarkson didn’t hear what the other man had to say, but he did hear the roar of a squadron of Vulture gunships as they soared low over the battlefield. He watched as they looped around over the ork horde and unleashed their deadly capacity for death.
Round after round of solid ammunition streamed from the miniguns slung to the wings into the mass of greenskin, chopping them into smaller and smaller pieces.
Underslung missiles screamed as they were launched at the ork vehicles, few as they were.
Explosions became the punctuation marks that ended the short sentences that were the lives of the orks charging into the breach.
‘That’s all nice and pretty Mortun but it won’t be enough,’ shouted Fortensen.
As if on que Valkyrie drop ships found their way above the breach and added their fire to the Vultures’.
The Vultures and Valkyries continued firing into the horde as dozens of repelling lines dropped from the troop ships.
Black carapace-armored troopers slid down from the lines, keeping hold with one hand on the repelling mechanism and other on their hellguns, firing into the ork mob below.
‘Make room for them men!’ shouted Fortensen.
The men of the Glison 33rd let out a triumphant yell at seeing their brothers in arms and charged forth, cutting down orks left and right.
They couldn’t clear out the orks fast enough though, and some still crowded the drop space for Lieutenant Colonel Mortun’s Flying Jackals.
Clarkson, towards the back of the human mob saw a black armored man, more decorated than the others, repel halfway down the line and then leap into the ork horde below, a power saber flaring with a new inflow of energy rushing up the blade.
‘Damn that man to,’ Clarkson heard Fortensen say, though he didn’t quite sound as mad as before.
The men of the Flying Jackals made it to the ground more or less in one piece and joined the fight in full force.
‘Get that man back!’ shouted Fortensen
Forming into phalanxes the thirty-six storm troopers of the first wave fired nonstop into the orks, pushing the howling beasts back.
Someone with a flamer opened up and poured fire on the greenskin.
The combined force of sixty or so Jackals and Glison Regulars fought their way through the ork horde and found the man that had leapt from the Valkyrie.
To Clarkson’s eyes he didn’t need rescuing.
Standing on the backs of two slain giants Lieutenant Colonel Mortun swung left and right with his power saber as he fired into the horde with his hell-pistol.
Laughing as he parried an ork blade before reversing his grip and stabbing the offending party, Mortun was Imperial valor incarnate.
The men of the two regiments were able to get to him before he was drowned in the tide of orks.
‘Next time, you can save yourself,’ said Fortensen.
‘Just setting an example for the children,’ said Mortun.
‘This needs to end now,’ said Fortensen, firing off three blasts from his plasma pistol.
‘I agree,’ said Mortun before raising a hand to his command vox ‘Major, I think firestorm pattern Foxtrot would really come in handy at about this time,’
‘Yessir,’ came a static riddled voice on the other end.
Mortun turned and looked at Clarkson who stood in awe of the officer.
‘Watch this kid, hopefully you only have to see it once, best lower your shades to,’ he said.
The Jackals had already lowered their shades when they heard their commander give his order on the vox, but the Glison needed more instruction for the sake of their ability to see.
Just as Clarkson and the rest of the Glison lowered their helmet shades a dozen squadrons of Vulture gunships soared out of the sky, dropping their payloads and lighting the battlefield up like the eyes of a god.
The orks vanished in the fire, vaporized by the heat.
Hundreds of Glison across the entire first defense line let out another triumphant roar and rose from the trenches to lend their fire to the slaughter.
More Valkyries dropped from the sky to unload scores of more deadly Jackals.
Glossy black Chimera APC’s of the Jackals roared onto the battlefield, bringing the heavy weapon teams of Mortun’s regiment to the fight. Normally left in the regiment’s motorpool, the Chimeras were not as favored as the Valkyries but Fortensen and Mortun’s battle plan called for them on this occasion.
The men watched as Vultures strafed the field, obliterating the orks and bringing victory to the Imperial forces by nightfall.
As roving patrols of the Glison and Jackals mopped up the last few bands of orks that clung to the rocky terrain Fortensen and Mortun had a brief moment with naught but loyal ears close to them.
‘I don’t think we were supposed to survive today.’ said Mortun, as they patrolled the outer perimeter. He held his power saber and hell pistol at the ready, but powered down for now.
‘I don’t think so either, that artillery fire was too close too often,’
‘What the hell are we gonna do about this?’
‘I don’t know, Farrah’s probably trying to figure out the same thing,’
‘Hmm. What if we commandeer one of the Navy ships?’
‘Won’t work, we’d need a troop carrier for that and Farrah’s got the Astartes, along with his own men, guarding them. No one gets on one without his permission,’
‘Wait,’ said Mortun. They, and their escort, stopped walking altogether.
‘Do you think the Astartes know?’
‘I haven’t thought about that,’ said Fortensen, his eyes widening in horror.
‘If they are that would mean the Primarch set Farrah down this path he’s on, that he’s ordered our deaths,’
‘But why the hell would he do that? We are loyal subjects of the Emperor, if anyone should be put to death it is Farrah, he’s almost a complete religious zealot,’
‘He’s also from Colchis, along with the Primarch,’
‘Favoritism is not beyond the reach of even His sons I suppose,’
‘No I suppose not. But if the Primarch want us dead what does that mean?’
Fortensen thought for a moment before the horrifying conclusion came to him.
‘He is no longer a loyal servant of the throne,’
‘Is that why he left? To wage war against it?’
‘Why are you asking me? If I had known I wouldn’t even have allowed my regiment to be in the same sector as the Primarch’s warriors , and that would have been the least of my actions,’
‘What could have possibly turned him away from his father?’
‘I don’t know, but we’ve been out of contact with the greater, and less remote, part of the Imperium for quite some time now in this system, we don’t know what’s been going on,’
‘Could there be a rebellion against the Emperor? I’ve heard scuttlebutt about Horus going renegade or something like that, Lorgar could be with him,’
‘That’s not something I want to think about right now, let’s just concentrate on getting off this rock in one piece,’
‘Right,’ said Mortun, clearly shaken at the thought of rebellion against everything the Emperor had created.
‘Markus,’ he said to one of his Jackals.
‘Yessir?’ asked the trooper, his voice quivering and fearful from what he had heard.
‘Are you a loyal soldier of the throne?’
‘Yessir,’
‘Would you give your life for the Emperor and his Imperium?’
‘Yessir,’
‘Would you walk through the fires of forgotten creeds for it?’
‘Yessir I would,’
‘Good, then give me some of the contraband smokes I know you carry with you,’
‘I think I’ll have one to,’ said Fortensen.
‘And one for him to,’ added Mortun, pointing to his friend.
‘Anyone else?’ asked Markus.
Not one man in that patrol returned to base without having inhaled the drugs.

Finished: Too Much Love Will Kill You (working title), an original fiction novel. Working on: Second draft of Too Much Love, and the first draft of A Winter's Tale (working title).
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post #2 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-28-10, 06:05 AM Thread Starter
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That night Clarkson was in his battalion barracks, gathered around the center of the room where the battalion’s commander, Captain Hicks, spoke as quietly as he could to the men. After the events of the last day, he didn’t have to raise his voice to be heard by everybody. Imperial artillery fire and orks made unusual, but not ineffective, allies when it came to murder.
‘Word just came down from the Colonel,’ the Captain said, ‘we need to go on full alert, enemies other than the orks could come for us during the night and we need to be prepared for that,’
‘But sir,’ said Sergeant Hansen ‘the Astartes made us turn in our weapons earlier for inspection and maintenance by Mechanicus, we’re unarmed, they even took the Colonel’s power sword!’
‘I know, which is why we need to get them back,’
‘What are the Jackals doing?’ asked a lieutenant.
‘The Colonel said Mortun and his lads are preparing their drop ships for a mass evac, quietly, so it might not be as effective as could be,’
‘Maybe not,’ Sergeant Hansen threw his weight into the conversation ‘the Mechanicus were never allowed near those things by the Jackals, they have their own motorpool for what they’re doing. Hopefully they still have control over it at least,’
‘That’s right, but it’s got little to do with our weapons situation,’
‘Yeah what do we do about that?’ someone asked.
‘Well first you wait for your commanding officer to explain the plan before interrupting him, and if you absolutely must do that, you add a sir,’ said Hicks.
That shut everyone up.
‘I will lead a small group of volunteers out of the barracks, our first mission will be to take a portable vox mast or some flashlights at the least, in order to establish communication with the rest of the regiment. General Kor’Farrah, it seems, is doing his damn best to make sure we can’t talk to each other no matter what,’
‘And after that sir?’ a lieutenant asked.
‘Then we find out what the colonel want us to do, and during the meantime we will be avoiding camp patrols under the direct command of Kor’Farrah, and this may include some of the Astartes that were left behind to cement his command, who will throw us in the detention center with no rations at best on some trumped up charge at best, and we don’t even know what they will do at worst yet. Any volunteers?’

Clarkson wished he hadn’t raised his hand to volunteer. Hiding from a searchlight under the support beams of a barrack structure inhaling the rough dust of this world with all sorts of probably poisonous insects crawling around was far from comfortable.
‘This just proves what the Captain was talking about,’ whispered sergeant Hansen as he crawled up alongside Clarkson.
‘What do you mean sarge?’ asked Clarkson.
‘The searchlight, it’s not focused on the perimeter, it’s looking down the gird lines,’
‘I see,’
‘Come on, the lights about to pass the ground in front of us, when it does we’ll have about fifteen seconds before it comes back, we’ll have to get to the next building in that time,’
‘Yessir,’
With that they crawled forward, moving just under the edge of the building, just out of sight of the searchlight operators.
‘Not quite what you had in mind when you enlisted eh?’ asked Hanesn.
‘No sarge I suppose not,’ said Clarkson as the light passed on the ground right before them.
‘Now!’
They moved, just as darkness came back to the path before them they moved, not wasting a second they would not get back.
They scrambled across the dusty avenue, not even considering rising to stand, the risk was too great.
They got under the next building just in time.
‘These avenues are too damn wide!’ hissed Hansen.
‘I agree with you there sarge,’ said Clarkson.
‘Come on, we’ve got to find some way to get our hands on a portable vox caster, or at least a helmet vox,’
‘How do we do that?’
‘Remember your stealth combat training?’
‘Yes,’
‘And your unarmed combat training?’
‘Yes,’
‘Well now it’s time to combine the two,’
Crawling toward the other side of the building the pair kept their eyes open for any patrols.
As they found their way to the edge of the building they spotted a platoon coming down the avenue, patrolling the camp most likely.
They waited as the platoon passed them, and saw to their delight two sets of legs stop while the rest kept walking.

A figure clad in a blood red cloak walked up behind the kneeling men in the center of circle intersected by four lines that made an eight pointed star. The smell of incense filled the room lit only by a few small candles.
‘Is it done?’ he asked.
‘These things take time,’ said the man ‘but I almost have them, they will fall for the trap soon enough,’
‘Good,’ said the cloaked man with a smile.

‘Now!’ hissed sergeant Hansen and the two troopers rose from their hiding spot and subdued the two troopers who had stopped for a smoke before the even knew what was happening.
They had just dragged the two unconscious bodies under the building before the searchlight came back.
‘Take their helmets and guns,’ said the sergeant.
Clarkson took the helmet off one of the troopers before prying his hands off the lasrifle and removing the pistol from the side holster, the combat knife was the last thing to get before the young soldier really looked at the man he had beaten.
‘Sarge come look at this,’ he whispered.
‘What?’ asked the older man.
‘Look at this guy’s head,’
Clarkson pointed to a scar on the Colchis trooper’s bald scalp, it was an eight pointed star, carved by a knife and now scarred over.
‘I saw the same thing on mine,’ said Hansen.
‘What does it mean?’
‘I don’t know, I think I skipped that part of the Trooper’s Manual,’ said Hansen, ‘Lets just get this stuff back to the barracks,’

‘They’ve taken the bait Lord,’ said the man in the eight pointed star.

‘Good job men,’ said Captain Hicks ‘let’s just hope everyone else got what they were after,’.
Along with Clarkson and sergeant Hansen, other teams had gone out as well, from all the other regimental barracks for similar purposes. Unfortunately, the weapons depot was guarded by Astartes, impossible to sneak past and impossible kill without some sort of weapon on hand and even if they could have managed it the noise would have been more than enough to bring the whole damn camp down on their heads.
Casting anxious glances out the windows of their barracks every few seconds, the men of the Glison 33rd went to work on the small vox units they had, trying to tap into the regiment’s emergency channel and establish communication with the rest of the regiment.
The few armed men in every company stood crouched behind beds turned on their sides with their stolen lasguns aimed at the doors, ready for anyone that tried to get in.
As the minutes turned to hours and early night, already pitch black on this world, turned into midnight, the men at the windows noticed the searchlights begin to focus more and more on the barracks block of the Regulars.

‘How’s it coming Larser?’ Colonel Fortensen asked his adjutant.
‘I’ve almost got it working sir, if the Jackals were doing it too it’d be a lot easier to get to the signal off their gunships’s vox strength,’
‘You know as well as I do they’re being watched much closer than we are, anything they try is a hundred time more likely to be seen,’
‘Yes sir,’ said Larser, not caring in the slightest because of how much more difficult it made his task.
‘Just get it done Larser,’ said Fortensen.
‘I think I’ve almost got it…’ Larser said as he coiled a small length of exposed wire around a thin brass rod used for hanging clothes.
‘Now!’ he exclaimed, just as a dozen searchlights outside stopped their routines and pointed straightaway at Fortensen’s personal barrack.
‘Shit,’ said Larser.
Twelve small balls were thrown though the windows, shattering them into a thousand pieces. The balls, grenades now, Fortensen saw, hit the floor just before exploding in a large blast of light and noise that sent fifty men falling down blind and deaf.
Fortensen just managed to open his eyes before a shape came running up to him, raised its arms and battered what he knew was a lasguns stock into his head and finished what the flashbangs started.

‘Shit, that was Fortensen’s barracks,’ said Mortun, looking out the window his men’s motorpool. He watched as a hundred men, spearheaded by five of the Astartes break into the building.
‘Stop everything! Stop everything!’ he shouted at his men ‘The sooner they find out the Glison were trying to contact us the sooner they come barging through our doors!’
‘Why don’t they fight back sir?’ asked one of the troopers, Mortun thought his name was Gerer.
‘Because shit for brains the Astartes practically forced them to turn in their weapons, every one of them, for “maintenance”’ said Markus, one of Mortun and Fortensen’s “inner circle”.
‘Why do we still have ours then?’
‘We don’t have all of them,’ answered Mortun this time ‘we had to turn in our hellguns to, whoever’s behind all this wanted us unarmed to but we were able to hide some in the gun and dropships because they know we’ll never surrender them to anyone and they likely don’t quite know which side we’ll fall on so they probably wanted the Glison to feel like everyone was turning over their weapons while keeping us almost happy and more pliable to their aims,’
‘Sir that was quite a mouthful,’ said Markus.
‘I know,’ said Mortun, ‘I was kinda realizing some of it as I spoke, thinking out loud as it were,’
‘Well it explains quite a bit,’
‘I know,’.
‘Do they know the Glison were trying to contact us?’
‘Not if we managed to power down all our equipment,’ said Mortun, looking over at his senior technician and raising an eyebrow. The technician nodded back.
‘Right now we just have to sit, wait,’ said Mortun, looking at his gathered men, ‘and find out if someone’s gunning for us,’
‘So we’re just gonna abandon them?’ someone asked.
‘No, we’re going to save them, I just don’t want to get us all killed when we’re doing that,’ said Mortun.

Two men dragged Colonel Fortensen’s limp body upright by the arms with his legs trailing after him. A black sack covered his head, at first he had thought it just a normal sack but once the men had put it on him he couldn’t hear a single should, couldn’t see the light through the threads, couldn’t smell, couldn’t even feel the heat of this world through it. He was devoid of all his senses, with only his mind for company.
The next thing Fortensen felt was the floor as his kidnappers threw him to it.
A strong arm gripped the back of his head, lifted it up just enough, and slammed it back onto the floor.
Fortensen was groaning in pain as the sack was ripped off his head.
‘I will ask you a very simple series of questions and you will answer them truthfully and to the best of your ability or the lives of your men are forfeit. Do you understand?’ a voice asked.
Fortensen looked around the room he found himself in. It was dark, removing the hood seemed almost a wasted movement, save for a few candles melted almost completely down. He looked at the floor and found himself within an eight pointed star.
‘Why does that shit keep coming up?’ he muttered.
‘Are you Colonel Fortensen of the Glison 33rd Regulars?’ the voice asked.
‘Yes,’
‘Did you fight the greenskin hordes yesterday on the desert fields of this world Larso II?’
‘Yes, I…’ he said as he was cut off by another voice, one he recognized.
‘Get to the real questions sorcerer, we already know all this,’ said Kor’Farrah.
‘Yes my lord,’ said the voice in the dark.
A knee shoved into Fortensen’s stomach and blew the wind out of him. He fell on the floor in pain.
‘What the hell was that for?’ he asked though clenched teeth.
‘I’m growing impatient,’ said Kor’Farrah.
‘You haven’t asked me any real questions,’ said Fortensen.
‘Well I don’t really like you,’ came his reply.
‘Why were you sending your men to obtain vox units and weapons?’ the voice in the dark came again.
‘You know damn well why,’ said Fortensen.
‘I wanted it to be easier when I got you and your men out of the way,’
‘Why us? What made my men so special?’
‘Your regiment comes from a world that was brought into the Imperial fold long before the others here, including the Flying Jackals, there’s no way you would join us in our holy quest against the False God,’
‘So you are rebellious zealots,’ said Fortensen ‘I’m assuming this includes the other regiments here?’
‘It does, minus the Jackals, but they will be with us soon,’
‘Why the hell did your master leave all the man power here behind to take care of one regiment?’
‘There is something he needs here, something he thought he would have time to claim before the war began in earnest, but the prophecy moves fast, faster than he anticipated and so he left his favored mortal son behind to claim it and when I do, worlds will bow before me,’.

Lieutenant Colonel Mortun sat on the fold out chair in the officer’s dining hall in the command bastion, waiting for the man that had issued his summons.
Taking a long drag of one of Markus’s contraband smokes he leaned back in his chair and stretched out is legs. He would at least wait comfortably.
‘Is a drink too much to ask for?’ he shouted to the guards at the other end of the hall.
They didn’t answer. They didn’t move. They didn’t seem to breath.
Mortun waited a few minutes more until the guards each raised a hand to their helmets and nodded once. They slung their lasrifles over their shoulders and pulled the massive doors to the hall open.
In strode Lord Ryken, commander of the Philisti Legion of Feros, a world brought into compliance by the Word Bearers.
At his hip was an inferno pistol, resting in an elaborate holster and on his back was a power saber.
Mortun looked closer and saw that it was his power saber.
‘What the fuck are you doing with that!’ he shouted.
Lord Ryken did not answer, instead he continued walking towards Mortun and did not say a word until he was standing directly in front of the younger man,
‘Making you an offer,’ he said.
‘What kind of an offer?’ asked Mortun.
‘The kind you would be unwise to refuse,’ said Ryken, taking the power saber out of the sheath and gripping it by the blade with the hilt towards Mortun.
‘Your regiment’s weapons and freedom back, for absolute loyalty to the great primarch Lorgar,’
‘When did you take away our freedom? You weren’t prepping a raid on our barracks last night.’ asked Mortun, looking at his blade.
‘You still have it, but the Glison don’t, and if you say things I don’t like, you’ll join them under the watchful eyes of the Astartes without so much as a knife at hand,’.
Mortun gripped the hilt of his blade.
‘I think I understand,’ he said.
‘Good, then as a token of your loyalty, you shall execute Fortensen,’ said Ryken, and released his grip on the blade.
‘The soon to be left to rot in the desert Colonel is being questioned right now, you will be permitted to return to your barracks until the great Kor’Farrah is done with him, then the execution will take place,’
‘What happens to the Glison?’ Mortun asked, holding his blade in his hands, examining it for any blemish or any other kind of damage.
‘They die to, they are loyal to their master and their master is a blind servant of the Emperor first and the Imperium second, we cannot use them in the war,’.
‘Well that answers that,’ said Mortun.
‘Yes, it does,’ said Ryken.
‘Am I dismissed?’
‘You are,’.
With that Lord Ryken turned and left. Mortun went with him, the hall had only one exit.
When they left the hall Ryken turned left, deeper into the bastion. Mortun went right, his guard detail falling in step behind him.
‘We’re getting our weapons back,’ said Mortun.
‘What exactly happened in there sir?’ asked Markus.
‘Kor’Farrach made the biggest mistake of his life that’s what, get on your vox and tell the techies to prep the Chimeras for a breach’n’grab,’.
Markus smiled.
They left the bastion, exiting on one of the landing pads, stopping to look at the temporary prison that had been made for the Glison.
Facing the defense guns of the bastion on one side and surrounded by hastily constructed plas-steel walls on the other three the Glison were like a herd of animals.
Twenty Astartes kept watch on them, bolters at the ready. Mortun could see they had already taken a few potshots into the regiment, only a few hundred men left after all the fighting and the raids.
‘Let’s go sir,’ said Markus, the dry desert wind blowing his hair.
Though Mortun knew they couldn’t see him, he spoke to them in his regiment’s battlesign, having to say it even though he knew they didn’t even know it.
We’ll come get you. We’ll come get you, he said.
He turned his back and walked into the waiting Valkyrie, the blade of his power saber catching the light.
Down below, on one of the plas-steel walls the light glinted off the eye lens of an upturned Astartes helmet. As the Valkyrie took off from the landing pad the immortal raised two fingers to the side of his helmet.

Night fell on Larso II once more. Aside from the events and revelations since the night before, it was much the same as the preceding weeks. A few minor ork attacks, nothing much to trouble proceedings within the traitor camp.
Colonel Fortensen waited, hands tied behind his back in a dark cell with the black sack once more over his head. On his knees he waited for his execution.
Outside his prison cell two Astartes stood guard, bolters held tightly across their chests.

‘Are we ready?’ asked Mortun.
‘Yessir,’ said Markus ‘The Chimera patrols are about to complete their last sweep and will be coming back to the motorpool, or so the traitors think and the Valkyries have extra fuel tanks and are waiting just beyond radar, they’ll move when we do,’.
‘And the Vultures?’
‘Nighttime drills,’.
‘Good,’.
Mortun climbed into his Valkyrie, Markus and ten other troopers waiting for him and ready.
‘Are you sure about this sir?’
‘Absolutely not, but there are no other options. Fortensen and the Glison are loyal soldiers of the throne and the men serving Farrah are not. Understood?’.
‘Yes sir,’ said Markus, leaning back in his seat.
‘Takeoff,’ said Mortun.
‘Now give the signal,’.
‘Yessir,’.
The Valkrie lifted off into the air, joined moments later by an escort of two Vultures.
The three aircraft flew slowly, lest the engines make too much noise, but in the dark night everything sounded louder than it really was.
‘Don’t worry,’ said Mortun to his men as well as himself, ‘we’ve got dozens of ships in the air, no one’s gonna notice one more,’.
The troopers looked doubtful to say the least.

Like ghosts the three aircraft brought themselves up above the command bastion. Mortun looked out the pilot’s window and saw squadrons of his Vultures and Valkyries flying in standard maneuver patterns, nothing fancy, nothing that would take up too much fuel.
‘Captain Tanner, are you and your men ready?’ he asked his subordinate officer in charge of the Chimera division on an encrypted vox channel.
‘Yessir, awaiting your signal,’.
‘Addressing all units,’ said Mortun to all his men, ‘you have been briefed by me on our mission here tonight, you all know what you have to do, there are four hundred men down there about to be executed for being loyal to the Emperor. The mastermind behind this is a madman who wishes to murder innocents and destroy all we have fought so hard to create. No quarter will be given to you in the event of capture, so give none in return. If you find yourself with a tactical advantage, take it, for traitors deserve no mercy, no fair fight and shall receive none. For the Imperium men, now we make our move,’.
Screaming like banshees a hundred aircraft dived out of the midnight sky.
Vulture gunships locked onto their predestinated targets and fired their deadly missiles into antiaircraft guns which exploded in fire and noise. An alarm went up, though it was hardly necessary.
‘Get ready men!’ shouted Mortun as he opened up the side hatch on the Valkyrie.
‘Sir, I just noticed, where’s your hellpistol?’ said Markus.
‘I decided on something a little more useful,’ said Mortun, hefting his new, more useful weapon.
The wind blew in Mortun’s face as the Valkyrie spiraled downward, circling around the command bastion. The Vulture escorts casually fired their missiles or strafed the ground below.
‘Tanner how’s it going?’ asked Mortun over the vox, he had to shout to be heard.
‘Its alright sir, they can’t form solid lines to stop us and surprise is still working in our favor,’.
‘Let me know if the situation changes,’ said Mortun, he could just make out the line of Chimeras as they powered down the camp’s avenues. The multi-lasers mounted on front blazed away, starting fires left and right and cutting down the occasional patrol squad.

‘Alright boys, lets show’em what we got!’ shouted captain Tanner to his men. He smiled as the Chimeras blasted through the streets, nothing would stop them.
‘Corporal take the wheel, I’m gonna pop a hatch!’ he shouted. A young corporal took over driving and Tanner climbed back to the topside hatch to take over the pintle mounted bolter.
‘Yeah fuckers yeah!’ he shouted.
He was ripped from his reverie when a missile streamed from above and his the Chimera before him.
He looked up and saw a blood red armored Astartes with a shoulder mounted missile launcher.
‘Now that I have you attention,’ said the giant before dropping the missile launcher on the roof of the barracks he was using as a firing platform.
Tanner watched in horror as the giant raised a small object, a device in the shape of a cylinder with a button on top.
Tanner knew what is was just moments before he died.
It was a detonator.
The traitors had known what was going to happen; they had known and were prepared.
All along the line of Chimera APC’s explosions ripped through the metal, killing Tanner’s men and ending any chance of rescue from the ground for the Glison.

‘No!’ shouted Mortun at the top of his lungs as the Valkyrie rounded the command bastion and he saw the explosions.
Tears came down his cheeks as secondary explosions tore ruined vehicles apart.
‘No!’ he shouted again.
‘Sir,’ said Markus, putting a hand on his shoulder ‘we’re about there,’.
‘Lets kill these fucking traitors!’ shouted Mortun.
The Valkyrie pilot found the spot Mortun specified and hovered.
‘Now!’ the officer shouted.
The Vulture gunships blasted a hole in the wall with their armaments.
‘Let’s go!’ shouted Mortun.
Once they were inside Mortun signaled his squad to move ahead and secure their immediate position while he relayed orders to his squadrons fighting in the air.
‘The Chimeras are gone, I repeat: the Chimeras are gone, Valkyrie pilots must evac the prisoners immediately, Vultures will support them, take out any antiaircraft guns that may appear, stay below the bastion’s roof, the guns up there can’t fire on anything below them. Understood?’
He got acknowledgements from his squadron leaders before continuing with his squad’s mission.
‘Where are we sir?’ asked Markus as the squad ran down a long hallway.
‘Lever 12B, prison level, its where they’ll be keeping Fortensen.
‘How do you know it’ll be here? That he’s not being kept somewhere secret?’
They turned a corner and twenty lasguns came up to stare at them.
‘Because nothing gets this kinda guard detail,’ said Mortun as he raised his grenade launcher.
‘Fire away boys!’ he yelled, and pulled the trigger.
A frag grenade shot from the short barrel, its recoil bringing another grenade into the firing chamber just as the grenade found the center of the room and exploded, killing Lord Ryken’s men like so many scarecrows.
The Jackals shot anyone still alive with their hellguns.
‘Come on lets go,’ said Mortun, running though the pile of bodies and puddles of blood.
The squad blasted away more opposition, using speed and superior fire power they blazed a path through the halls.
‘Couldn’t we come in closer sir?’ a trooper asked, Mortun didn’t know who.
‘No, I was looking for the easiest stretch of wall to blast open, we’re lucky we were as close as we were when we came in,’.
‘Yes sir,’ said the trooper as the squad turned another corner.
They were the last words he’d ever get to say.
With a thunderous bang a bolt round hit the man in his chest, the carapace armor doing nothing to stop the terrifying killing power of the staple weapon of the Astartes.
The man was blown apart from the inside as the bolt round did what it was made to do: kill quickly and make a mess of it.
‘Back!’ shouted Mortun and the squad was only too ready to comply.
‘What do we do sir?’ asked Markus, his back against the wall and his hellgun held tight across his chest.
A grenade was thrown against the opposite wall by the Astartes and ricochet onto the floor right in front of the squad.
‘This,’ said Mortun and kicked the grenade around the corner.
The grenade exploded and Mortun hear a shout of pain.
‘Now!’ he yelled and rounded the corner, raising his grenade launcher.
Both the Astartes were on their backs, the explosion of the grenade knocking them over. The victory was shortly lived however as they began to rise. Mortun fired one grenade into the chest of the closest marine, killing him. Mortun took aim at the other traitor marine.
He was too fast though.
Unsheathing a long, barbed and wicked knife the Astartes leapt into the air and came down right in front of Mortun and slashed the knife, barely missing Mortun, but managing to cut the grenade launcher in half.
‘Get Fortensen out,’ said Mortun to his squad and drawing his power saber, ‘I’ll hold him off,’ and powered up the blade.
He swung the saber from his hip, aiming for the giant’s leg only to be parried away by the knife. The immortal was smart, he hit Mortun’s blade in the side, not the edge where the power would simply cut it in two.
Mortun gripped the hilt of his blade in both hands and brought the saber down in an arc above his head.
The Astartes deflected this attack easily as well and backhanded him hard enough to drive him to the floor. It was playing with him.
The giant raised his armored foot up, preparing to bring it crashing down on Mortun, and he would have done it, save for a bolt round the smacked into his breastplate.
The force of the shot was enough to drive him back a step, but power armor was built to withstand something like that with ease.
Mortun turned in the direction the shot had come from, and there, before the open doors of the brig, was Colonel Fortensen, panting, bloody, bruised and holding the bolter of the dead marine.

Clarkson watched as the gunships of the Flying Jackals strafed the walls with their miniguns, they seemed to have used every last missile. Here and there the men of Lord Ryken’s Philistis fired off antiair rockets to little effect.
The young trooper is thrown to the floor. A voice in the dark says something about the device, how they could lead them there. Find the device and lead them there only to die. But the imprint will only work on a few. After that they will fell drawn towards-
Just a few minutes before someone in the bastion had turned a heavy bolter on the Glison, killing seven men and wounding a few others who would never fight again, even if they survived the night. One of the Vultures fired on the man with a lascannon.
Clarkson heard the whine of motor engines and looked up.
A hand, fingers spread is inches away from Clarkson’s face. The young man feels pain. Like nothing he’s ever felt before.
‘Why is this happening?’ said Clarkson, holding his head in one hand.
Not of Colchis born or conquered…
Blowing wind in all directions a Valkyrie was landing in the middle of the ad hoc detention center.
Clarkson felt drawn to it. Like he needed to be on it.
Before it even landed a man inside wearing he glossy black carapace armor of the Flying Jackals opened the side panel and motioned for the imprisoned men to get it.
Clarkson couldn’t move. No matter how bad he wanted to the instinct not to break cover without a weapon of some sort overrode his motor functions and he stayed down.
‘Get in!’ shouted the man, both hands cupped around his mouth.
Taking a breath and closing his eyes Clarkson finally managed to stand. As he stood up the guards on the walls resumed firing into the Glison, killing several. But the night was on their side and it was difficult to find targets in the pitch black.
Bullets and lasblasts peppered the ground right behind Clarkson as he closed the last few feet to the Valkyrie. Jumping into the aircraft he fell flat on the floor, safe, but not as safe as he thought.
Bullets and lasblasts followed him and hit the Jackal who had motioned him and others into the Valkyries was shot in the leg and collapsed on it. He was still holding onto the bulkhead with one hand and drew a hellpistol with the other. He fired away in the general direction of the shooters.
‘I’m sorry,’ said Clarkson.
‘Don’t worry about it,’ said the Jackal ‘You didn’t shoot me,’ he fired off another burst from the hellpistol ‘he did’.
Other Glison were still clamoring into the Valkyrie. The pilot turned around in his seat and spoke to the Jackals at the side panels and told them to close up or they would weight too much to take off.
‘Tuck your legs in son,’ said the Jackal who’d been shot and Clarkson did so. The Jackal grabbed the handle on the sliding panel and slammed it shut.
‘Okay we’re good,’ he shouted to the pilot.
Taking off, the pilot used enough power to send everyone not sitting down falling to the floor.
‘Hold on!’ the pilot shouted, and speed out of the detention center.
‘Remember what Mortun said,’ said the Jackal on Clarkson’s side of the troop hold, ‘don’t fly above the command bastion’s roof, at least not till we’re out of range,’.
Clarkson looked up from the floor. ‘Where are we going?’ he asked.
‘Our commander picked out a spot in the mountains to hide out from the traitors, most recent scans of the place showed it was adequate for VTOL aircraft so we can land there,’.
‘Are we going there now?’.
‘No, there’s a chocolate river in a gumdrop forest our commander wants us to check out first,’.

Finished: Too Much Love Will Kill You (working title), an original fiction novel. Working on: Second draft of Too Much Love, and the first draft of A Winter's Tale (working title).
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Mortun and the marine traded blows, the Astartes had speed, strength, and experience on his side. Mortun had a slightly bigger and better weapon, along with his own considerable experience.
‘Shoot the damn marine,’ said Fortensen.
‘We don’t want to hit Mortun,’ said a trooper Fortensen recognized as the one who carried the contraband smokes around.
Fortensen watched as Mortun blocked a thrust from the marine’s knife. He truly was a skilled swordsman.
But he didn’t have a chance, not against an Astartes, not if he fought alone.
He parried the swinging knife with the side of his blade, he was about to disarm the hulking red beast when the power armor clad giant kicked him to the floor for a second time and reversed the grip on its knife.
‘Give me that,’ he said, grabbing one of the Jackals hellguns. If they wanted their commander to die with pride then fine, but Fortensen needed him.
‘Die you son of a bitch,’ he said and pulled the trigger, shooting three rounds into the marine’s knee.
The traitor stumbled, mid stab. The surprise caused him to miss Mortun and sink his blade into the floor.
Mortun wasted no time and rolled off to one side, away from the eight foot tall Astartes. Fortensen shot another three rounds into the marine’s backpack, damaging the armor’s mobility. Mortun stood up and reversed his two handed grip on the power saber.
‘We’re wasting time,’ said Mortun to Fortensen, and stabbed down.
‘Glad you’re alive,’.
‘Glad you could help with that. I assume you have an escape plan?’.
‘This way,’.
The squad set off down the hall.
‘What’s the situation?’.
‘My Valkyries are getting your men out of the detention center, they’re being evacuated to a location in the desert I found. We should be able to hold out within a cave system close to the evac site,’.
‘Orks?’
‘Most recent scans showed it was relatively safe. Like I said we could hold out there for quite some time,’.
‘We’re not going to hold out,’.
‘What?’
‘I found out why Kor’Farrah is here and not joining his master in the Isstvan system,’.
‘Why’s that?’
‘Lorgar needs him to find something,’.
‘Something?’
‘A weapon, or some device of some sort that will help them in the war,’.
‘So there’s something out there, in the deep desert I’m guessing or we would have found it by now, that we need to destroy to weaken the rebellion,’.
‘Not necessarily, it could be something Lorgar needs destroyed lest it prove a hindrance to his rape of the Imperium,’.
‘When did you get melodramatic?’
‘Not the time Mortun,’ Fortensen sighed.
‘So we need to find this thing and what? Protect it? Prevent anyone else from getting it?’
‘That’s what it looks like to me,’.
‘That is terrific,’.
Before long they found themselves back at the breach point Mortun and his men had made. The Valkyrie was still hovering there, but one of the Vultures had been shot down.
‘You flew around a few time to make yourselves harder targets right?’ said Mortun into his helmet vox.
‘You must have forgotten to tell me sir,’ said a static riddled voice on the other end.
Once they were back on the Valkyrie Fortensen finally had a moment to breath, but found himself unable.
‘Are my men safe?’ he asked.
‘Let me get a status update,’ said Mortun, raising a hand to his helmet vox. After a few moments he lowered it and looked Fortensen in the eye.
‘Two hundred and fifty of your men have made it to the evac site, we’re among the last out,’.
‘Two hundred and fifty?’ gasped Fortensen ‘out of four hundred?’
‘A lot of my Valkyries got shot down,’.
‘Where where your Chimeras? Why didn’t’ you plan better? You just got over a hundred of my men killed!’ Fortensen shouted.
‘The Chimeras were destroyed! The traitors snuck explosives onto them and then detonated them, that’s why the Valkyries had to go in, thats why so few of your men got out. Now shutup, if it hadn’t been for me and my Jackals you’d be dead, and they’d all be dead. Stop acting like you’re the only one who’s ever lost men under your command,’.
Fortensen didn’t look at Mortun.
‘Here I got you these, I know they’re not your own but I doubt you’ll be getting those back,’ said Mortun, taking a belt with a holster and sheath attached off a rack.
‘An empty sheath and holster, to remind me of something else taken from me?’
‘These go with it,’ said Mortun, tossing a power blade and plasma pistol to Fortensen, ‘They were the closest match to yours in my armory,’.
‘Thank you Mortun,’.
The Valkyrie took off into the night, followed by just a few others of Mortun’s aircraft.
‘I’m glad you were the only commander brought here who’s regiment had aircraft,’ said Fortensen.
Mortun shrugged. ‘The Astartes probably have a Stormhawk hidden away somewhere, and the navy’ll have its own fighter and bomber wings,’.

As the sun rose on the horizon the men of the Glison 33rd Regulars and the Flying Jackals kept their eyes open for any sign of the enemy. None came.
On a flat stretch of ground the surviving squadrons of Mortun’s gun and troopships waited in loose formation, no one wanting to bother packing them in tighter. No one had the energy.
The commanders of the two regiments sat on two empty water barrels, with a third serving as a table with a map on it. The traitor’s camp was marked in red, their current position in green. Fortensen didn’t like how close they were.
‘So is there a plan?’ Mortun asked Fortensen.
‘Find what Lorgar wants, make sure he doesn’t get it,’.
‘That’s terrific Fortensen, now do you know where this thing is?’
‘No but I-‘
‘I think I might,’ said a trooper from the Glison.
Mortun and Fortensen looked up from the map they had been staring at and looked at the trooper. Their bodyguards did as well.
‘What’s your name son?’ asked Fortensen.
‘Clarkson sir,’.

‘Alright Clarkson, tell us what you know, or what you think you know,’ said Fortensen.
‘Sir,’ began Clarkson ‘after the raid, when we were all imprisoned they had us in that detention center, it was almost like how you rescued us except they were in there with us and they wouldn’t even let us move. We waited like that for about an hour and then this… black robed… thing came in, Kor’Farrah was with it, along with the leftover Astartes’.
‘Did the general refer to it as “sorcerer”?’ asked Fortensen.
‘He might’ve sir, it certainly looked the part,’ Clarkson continued ‘the thing walked through the detention center, it stopped sometimes, in front of someone and just stood there, looking at him from inside it’s robe thing we couldn’t see into. Sometimes, after stopping in front of someone it would point at him and one of the Astartes would take him away,’.
‘I’m guessing that’s what happened to you?’ asked Mortun.
‘Yes sir, it is,’.
‘What happened after that?’
‘I don’t remember sir. I remember a hand, and a flare of pain like nothing else I can imagine and since then, since they dropped me back into the detention center I’ve just been… drawn in some direction,’.
‘Where are the other men that were taken in?’
‘I don’t know sir, I looked for em’ after they were done with me, I couldn’t find any. They either died then or during the evac last night,’.
Fortensen looked at Mortun, briefly.
‘So are you still being drawn towards something?’ Fortensen asked.
‘Yes, I think so at least,’.
‘What direction?’
Clarkson pointed into the mouth of the nearest cave, which was hastily being barricaded by the Glison Regulars and Jackals with pieces of aircraft that had only barely made it there before breaking down beyond all repair.
‘There sir,’. he said.
‘Well isn’t that convenient,’ said Mortun.
‘Gear up men,’ said Fortensen, ‘we’re going spelunking,’.

‘Why did you allow them to escape!’ roared Sor’Talla, the leader of the Astartes left behind by the blessed Champion Lord Tor’Kalrion to enforce Kor’Farrah and make sure he fulfilled his set task.
‘It’s all part of the plan,’ said Kor’Farrah ‘they will lead us to the device, the marker spell worked and one of the Glison is leading us there right now, everything he sees we see and when he sees the device we will swoop in and kill them all,’.
‘If you had followed your orders we would be combing the desert at this very moment, not playing games with a couple rouge commanders you dislike,’.
‘Just get over the fact that I have a plan and its working,’ snarled Kor’Farrah.
Sor’Talla raised his bolter to Kor’Farrah’s head.
‘Don’t forget who’s orders I follow,’ he said.
‘I haven’t,’ said Kor’Farrah, ‘and if I fail, which I will not, you can do things your way but until then,’ he raised a hand to the bolter and tried to push it away from his head, it didn’t work, ‘I am in charge and we will do things my way. Ready your men,’.
‘Five of my men are dead,’ said Sor’Talla, ‘I want the rest of my marines to go in, alone, when you find the device,’.
‘And you will, but right now, we must be patient,’.

The beam of a flashlight lit up the dark tunnel. Mounted on the barrel of one of the Jackal’s hellguns the flashlight began to flicker.
‘Jensen go to the rear,’ said Mortun, in the middle of the formation as the trooper, who had taken point, saw that his flashlight was dying, ‘Markus take point,’ he added.
The troopers moved smoothly, exchanging positions as the company moved on.
‘I ordered you all to check the batteries before we left,’ said Mortun to Jensen.
‘I did sir and it was fully charged, I don’t know what’s wrong with it,’ he replied.
Fortensen came to his aid.
‘Its probably got something to do with the device,’ he said.
‘I think we’re getting closer,’ said Clarkson ‘the feeling’s getting stronger,’.
The group kept advancing down the long, dark, and wet tunnel. Every step echoed, no matter how carefully they walked, and every drop of water from the ceiling was like the ticking of a bomb waiting to go off. The dark was an impenetrable shroud around everything good and right, hiding it not from sight, but from existence. The flashlights had trouble piercing it, and when they did it was only ever for a few feet.
By the time the group had spent about an hour walking through the tunnel it was Clarkson who had taken point.
Five flashlights lit up his back, making him visible for those behind him. The twenty five others tried to pierce the darkness around them.
In the back Fortensen was keeping pack, drumming a mark into then handle of his plasma pistol with his fingers.
Mortun was a few paces ahead of him, before motioning Markus to take his place from back where Fortensen was.
The trooper quickened his pace to take his leader’s place while Mortun stood still and waited for Fortensen to be right next to him and take Markus’s spot.
‘We can’t keep going on like this,’ he said.
‘We need to find that device,’ came his reply.
‘We need to know when they come for us,’.
‘You’re right, but we still need to locate this thing,’.
‘Of course,’.
‘Group halt,’ said Fortensen, the thirty men stopped.
‘We need to go back topside, make sure we’re secure against attack,’.
‘But sir we’re close, I can feel it,’ said Clarkson, desperately.
‘Mark this spot with electro sig, we’ll find our way back, once we know the men topside are safe,’.
Clarkson reluctantly gave in to his commander’s order. ‘Yes sir,’ he said.
The group turned around and started down the path they came, all but two glad to be moving on. As for the two disappointed, it was for as many different reasons.
As the group followed the trail of infra red markers they left in their wake the sound of running feet came from up ahead.
Thirty rifles came up and Colonel Fortensen shouted ‘Star!’ the challenge word.
‘Heartbreak Ridge,’ came the countersign and a Glison trooper came up to the group.
‘Colonel Fortensen, Lieutenant Mortun,’ he said ‘we need both of you topside now, there’s an emergency,’ he started running back the way he came.
Fortensen, Mortun and the rest of the men ran after him back to the surface.
Clarkson kept pace for a few meters, before slowing down and quietly falling back to the end of the group.
When the rest of the soldiers had passed him he stopped completely and turned around, in the direction of the force drawing him.

When Colonel Fortensen reached the entrance to the main cave was swallowed by a storm of panic.
‘What’s going on?’ he asked.
‘They’re here sir,’ a Lieutenant answered.
From the mouth of the cave men came in, carrying everything they could and barricading the entrance.
Fortensen strode through the ocean of soldiers and looked out the cave mouth. More men were lugging equipment up the slope of the rocky mountain the caves were in.
The Colonel started down the slope to help the soldiers still out in the open. He looked up and blood red Astartes Thunderhawk was flying in circles above the mountain.
Mortun joined him on the rocky slope and saw what he saw.
‘Come on we have to get it all inside!’ he shouted.
Mortun started down the hill towards the gun and troopships. Fortensen kept his eyes on the Thunderhawk while all around him men rushed back and forth between the mouth of the cave and ad hoc camp with all their equipment and supplies.
The Thunderhawk flew behind the mountain and Fortensen lost sight of it. When he looked for Mortun he saw the younger man running for one of the Vulture gunships.
Fortensen heard the scream of incredibly powerful engines and saw the Thunderhawk coming in low over the landing zone.
‘Mortun no!’ he shouted before the Thunderhawk let the nose mounted heavy bolters, all four of them, open up and began to rip apart the grounded aircraft along with the scores of men who were still out there, trying in vain to get supplies in to withstand a siege.
Explosions hid the landing field from Fortensen’s sight and the old man lost sight of Mortun’s Vulture in the fire.
‘No!’ he shouted again at the loss of his friend.
‘Sir we have to get inside!’ shouted a trooper, Fortensen didn’t know from which regiment.
The Thunderhawk finished its attack run and soared up into the sky in preparation for another attack.
The trooper tried to pull Fortensen with him but the horrified Colonel wouldn’t budge, losing so many men in the escape just a few hours-or was it days?- ago had been like losing his sons, this was like losing a brother.

In the end Fortensen had to be dragged back to the mouth of the cave where he stood upright, forsaking the cover of the barricades as men of the two regiments kneeled behind the crates and kept their weapons pointed in the direction the enemy would come in as the Astartes Thunderhawk continued to loop around the mountain, occasionally blasting at it with its main cannon.
After two hours Fortensen looked away from where Mortun had been slain and looked at the men around him.
‘Where is Clarkson?’ he asked.

The young trooper stumbled through the tunnel like a blind man, unable to see anything it was so dark. He used his hands to find the walls and fell on his face once or twice when he stepped into a shallow hole.
He continued on this way for a while, about two hours after he disobeyed the Colonel’s orders and went deeper into the mountain. He knew he was getting close.
He forged his way onwards, letting the force calling him show the way. He let the force show him the way until it stopped.
The force just left him as though it were never there. In its place Clarkson saw a faint, ghostly green light at the end of the tunnel, where it curved off to the right. He followed it.

‘Dammit!’ shouted the sorcerer.
‘What is it?’ asked Kor’Farrah.
‘I can no longer see what the marked sees,’.
‘Did his flashlight go out or something?’
‘No, I would still be able to see even if he could not, it is as though the mark on his soul is gone,’.
‘Then Sor’Talla will get his wish, tell them they can land,’.

‘Sir we need you up here,’ said a Captain of the Glison to Colonel Fortensen.
‘We need to find Clarkson, he knows the location of what we’re after here,’.
‘But we don’t know when the Astartes will attack the cave sir,’.
They were distracted when the men at the mouth of the cave started firing their lasguns. Fortensen and the captain rushed to the mouth and saw the Thunderhawk landing, facing the cave entrance.
The ramp on the aircraft lowered as the main cannon elevated towards the entrance.
‘Get down!’ shouted Fortensen just as the massive gun bellowed in anger. The shot hit the inside of cave entrance and killed a dozen men. Fortensen rose with a long gash down the side of him arm. The captain he’d been talking to was dead and there was a loud ringing in his ears.
‘Fall back!’ he shouted.
Glison Regulars and Jackals rose to their feet around him, firing their weapons into the cloud of dust that was covering the exit. Fortensen raised his plasma pistol and added his own firepower to the panicked barrage.
‘Fall back!’ he shouted again and the men around him began falling back farther into the cave.
As Fortensen ran with the men further back he chanced a glance back at the cave entrance and saw two squads of Astartes walking, just walking, in.
‘Take cover!’ he shouted and threw himself flat on the ground.
Men took cover behind crates and fired on the Astartes with everything they had. A heavy weapons crew with the last remaining heavy bolter opened up and stitched a path of bolt explosions up the ground towards the cave mouth. Two of the heavy bolts smacked into the breastplate of a warrior in the front of the loose formation.
The giant was knocked back a step and the armor was significantly deadly. This didn’t stop the traitor from raising its bolter and firing two shots, killing the two weapon operators in a second before firing off a third into the heavy weapon’s ammunition box.
The bolt rounds exploded and sent shrapnel out in all directions, pelting the Astartes power armor with no effect and killing many of the loyal Imperial Army men.
‘Fall back!’ shouted Fortensen again. Snapping off two shots with his plasma pistol. The first plasma bolt hit an Astartes in his shoulder, turning him to the right a bit with the force of the shot. The second hit him in the face and the traitor howled in pain moments before the plasma ate through his helmet and killed him.
‘Fall back!’ Fortensen shouted again.
The men tried to fall back, but the bolter of the Astartes made deadly and accurate enemies, but they had nowhere else to go.
Running doubled over Fortensen and the men around him tried to get to the end of the cave mouth, where it broke off into several tunnels going in many directions.
Two men to Fortensen’s right died as the Astartes fired into the retreating defenders.
Fortensen made it to the tunnel and rounded the corner, just barely avoiding a bolt round that almost took his arm off.
Fortensen went into the tunnel that went right, the one he, Clarkson and Mortun had taken earlier with a group of soldiers to find what needed protecting or destroying. Other soldier went off in different directions.
He didn’t stop running until he’d turned five more bends, putting much ground between him and Astartes and meeting up with a small group of soldier who had taken what little cover there was.
‘Here sir,’ said a Jackal, handing Fortensen a detonator. Not asking what it was for, the Colonel hit the detonator.
Three tons of rock fell with the sound of thunder, covering the exit at the back of the cave entrance and preventing access to the tunnel system.
Fortensen exhaled, for what felt like the first time in hours.
‘We need to find Clarkson,’ he said.

Sor’Talla beat his fist against the pile of rocks. Roaring his anger the marine raised his bolter and fired half a clip into the pile. It did little.
‘Get the melta,’ he said.
‘Sir,’ said one his squad ‘the Army shits are coming,’.
‘Then get the melta quicly,’.

‘He’s not here sir,’ said the trooper called Markus.
‘Shit, I thought he came back with us,’ said Fortensen.
‘Maybe he went off looking for the thing,’
‘Most likely, come on, we’re going back where we left off,’.
Fortensen took off down the long tunnel he and the survivors of the attack were situated in. All the men went with him, not wanting to stay behind and wait to be gunned down by Astartes.
‘Set up traps for the Astartes, it might not hurt them, but it will slow them down a little,’ said Fortensen as he checked the charge on his plasma pistol.

Sor’Talla leveled the melta gun at the rock pile and pulled the trigger and the rock melted under the hellish heat.
Soldiers of the command of Kor’Farrah came in through the mouth of the cave. When Sor’Tall finished cutting a hole through the rock large enough for him and his men he turned around and faced the small group of ten soldiers sent out ahead of the main host.
‘Unworthy mortals do not deserve the glory our gods will give us,’ he said, raising the melta gun ‘go back, and tell Kor’Farrah he wasted too much of his master’s time and that we will take the glory from this world. He had his chance,’.
The fierce deathmask painted on the Astartes’ helm gave his words a fearsome edge. The soldiers turned and left, they couldn’t get out fast enough.
‘How many does it take to deliver a message?’ asked Sor’Talla.
‘Only one,’ chorused his remaining men and nine bolters came up.

‘Come on we have to go faster,’ said Fortensen as they heard the echoes of bolter fire.
Markus had an auspex out and was looking at it.
‘If we run we can get to our last marked position inside thirty minutes, but visibility is something that never thought to come here so running could be a potentially harmful option,’.
‘It may be our only option,’ said Fortensen.
The group continued down the path left my electro-markers earlier.
‘Sir, do you know what happened to everyone else?’ asked Markus.
‘I don’t know, they fled into different tunnels, the detonation that covered up the entrance probably helped them get away, and if they have supplies they may last for a while but I’m afraid they’ll be on their own unless we succeed,’.
‘And what will happen then sir?’ asked Markus.
‘What do you mean soldier?’
‘If we succeed in destroying, or protecting whatever Kor’Farrah is after, how do we get off this planet? The chances are slim we kill the Astartes, and even if we do we still have several thousand traitors back at the camp to deal with if we want to get off this planet, so even if somehow we survive this day, how exactly do we go on?’
‘We don’t trooper, everything has been taken from us, our brothers, our only viable way of getting off this planet, everything, save our duty and that is what we shall carry out unto our dying breath,’.
Markus said nothing.
When at last the group reached the point where the original party turned back, they found Clarkson keeled over on the floor, sobbing.
‘I tried to go down there…,’ he whimpered.
‘Down where?’ asked Fortensen.
‘Down below, but it wouldn’t let me, led me in circles…’
‘What are you talking about?’ asked Fortensen.
Clarkson began to cry again.
‘Speak damn you!’ shouted Fortensen and the tunnels carried and echo of his voice far.
Clarkson gathered his strength. ‘We were close… the last time we were here. After you left I tried to go on and find what was… drawing my forward, but the force… just led me in circles after I saw a green light, I noticed that when I dropped my helmet… and found it a few minutes later as I stumbled in the dark, then I heard a voice and it said “not alone…not alone…not alone”… so I came back here, to wait for you sir,’.
‘Well get up, we’re going now,’.
‘Yessir,’ said Clarkson, his spirits visibly rising.
‘Can you lead us back?’
‘Yessir,’.
‘Then do so,’.
The bark of a bolter ended the conversation as well as the life of a Glison trooper who screamed in pain moments before he died.
‘Run!’ shouted Fortensen.
The group began running again, a few troopers firing blindly down the tunnel to no effect.
A few more bolters opened up and more men died as the explosive bolts detonated inside them.
‘Which way Clarkson?’ shouted Fortensen,
‘Just follow me!’ shouted the young trooper.
‘We can’t keep doing this!’ shouted Markus.
‘I agree,’ said Fortensen ‘Clarkson, keep going, take five men the rest of us will hold them,’.
‘Yessir,’ said Clarkson, starting down the tunnel with five envied others.
‘What do you mean hold them?’ asked Markus.
‘We buy Clarkson the time to get to the source, take down an Astartes or two then try and get back to him,’.

Sor’Talla marched forward through the tunnel, joining up with his scouts.
‘Well?’ he asked.
‘They’ve dug in up ahead, we scanned the tunnels in front us and they have a dozen pointes where they can fall back to and get the drop on us no matter what we do,’.
‘Then we’ll make our own tunnels,’ said Sor’Talla, raising the melta gun.

Five men were incinerated in the energy beam that erupted from the left wall. Another three were killed when the force of the blast split the rock and the pieces went flying.
‘Retreat!’ shouted Fortensen ‘We can’t hold them!’ he added.
The last thirty men of the group began running after the trail of electro markers left by Clarkson and his group.
Markus stayed where he was, firing from the hip with his hellgun on full auto. The red las-bolts filled the newly made tunnel, still glowing with the heat of the melta beam.
‘Markus we have to go!’ shouted Fortensen, dragging a Jackal up.
‘Just go!’ shouted Markus, taking a krak grenade off his webbing. A second later he was hit in the side by a bolt shell. He fell to the ground in anguish and yelled out in pain.
‘Just go!’ he repeated.
Fortensen made his way to the next curve in the tunnel, keeping an eye or Markus as the trooper kept spraying las-bolts into the tunnel.
Fortensen turned his back on the trooper as he turned the next corner. The next thing he heard was the krak grenade going off.
‘Keep moving!’ he shouted.

Sor’Talla kicked the ragged remains of the mortal that had killed two of him men.
‘Keep moving,’ he snarled. The rest of him men, sixteen now, followed the mortals in thrall of the false god.
‘Make sure they lead us to the prize!’ he shouted after them ‘Don’t kill them all, not yet!’.

‘Run!’ shouted Fortensen as the marines came up the tunnel right after them.
He made a few steps before turning and snapping off a quick shot with his plasma pistol, hitting the ceiling above the hunched down traitors. A trooper next to him exploded in a cloud of blood as he was hit by a bolt round.
‘Grenades!’ shouted Fortensen and the men who had grenades threw them down the tunnel, set to explode on impact.
‘That’ll slow them,’ panted Fortensen ‘We can’t stop though, come on,’ he added.

Sor’Talla came upon his men, twelve of them standing, two of them kneeling in pain as their genetically enhanced bodies repaired the damage, two were dead.
‘Why have you stopped?’ asked Sor’Talla
‘We need the melta my lord,’ said one of the marines doubled over in pain.
Sor’Talla drew his rite knife and stabbed into the weakling’s neck, severing the spinal cord and killing him instantly. He did the same with the other.
‘Keep going,’ he snarled.
The marines resumed the chase, rounding the corner and meeting a volley of lasbolts. They returned the favor tenfold and continued.
Sor’Talla leveled the melta and carved himself a straighter path through the rock.

Fifteen men now, Fortensen’s group gave up trying to slow the implacable advance of the Astartes. They were out of grenades and had few weapons that could truly hurt them and no armor that would save them from deadly bolter fire.
Before long the group came upon Clarkson and his men at the end of the path set down by the electro-markers.
‘Where is it?’ asked Fortensen.
‘At the end of this tunnel, there’s a green light, it looks like a pool of green water. We’re supposed to walk through it,’.
‘Fine, lets go,’.
Clarkson turned his back and started down the tunnel. He didn’t get far before the Astartes caught up with them and opened fire once more with their weapons.
‘Everyone down!’ shouted Fortensen.
Clarkson dropped down and crawled back to Fortensen who help his plasma pistol in both hands and was pointing it at the Astartes. The others were firing on them already and managed to back them retreat back behind the corner that led to this last tunnel.
‘The portal won’t let us pass as long as they live!’ shouted Clarkson above the din of lasguns and bolters trading fire.
Fortensen fired off two rounds from the plasma pistol.
‘Why not?’ he asked.
‘The Guardian said so!’ he replied.
‘Guardian?’
‘The one who spoke to me earlier,’.
‘That all makes perfect sense,’ said a Jackal, moments before being shot by a bolter.
‘Fight to the last breath!’ shouted Fortensen, knowing this was the end, that he would not reach his goal, that he would die down here under several miles of rock, having failed his lord.
He was ripped from his thoughts as a single metal ball was thrown into his section of the tunnel. He looked at it and recognized it as identical to the stun grenades used in the raids on his regiment.
‘Shi-‘ he said before the explosion of sound and light knocked him and the rest of the men out.

When Fortensen and the survivors came to he saw that they had been placed next to the wall of the tunnel sitting up. His hands were bound in a steel cable that dug into his wrists when he tried to move them.
Twelve Astartes stood before the remaining mortals, bolters held at the ready with a their captives’ weapons in a pile behind them.
Another Astartes stood at the end of the tunnel, before a glowing green portal of some sort. It must have been what Clarkson was talking about.
‘It moved,’ said the young trooper, just waking up.
‘What?’ whispered Fortensen. The Astartes looked at them.
‘It was around the bend, now its in front of it. Its moving,’.
‘What is moving?’ asked the Astartes who was standing right in front of it, turning around. This one held a melta gun.
‘The portal, the portal that leads to what we’ve all been looking for,’ said Clarkson before his commander could shut him up.
‘I see no portal,’ said the traitor.
‘You’re not pure in the eyes of the Emperor…’ said Clarkson, his head lolling to the side.
At a nod from the Astartes commander one of the marines kicked the young trooper in the stomach just hard enough to wake him up.
‘Your god is a false god!’ he shouted ‘the traitor of the crusade shall burn in the fires of the true gods!’.
Behind him the portal began moving again, coming down the tunnel towards the bound prisoners.
The Astartes commander raised his melta gun. ‘Tell me, right now, where the prize is,’ he said.
‘Not here,’ said Clarkson ‘we’re not even on the right world,’.
The portal started moving faster, and before long was right at the end of the line of prisoners.
‘Talk faster,’ snarled the traitor ‘where is the prize?’
Fortensen disappeared as the portal closed on him and swallowed him whole. He made no sound as it engulfed him. The traitor commander swung his melta around to point at the vanished commander.
The invisible force he could not see touched the barrel of his melta and weapon exploded in hundreds of fragments. The beast snarled in pain as the weapon’s fuel engulfed his hand.
‘Get out of here!’ he shouted to his men.
Clarkson and the rest of the prisoners rose to their feet and leapt into the green portal, letting it take them away.

Sor’Talla didn’t know what was happening, two of his men were killed by something he could neither see nor sense and the prisoners had escaped. He didn’t know what was going on, so he ran out of the tunnel, going back the way he came with the rest of his men behind him.

When the green portal engulfed him Clarkson felt relief. His hands were no longer tied, the Astartes were gone, and he felt safe, for the first time in many days.
He added pain to the list of things he felt when he slammed into a smooth stone floor from what felt like a thousand foot drop.
The other men who had gone through with him were in a similar position.
Clarkson found his way to his feet and saw Fortensen half sitting half leaning on a boulder with his arms crossed.
Behind him was a massive antechamber, miles high and simply too vast to describe.
Clarkson heard screaming and saw more men of the Glison and Jackal regiments appearing in the air above where he found himself.
‘Get out of the way,’ said Fortensen.
As they did so the men appearing in midair fell to the floor, but were unhurt. Looking quizzically at his commander Clarkson got only a shrug in answer to his unasked question.
More and more men kept appearing and falling to the floor.
When about two hundred men in total had appeared a lone figure, tall and powerful figure armored in gold and holding a long spear with a bolt weapon attached appeared behind Fortensen. All eyes were on it.
‘It’s a Custodian …’whispered Fortensen.
‘Come,’ said the gene-bulked super-human turning around and walking into the dark chamber.
All the men began to follow him, not knowing what else to do.
‘No,’ said the nine foot tall ancient warrior ‘Only him,’ he said, pointing to Clarkson.
The young trooper broke out of the pack of men and caught up with the tall being. The two walked off and were lost to sight.
‘What now?’ someone asked.
‘We wait,’ said Fortensen ‘We wait,’.

Finished: Too Much Love Will Kill You (working title), an original fiction novel. Working on: Second draft of Too Much Love, and the first draft of A Winter's Tale (working title).
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Part 2: Keep It Hidden, Keep It Safe

His feet hit the dirt of 3-55, the fifty-fifth world to face the wrath of the young Imperium of Man’s mighty warriors of the 3rd Expedition Fleet.
The warrior, clad in shining power armor took stock of his situation.
Behind him, more of his brother warriors, not soldiers, stormed out of the newly made stormbird assault craft.
Before him, thousands of raging greenskin bellowed their hate and charged the invading army, firing their weapons into the sky and waving primitive cleavers.
In his hands was a guardian spear, a weapon crafted for both long and short ranged combat.
He knew just what to do.
As dozens more stormbirds braved the clouds of ork fighter craft to deliver their deadly cargo, the warrior lowered his spear and fired into the mob of xeno filth before him.
Like a scythe of death from a forgotten mythic figure the orks died in droves yet still they came on, heedless of the sure death that was before them.
Before long more of the warrior’s brothers joined him and formed a line, impassible an understatement.
These warriors lent their firepower to the defense of the landing zone.
In moments the bulk of this ork horde was crippled, thousands dead as more and more of the Emperor’s warriors joined the fight.
When at last the ork horde hollered their rage no more the warrior looked up and down the line.
Not one green xeno had made it to the golden wall and before them over three thousand orks were dead. He ran his eyes over the bodies of dead, looking for any signs of life.
One eye closed and the other on the spear’s sights, he saw an ork push itself up from the mounds of the dead.
He pulled the trigger once more, and the beast’s head exploded.
‘A good start,’ said the warriors’ commander, Captain Angelos ‘but a day’s labor isn’t done till the sun sets,’
A cry of agreement came from the men.
‘More are coming!’ shouted a warrior, not in panic, merely in warning to let his brothers know more of the xeno creatures wished to die by their hands.
‘Phalanx!’ ordered Angelos.
The warriors moved with a rehearsed fluidity to their movements borne from decades of warfare.
The warriors formed into blocks of forty men each as the second wave of the ork assault, comprising of beasts both larger and fiercer.
At an unspoken command the mortal men who had been given the privilege of piloting the stormbird assault craft down to the surface took off, leaving the warriors behind to ensure the safety of the valuable landers. They would join the Imperial fighters in the sky until battle’s end or a hasty evacuation was required.
‘Phalanxes, make a wall!’ shouted Angelos and the warrior formations closed space and formed a solid wall of spears stronger than the first.
‘Open fire!’ the captain yelled and four hundred guardian spears opened fire.
Again the orks came and again they died in droves. But this time it was different. The orks brought with them their crude vehicles, cobbled together from whatever scrap metals they could find and studded with every conceivable weapon possible these affronts to reasonable mechanics lumbered forward to try and put the invasion force to rest.
It was no matter though. Nothing the orks could come up with could compare to the might of the Legio Custodes.
The warrior closed his eyes and let his body move of its own accord, letting the movements of a hundred battles flow through him as he lost himself in the fires of combat.

When at last Xavis opened his eyes it was to a scene of utter destruction.
Everything the orks had thrown at them was for nothing. Their vehicles were destroyed. More. Their countless numbers lay still in great piles as teams of mortal men dragged them on the ground and poured promethium on the piles of bodies before setting them to flame.
A camp was being set up for the conquest force where the custodies had originally landed. The stormbirds had landed once more and waited in staggered rows behind the camp. A few custodies stood in tight perimeter, eyes open lest another attack come.
‘You fought well,’ said a voice and Xavis turned to see Captain Angelos.
‘You commanded well,’ said Xavis, giving as good as he got.
Angelos chuckled.
‘There are few commands that need to be given to warriors who conquered Earth and fought in hundreds of battles with an expertise that has never before been seen,’
‘True enough,’
The captain gestured with his arm for Xavis to walk with him. He did so.
After they had started down their path for a while and left the camp Angelos broke his silence.
‘What do you think of the crusade?’ he asked.
‘It is only right that we set sail to the void of space and seek to unite all of scattered humanity under one banner,’ replied Xavis.
‘Yes, I agree, but what else?’ he asked.
‘We should also seek to eradicate xeno filth like the orks so that humanity be safe,’
‘Yes,’ said Angelos. Now the pair began to trek up a large hill that rose from the desert plains like a shattered bone that broke the skin of the earth to jut out and break the flat monotony.
The captain was silent once again.
A minute passed and the pair neared the summit.
‘What do you think of the world we have brought into the Imperial fold?’ he asked.
‘They reminded me of Earth, ravaged by war and separation from the galaxy, but like our home they can be rebuilt and made into jewels of a new Empire that will span the galaxy. I was glad to be a part of their liberation and compliances,’
‘Aye so was I,’ said Angelos when they reached the summit. He looked away from his warrior, to the setting sun on the horizon. It was the second sun that was setting at last, the first one passing from sight before it, taking with it most of the day’s heat. ‘But what of this world?’ he asked.
‘What do you mean my captain?’ asked Xavis.
‘There are no humans on this world, only orks, nothing of great worth exists here, no vast piles of metals to be made into weapons, no great promethium deposits, the Imperium gains nothing from this world, nothing but target practice,’.
‘Yes, that does confuse me. The orks need to be wiped out for the safety of humanity but that could have been done from orbit,’
‘Yes, I agree,’. said Angelos, turning to face the path they had just taken to come to this spot.
‘But I just received a message that could answer that question,’ he said.
‘What is it?’
‘The Emperor is coming here, he will arrive tomorrow,’.

Dawn broke over 3-55. In two rows facing each other the warriors of the Legio Custodes waited with the guardian spears held upright, still ready for battle. Alone amongst the Emperor’s armies they were permitted to keep their weapons loaded and battle ready in his presence, for they were his bodyguard, and for them to be close to him without being ready for any threat unimaginable.
Mortal men stood behind the immortal Custodes, no one was to attend to their duties until after the Emperor had landed and spoke to the assembled ranks.
The small ceremony had been timed well, after only a little while waiting a golden stormbird, bedecked in both the thunder and lightning symbols of the conquest of Earth and the new Aquila symbol of the new Imperium.
The stormbird landed smoothly and the assault ramp came down with a hiss.
Flanked by fifteen custodies on either side a pair of figure walked down the ramp. One held a guardian spear, it had to Constantin Valdor.
The other stood a head taller than the assembled custodies and was armored similarly, though his armor was crafted more for appearances than actual battle, but Xavis held no doubts that it could, would, and had seen the mighty man who wore it through countless battles.
At his hip was a blade sheathed in the finest leather and mounted on his wrist was a double-barreled plasma weapon. These were his weapons, but they were nothing compared to his psychic might knew Xavis, for he had seen the Emperor tear down walls and cities with but the wave of his hand.
Behind those cold grey eyes was a mind more powerful and gifted than anything in the history of man. And Xavis was glad to be on his side.
Xavis stood at the small podium erected at the end of the two columns of warriors alongside captain Angelos. He and the captain waited patiently for the Emperor to make his way through the columns of men as he stopped to briefly greet some of the custodies.
When at last the Emperor stood before the podium he smiled and shook hands with Angelos, looking him in the eye and exchanging pleasantries.
Everything fell silent for Xavis and he felt a presence just beyond the confines of his mind, waiting for his permission to enter. Xavis knew what it was, he had felt it before, all custodies had at some point in their service to the Emperor.
He allowed it in.
Hello my son.
My Lord.
I know you are wondering why we have come to this world.
I am.
Do not worry all will be revealed.
Yes my lord.
The Emperor finished greeting Angelos and gave Xavis the briefest of nods before taking his place at the front of the podium.
The Emperor spoke to the assembled warriors but Xavis did not listen. If he had not be curious before he certainly was now.
When the Emperor finished his speech the assembled forces saluted him and went back to their duties, the mortals went back to setting up the camp and the custodies went back to more martial tasks.
The Emperor and Constantin Valdor turned to Angelos and Xavis.
‘I will retire to my tent for the time being, expect a summons by nightfall,’ he said.
‘Yes my lord,’ the two warriors chorused.
The Emperor nodded and stepped off the podium.
The thirty warriors that formed his immediate guard took positions on his flanks and the group marched towards a golden tent that no one had seen before.
‘He always seems to have some sort of trick up his sleeves,’ said Angelos.

The day went on. Scattered parties of orks attacked the camp, which now had earthen ramparts erected to around the perimeter of the camp. When the orks attacked they were never thrown back, they were annihilated as utterly as they had been the day before.
When at last the Emperor’s summons came Xavis was in his personal tent, repairing his armor and sharpening his blade in solitude.
I need you now. Came the Emperor’s psychic voice in his head.
Yes my lord. He replied.
He took his armor off the cleaning stand he had made and put it back in its proper place.

Xavis stepped into the Emperor’s tent, the guards outside asking no questions, for he was a custodian, and beyond reproach.
Stepping into the Emperor’s tent was like stepping onto a different world.
Gone was the heat of 3-55, in its place was the coolness of the Himalayan mountains, where the Emperor had begun construction of his home and the seat of government for the Imperium.
Xavis stepped into the main chamber of the tent, where the Emperor stood over a map, floating on the cool air and showing the entirety of the western hemisphere of the world they currently waged war on, alongside Constantin Valdor and captain Angelos.
Constantin Valdor and Angelos nodded in greeting Xavis. The Emperor did not look up from the map.
Xavis, as the lowest ranking man in attendance, took his place opposite the Emperor with the map being the focal point of the room.
‘This,’ said the Emperor, pointing to the camp, which faced Xavis, although the Custode had a feeling the other three men in the room were facing it the same way he was, ‘is where we have both made planetfall and wiped out a considerable Ork horde,’
This much Xavis knew, and was wondering why the Emperor would go over such base facts.
‘I have determined the greenskin horde came from here,’ continued the Emperor, pointing to another spot on the map, this one in the midst of a mountain range. ‘This is where we will strike next, in the mountains, where they are most likely to be manning a fortress of some sort. We will strike there and annihilate them. Captain Angelos, prepare your men. Valdor, old friend, I’d like you wait outside with the companions and give me a moment with Xavis here,’.
The two older warriors complied, Angelos giving Xavis a brief look that the younger, though still old, Custode. The Emperor stood still as the warriors walked out of the tent.
When they were alone the Emperor turned to Xavis.
‘I know you are wondering why we have come to this world,’ he said.
‘I am my lord,’ said Xavis, clasping his hands behind his back.
‘And I will tell you, just promise me you shall be blunt in all your questions and answers, I have recently been in dealings with lords and administrators on Earth and I find myself desiring the talk of soldiers once more, simple and straightforward with no beating around the bush.’
‘Your wish is my command my lord,’ said Xavis.
‘Good. Now please tell me your opinion of the invasion of this world, I’d like to hear it from you, not just from Captain Angelos at the beginning of the conquest briefing you were not present for,’
‘Sir? It seemed to me I was here for the whole thing,’
‘Oh no, I was just summarizing with Valdor and Angelos when you came in, the real briefing was far more complete than that. Now please, your opinion of the invasion,’
Xavis told the Emperor what he had said to Angelos the day before almost verbatim, with little changing since then.
The Emperor nodded when Xavis spoke, seeming to agree with him on every issue, until he broke his silence.
‘You are right to question our presence here, annihilating the orks on a poor world such as this is typically the task of the navy, but in my travels across the galaxy, overseeing the beginning of this Great Crusade, I learned of something, something that could ruin all my plans for humanity if it fell into the wrong hands, something that is not currently in my hands, the right hands. Do you understand?’
‘Yes my lord,’
‘Would you like to know of how I came to learn of all this?’ the Emperor asked.
‘I am curious sir,’ Xavis admitted.
‘Then I will show you,’ said the Emperor, leaning forward with his arm outstretched and the palm of his hand opening.
Placing his hand on Xavis’s head the Emperor closed his eyes and showed his loyal Custode a scene of utter destruction.
Dying flames danced on falling structures, reveling in the destruction they wrought the night before when they had been born.
Walking down a long street a tall figure clad in gold surveyed the damage he and his warriors had inflicted on the xeno craftworld.
Behind the golden figure marched one hundred white armored Astartes of the Luna Wolves legion. Next to him strode the first primarch, Horus.
Xavis had heard of this, the destruction of the Eldar craftworld Herra-Tiel, one of the first victories the Emperor had shared with his first reunited son, a man Xavis hoped to meet some day.
The pair walked down the street, ignoring the flames and the bodies of the enemy dead that had been left where they fell while teams of Astartes picked up their honored fallen and arrayed them in rows.
The Emperor surveyed the work with satisfaction. Closing in on his first son’s homeworld the Craftworld had been ready for war, but they had been too late and the Emperor had crushed them
A lone Astartes came hurrying down the street, holding his blade at the ready for any unseen threat.
The Emperor saw him and his intent and halted his column.
‘My lords,’ said the Captain marine, nodding first to the Emperor and then to the primarch Horus, whom he spared a second to look upon, for he was his father ‘we have found one of the xeno council members, he is wounded, and not long for this world, but my apothecary keeps him alive and he awaits your interrogations just up the street,’ he finished.
‘Thank you Captain Abbadon, you have done well. Wait here with Hastur Sejanus. Your primarch Horus and I shall go and learn what we can from this xeno.
‘Yes my lords,’ said Abaddon, joining his fellow commander at the head of the column.
The Emperor and Horus followed Abaddon’s directions, such as they were and came upon the xeno farseer being attended to by two apothecaries.
They looked to the Emperor and their primarch.
‘A few minutes sir, he’s awake enough,’ one of them said before the two rose up, bowed to their lords and hurried down the street, intent on their other duties.
The Emperor stepped up to the xeno, who was laying down on the ground, both arms trying to put pressure on his wound, which would kill him soon. A glowing rune etched on stone hung from the xeno’s neck.
‘Why did you come here?’ said the Emperor. ‘Why did you come to attack an Imperial world, unprovoked.
‘End a war before it began, impossible task, but had to try…’ whispered the Eldar, his eyes half hid behind dropping lids aching to close for the last time.
‘Of what war do you speak?’ asked the Emperor.
The Eldar did not speak again, until the Emperor grew made and grabbed the spirit stone from the xeno’s neck and broke the leather cord that held it close.
‘Speak!’ he shouted, and the Eldar, aware of what it now faced, gave up all pretenses.
‘A war that will see you die, a war that will kill your precious humanity and rip apart the corpse in thousands of years of blood! One that will see the prophecy fulfilled and the light of order destroyed!’ it wailed.
‘What prophecy?’ asked the Emperor.
‘Which one?’ chuckled the Eldar before grimacing in pain.
‘The imprisoned will break free and lend his armies to cleaving of the golden walls, it will devour its guardians and give aid to the nine fallen ones, all it needs is the blood of a will of iron and it can do all this, but first the war will break out…’
The Emperor and Horus watched as the Eldar rambled on and on for several more minutes.
‘But why did you come here?’ the Emperor asked again.
‘He does not see,’ said the Eldar.
‘Speak!’ commanded the Emperor and wraitbone structure collapsed into a pile of rubble.
‘Kill the babe before the daemon grows too strong to be defeated,’ whispered the now delirious xeno.
Horus stared intently at the creature, not looking at his father.
The Eldar spoke again.
‘On a planet covered by the barbaric and devoid of all cause for envy, the weapon waits, guarded, the weapon waits to be unleashed, and it will be.
The Eldar coughed up blood again, its life was now measured in moments.
‘Please!’ it hissed, ‘don’t let her take me!’
The Emperor understood and dropped the spiritstone on the xeno’s chest just before it died.
‘I must find what it spoke of. And you must never repeat what you have heard here,’ the Emperor said, and turned and left Horus to himself, and disappeared.
‘That is why we are here,’ said the Emperor, removing his hand from Xavis’s forehead.
‘The ravings of a dying xeno?’ asked Xavis.
‘I will not ignore the possibility of a weapon that can threaten me,’ said the Emperor, ‘It is clear to me that the Eldar have something on this world, which fits the description in the prophecy, that could hurt us and if it is on this world I intend to find it and destroy it,’.
‘Do you know where it is here?’ Xavis asked.
‘I have a feeling, said the Emperor,’

Finished: Too Much Love Will Kill You (working title), an original fiction novel. Working on: Second draft of Too Much Love, and the first draft of A Winter's Tale (working title).
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Swinging down into the neck of an ork with his guardian spear Xavis wondered on the words he had exchanged with the Emperor.
Impaling a charging greenskin on the tip of his weapon Xavis wondered why the Emperor had chosen to speak of this with him, of all the Custodes.
Around him the orks continued their ill advised assault on the Emperor’s forces and were paying for it with their lives.
Though focused on his own butcher work Xavis could not help but watch the Emperor as he cut down the orks before him, cleaving a way to the warlord and cutting down the orks before him as though they were the wheat to his scythe.
Xavis looked at the warlord, it was a monstrous brute, almost three meters tall. Massive tusks curved out of its chin and it roared its hatred. One arm ended in a claw wreathed in crackling lightning while in its other hand it held a massive triple barreled gun which blasted explosive bolts, almost like an Imperial bolter, only cruder, less accurate, but more deadly.
It was nothing to the Emperor who cut its head from its body mere moments after their duel began.
Losing its drive the ork horde retreated back into the mountains.
‘After them!’ shouted the Emperor and the Custodes fell on the retreating xenos.
Xavis hung back from the slaughter, knowing the Emperor would soon call on him, and he did.
Once the bulk of the Custode force, led by Angelos followed the orks into their mountain stronghold the Emperor gather his companions, led by Constantin Valdor as always, together along with Xavis.
‘Captain Angelos leads the cleansing of this world now, we have something else to do,’ he stated simply.
‘Come with me,’.

The next hours passed by slowly for Xavis.
The group would traverse the slopes of the mountains, following the Emperor in silence.
They would search the hills for caves, and when they found one the Emperor would stand before it, exploring its depths with his mind before shaking his head and the group would go on to the next mountain.
When the day passed into dusk and the dusk became night, the group, or rather the Emperor, finally found what he was looking for.
Standing at the mouth of a cave that overlooked a small, flat landing area, the Emperor spoke the first word since his silence fell many hours ago.
‘It is here,’ he said.
‘Are you sure my lord?’ asked Constantin Valdor.
‘Yes, I sense something of great power within,’ he said, before pausing as though a voice only he could hear spoke to him.
‘Yes it is here, Valdor, you and the companions will await me out here, guarding the entrance. Xavis, you will come with me,’ said the Emperor.
‘Yes my lord,’ said Valor.
Sparing not a glance the Emperor strode into the cave, his golden armor being swallowed by the darkness of the shadows within.
Xavis started after him, before Valdor grabbed his shoulder, halting him.
‘Have I made some mistake sir?’ asked Xavis, knowing he was doing nothing of the sort.
‘I trust you Xavis,’ said Valdor ‘but my duty is to protect the Emperor, something I cannot fail at. Why he does not want me to accompany him to find the weapon I do not know, but if you fail me, and some harm befalls Him, I will see you dead. Do you understand?’
‘Yes I do,’ said Xavis ‘trust me, I do not wish to see any harm befall him either, I will die before that happens,’
Valdo let go of his shoulder. ‘Then go,’ he said.

The drip of water on stone was the only sound Xavis and the Emperor heard as they walked the long tunnels within the cave system.
At first Xavis had been lost in the dark, but the Emperor, sensing this, conjured a ball of light from the thin air to light their path.
As they walked in the darkness Xavis wondered not for the first time why the Emperor chose him to accompany him to the weapon.
‘There is something on your mind Custode,’ said the Emperor.
‘Yes my lord,’ said Xavis ‘why did you choose me to come with you? Why not Valdor? or Captain Angelos?’
‘I chose you because you are loyal, strong and skilled in battle and you will never stop until your mission is done,’
‘The same could be said for any one of the Custodes,’ replied Xavis.
‘Alright Xavis, the truth is I don’t know, but my instincts tell me it should be you who comes with me and in all my long years of life if there is one thing I have learned it is to trust my instincts,’.
‘Truly my lord?’
‘Yes, that is why I am bringing you and no one else.
‘Hmm,’ said Xavis.
‘Yes I know its not that grand of reason, but few things in this galaxy are as interesting as we’d like them to be,’
‘Yes my lord,’.

As the minutes turned to hours the pair went deeper into the tunnel system, always alert for any kind of threat, but meeting none.
Eventually Xavis took notice of a pale green light, seemingly just behind his perception.
‘Sir I think I see something,’ he said.
‘Yes, I see it to, although perhaps much more clearly, it is a portal of some kind, and it does not want us, or at least the minds controlling it do not want us. We must hurry,’ said the Emperor, before breaking into a more brisk walk. Xavis followed suit.
The pair was almost running when they finally caught up to the glowing green portal. The Emperor was right, it was moving away from them, but not fast enough.
‘We must go through,’ said the Emperor.
The green portal before them shimmered with mysterious energies from before man crawled out of the oceans of Earth. Beyond the event horizon they could see nothing, save ghostly reflections of themselves.
‘Let me go first my lord,’ said Xavis.
‘We will go through at the same time, I know you intend to make sure it is safe for me, but both of us can accomplish that better than just you, and how would you contact me even if you did go through first? Think about it,’
‘I suppose you are right my lord,’ said Xavis, raising his guardian spear so the blade was ready to impale any threat on the other side of the glowing green plane.
‘Are you ready my friend?’ asked the Emperor.
‘Yes my lord,’ Xavis replied, taking a deep breath. War, butchery, genocide, fighting for his life he understood, stepping into the unknown he had done before, but never like this.
‘Then let us go,’ said the Emperor, and the pair stepped forward.

They were immediately immersed in a sea of green light, spinning them round and round faster and faster. Xavis felt the air sucked out of his lungs and looked at his liege, concerned that harm would befall his master, but the Emperor’s face was serene, as though he had expected this.
Just when Xavis thought he couldn’t take it anymore the light went out and he found himself hanging many feet in the air above a cold stone floor.
Then sensation of weightlessness was fleeting and before he knew it he plummeted to the ground and slammed into the floor, every pound of his armor reminding him they existed.
Swimming in his vision the high ceiling of the chamber Xavis found himself in would not let him focus. Massive pillars bent out of shape the way stone should never. This is what Xavis saw in the two seconds before his advanced physiology righted itself and restored his clear vision.
He blinked a few time to clear out the rest of the dizziness before he saw the Emperor, standing next to him unaffected.
‘Quite a ride wasn’t it?’ he asked.
‘Not exactly what I would say sir,’ said Xavis, standing up.
‘Well we are here, the weapon is close by, I sense it more clearly now,’.
‘Do you know where we are my lord?’ asked Xavis.
‘Down a very long rabbit hole,’ said the Emperor, almost to himself.
‘A rabbit hole?’ said Xavis, quizzically.
‘A long story,’ replied the Emperor.
Before them the chamber went on, looking as though it had no walls. The ground was illuminated, as though from a high window where a sun shined through. But when they looked up they saw nothing but a ceiling miles away and resting on tall pillars of stone.
‘Come on,’ said the Emperor ‘it is this way,’.
The pair started on their path again, not even managing a step before the air was filled by a voice, ancient and wrathful beyond reason.
YOU WERE NOT GRANTED ENTRENCE, YOU WERE NOT ALLOWED HERE, YOU CAME DISPITE THE WARNINGS, YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO BE HERE, THE PROPHECY KEEPER WARNED YOU, AND YOU GAVE NO HEED, NOW YOU DIE.
Like a behemoth from the sea a wraith thin giant rose from the floor. Standing three times as tall as the Emperor the giant was clad for war with a long curved sword in one hand, the other was studded with what Xabis recognized as shruiken catapults.
YOU WERE NOT GRANTED ENTRENCE, YOU WERE NOT ALLOWED HERE, YOU CAME DISPITE THE WARNINGS, YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO BE HERE, THE PROPHECY KEEPER WARNED YOU, AND YOU GAVE NO HEED, NOW YOU DIE.
Xavis did not waste a second and raised his guardian spear to fight off the giant. Letting loose a long burst of fire from the spear his first attack had little effect, save to provoke the giant further.
Raising the arm studded with the shruiken catapults the giant fired on the pair. Razor sharp disks stitched a path towards the them and they leapt aside, the Emperor going left and Xavis going right and ducking behind a pile of rocks that rose up to form a hill from which a pillar came to support the ceiling before they were cut to shreds.
YOU WERE NOT GRANTED ENTRENCE, YOU WERE NOT ALLOWED HERE, YOU CAME DISPITE THE WARNINGS, YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO BE HERE, THE PROPHECY KEEPER WARNED YOU, AND YOU GAVE NO HEED, NOW YOU DIE.
‘Be silent you foul xeno!’ shouted the Emperor and Xavis saw the golden warrior leap in front of the giant, unsheathing a silver blade as he did so.
The Emperor unsheathed and slashed the giant with his blade in one move as he leapt, cutting a long would along its torso as gravity brought him to the floor.
YOU WERE NOT GRANTED ENTRENCE, YOU WERE NOT ALLOWED HERE, YOU CAME DISPITE THE WARNINGS, YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO BE HERE, THE PROPHECY KEEPER WARNED YOU, AND YOU GAVE NO HEED, NOW YOU DIE.
‘Be silent!’ shouted the Emperor, standing on the ground now. Holding his sword in both hands guarding himself from any move the giant might make the Emperor used his formidable powers and set the blade alight with the burning flame of a sun.
YOU WERE NOT GRANTED ENTRENCE, YOU WERE NOT ALLOWED HERE, YOU CAME DISPITE THE WARNINGS, YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO BE HERE, THE PROPHECY KEEPER WARNED YOU, AND YOU GAVE NO HEED, NOW YOU DIE.
The Eldar giant brought its own blade down and two meters of alien metal, reflective like a mirror and sharp like death’s scythe, was stopped cold by the blade of the Emperor.
Thus began a series of strike and counter-strike, thrust and parry, slash and evasion between the Emperor and the Eldar giant. Xavis had never seen anything like it and he hoped not to ever again, for anything that could drive his lord to such great feats of arms was a terrible foe indeed.
He was broken from his thoughts by his duty.
Legs moving on their own accord Xavis leapt from behind the rock pile, hands gripping the guardian spear’s haft like a lifeline, and in a way it was, for if the Emperor fell, he would stand no chance of either victory nor escape from this place.
‘To your aid I come my lord!’ he shouted, holding the spear out before him, ready to stab into the Eldar giant.
The Emperor swept aside a blow from the Eldar, in the process leaving his chest open to attack. Hearing his Custode’s cry he whipped his head around to see his loyal servant rushing the wraith lord.
‘Stand back!’ he shouted, too late.
Xavis stabbed the blade of his spear into the wraith lord’s leg, distracting it, but causing no damage.
The wraith lord’s head, smooth and with no face, turned to Xavis, regarding him no more than Xavis would regard an insect that had settled on his armor.
Xavis looked the xeno construct in it’s face, staring at where its eyes should be.
YOU WERE NOT GRANTED ENTRENCE, YOU WERE NOT ALLOWED HERE, YOU CAME DISPITE THE WARNINGS, YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO BE HERE, THE PROPHECY KEEPER WARNED YOU, AND YOU GAVE NO HEED, NOW YOU DIE.
The wraith lord brought the knee opposite Xavis down and around and slammed it into his chest, sending him flying into the air.
YOU WERE NOT GRANTED ENTRENCE, YOU WERE NOT ALLOWED HERE, YOU CAME DISPITE THE WARNINGS, YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO BE HERE, THE PROPHECY KEEPER WARNED YOU, AND YOU GAVE NO HEED, NOW YOU DIE.
The pain in Xavis’s chest was only drowned out when his back slammed into one of the stone pillars.
Falling to the floor Xavis was just quick enough to look up before the wraith lord and the Emperor traded a series of blows that ended with the Emperor being sent to the floor, temporarily bested by the Eldar spirit within.
Pushing himself up with one hand while the other held his sword the Emperor tried to rise, but the wraith lord slammed his foot down on the helpless human and kept him pinned to the ground.
Raising its sword the wraith lord reversed its grip on the hilt and sent rippling waves of energy down the blade, forcing the metal to fork at the end.
Stabbing down on the earth, the tips of blade penetrating on either side of the Emperor’s neck, the wraith lord boomed its warning once more.
YOU WERE NOT GRANTED ENTRENCE, YOU WERE NOT ALLOWED HERE, YOU CAME DISPITE THE WARNINGS, YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO BE HERE, THE PROPHECY KEEPER WARNED YOU, AND YOU GAVE NO HEED, NOW YOU DIE.
The Emperor releashed his grip on his own blade and tried to force the wraith’s sword off his neck with his hands. Xavis could see the Emperor was doomed if he did not act fast.
Looking into the smooth head of the Eldar, the Emperor tried to force his mind into the wraithbone construct of death, he tried to force it off of him, but a powerful mind was behind it, powerful enough to challenge him.
The wraith lord raised the arm studded with the shuriken catapults and aimed them squarely at the Emperor’s head.
All seemed lost and over, thousands of years of work about to end bloodily when Xavis appeared in the air, twisting his body and swinging the blade of his guardian spear into the side of the Eldar’s head.
The Eldar turned its attention to the new threat, though it had been severely damaged by the guardian spear it could still be deadly.
Pulling the blade out of the ground the wraith lord inadvertently freed the Emperor.
YOU WERE NOT GRANTED ENTRENCE, YOU WERE NOT ALLOWED HERE, YOU CAME DISPITE THE WARNINGS, YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO BE HERE, THE PROPHECY KEEPER WARNED YOU, AND YOU GAVE NO HEED, NOW YOU DIE.
Fast as he was Xavis was barely able to stop a sideways swipe of the wraith lord’s sword and the guardian spear was ripped from his hands.
The Eldar swung for Xavis again, who barely ducked under the blade, evading death once more, but the wraith lord had expected this and back handed Xavis across the face, sending him spiraling to the floor.
YOU WERE NOT GRANTED ENTRENCE, YOU WERE NOT ALLOWED HERE, YOU CAME DISPITE THE WARNINGS, YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO BE HERE, THE PROPHECY KEEPER WARNED YOU, AND YOU GAVE NO HEED, NOW YOU DIE.
Once more the Eldar reversed its grip on the sword. Xavis saw his end coming and braced himself… but the blow never came down.
Like a hot knife through butter the Emperor’s sword cut through the knees of the wraith lord and the war machine fell over backwards.
Xavis watched as it fell, before a flaming sword jutted out from its chest, and was thrown to the side by the Emperor.
‘Thank you Xavis,’ said the Emperor, ‘I don’t think I could have done that without you,’.
‘Yes my lord,’ said Xavis, rising from the ground and brushing some of the dirt from his armor.
The Emperor turned to the side and raised his arm, holding his hand open. Xavis’s guardian spear came flying into his grasp.
‘I think you should finish it,’ he said, and presented the spear to Xavis, haft first.
‘You wish is my pleasure my lord,’ said Xavis.
Xavis strode over to the fallen wraith lord, which struggled to get up. The xeno machine raised it’s sword arm for a feeble attempt at continuing the fight. Xavis cut is off at the wrist.
The Custode stepped onto the xeno’s chest and felt the seemingly fragile material it was built of crack underneath him.
Xavis took two steps and placed the tip of the spear on the wraith lord’s throat.
With nothing to say, he plunged it into the neck and severed the head from the body.
‘Are almost there?’ asked Xavis.
‘Yes,’ said the Emperor.
Before the two could start down the path once more a lone figure appeared just a few meters before them.
No wraith lord was this though, this was a warlock, an Eldar sorcerer who devoted its powers to war. It would be just as deadly as the wraith lord.
The new xeno lifted it’s arms from it side and raised them up.
Xavis, wrathful as he was, would tolerate no more threats to the Emperor.
‘Die foul creature!’ he shouted and raised and fired his guardian spear in one swift motion.
The bang of the haft mounted bolter was like the thunderous shout of rage from an angry god, and all the Eldar could do was try to use it’s powers in a feeble attempt to stop the bolt.
Stretching its arms out before it the xeno warlock flexed its powers and slowed down the bolt round, but it was too little too late and the explosive round detonated just feet from his chest.
The wound would be fatal, but not for a few moments.
‘Thank you,’ said the Emperor ‘I’ve learned they are far easier to interrogate when close to death,’.
‘Yes I saw,’ said Xavis.

The pair walked over the dying Eldar once more, and Xavis was reminded of the vision the Emperor gave him and recalled the look on the primarch Horus’s face as he just watched as his father interrogated a dying Eldar.
Once more the Emperor and his companion came next to a dying Eldar.
Kneeling down the Emperor asked it it’s name, what it’s purpose was, and where the weapon it guarded was, but he received no answers, even when he took the warlock’s spirit stone.
‘Speak damn you!’ the Emperor yelled.
Summoning what strength it had the Eldas tore its limp arms from the ground and gabbed the Emperor’s head on both sides.
‘See what you seek…’ rasped the dying Eldar and the Emperor raised a hand to stop Xavis from ending the creature’s life quicker.
Muscles taunt Xavis held his weapon ready to strike should the warlock do anything… stranger. Fighting every urge to kill to kill the xeno with every inch of his body Xavis waited anxiously for the Emperor to say something.
Heated moments that felt like hours passed before the Emperor moved.
Taking the now dead warlock’s hands off his head he gently crossed them on the xeno’s chest and closed its eyes.
‘We cannot destroy it,’ he said.
‘My lord?’ asked Xavis.
‘The weapon is not something that can be destroyed, it cannot be undone,’.
‘Then what do we do with it?’
‘This warlock was guarding it from falling into the wrong hands. It failed. You will not,’.
‘What?’
‘I now know why my instincts told me to bring only you, you must guard the weapon, it must never fall into the possession of anyone willing to use it, it is far too great and destructive. You must do this for me,’
Xavis took a long time before answering. He did not know what to do, on one hand he had no desire to leave the Emperor and the emerging Imperium, but if his lord felt he should take up this task, then he knew he should.
‘I will my lord,’.
‘That is good, you will guard the weapon, you will guard it from those who would use it. I will make your task easier, I will erase this system from Imperial charts, and I will give you a small portion of my power, enough so that you know how to protect the weapon, you will keep it secret, and you will keep it safe. The Eldar gave me the knowledge to manipulate the portal that brought us here, I trust you to send me back,’.
‘Yes my lord,’.

The two walked back to the spot where they entered the vast chamber,
Granted the power and knowledge the Emperor promised, Xavis opened the portal again, and sent the Emperor back to the world they had come from.
Letting out a sigh Xavis sat down on the cold floor for a long time, contemplating everything that happened. He knew he would be lonely in the centuries, perhaps millennia to come, and he hoped he would be successful in his task. It was all that was left to him now.
Loosening the leather straps that held his armor together Xavis let the formidable war plate fall from his body.
Clad in his simple red under robe Xavis settled in for perhaps the rest of life. Walking back to where the Eldar warlock had died he passed where he and the Emperor had slain the wraith lord. It was gone.
Somehow that didn’t bother him. With knowledge and powers passed down from the Emperor things he had never imagined were now known to him.
He found the Eldar warlock where he’d been left and walked up to it.
‘I suppose I should bury you,’ he said, and leaned down to pick up the limp body.
The Eldar’s arms unraveled and hung from the body, swinging slightly.
Xavis stared at the xeno’s face.
It’s eyes opened.
‘From Colchis the fire will spread, from Colchis doom will come, do not go there, from there the prison breaker will come, do not go there,’ it wheezed.
Xavis dropped the body and ran to the entrance of the chamber.
When he got there he reached out his mind, searching for the Emperor, but found nothing.
‘He is too late…’ came the death rattle of the Eldar.
Racing back to where he left the warlock Xavis found himself too late once more, the body had disappeared.
Xavis, completely and totally alone now, feel to his knees, and wept. Why exactly he did not know. But the sense of purpose he had felt a little while ago was gone, and in its place was a feeling of dread he could not shake.

Removing his hand from the head of the young Imperial Army trooper Xavis leaned back on his stone seat.
‘And that is everything that led to this,’ he said.
‘I know gods don’t exist, but oh my god,’ said Clarkson.
‘Yes it is much to take in,’.
‘There is something I need to tell you to,’ said Clarkson.
‘I know, the rumors of the rebellion that reached your regiment, the betrayal of the primarch Lorgar, son of Colchis. I know everything you know,’.
‘What do we do?’
‘We must prevent the enemy from getting their hands on the weapon, something I have no doubt they are trying as we speak,’.

Finished: Too Much Love Will Kill You (working title), an original fiction novel. Working on: Second draft of Too Much Love, and the first draft of A Winter's Tale (working title).
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Part 3: Bring Down the Walls

Sor’Talla leaped out of the mouth of the cave, just barely outrunning the destructive energies that had chased him out of the tunnel ridden cave.
Around him mortal humans ran as well, although dozens had already died, unable to get out fast enough and escape the destruction. They died screaming in pain, not welcoming the crossing of the threshold of death they were partaking in. Sor’Talla was disgusted by them.
Hitting the hard rocky ground, still smoldering with flames from the onslaught just hours before, Sor’Talla tucked in his arms and allowed the slope to roll him to safety.
In brief flashes Sor’Talla saw more of Kor’Farrah’s troops coming in on Navy troop landers and securing a drop site that would no longer be used for an extermination like planned.
Sor’Talla stopped rolling and was back on his feet in moments.
The Word Bear looked upon the small mountain that had just caused him so much pain and anger.
Sor’Talla grabbed his helmet and tore it off, ripping the void locks on it. As invisible energies ripped out sides of the mountain and rocks and chunks of the earth exploded outward Sor’Talla roared his anger and hate as his quarry was denied him and the chances of fulfilling his master’s task seemed nil.

It took only minutes for the mountain to finally collapse in destruction. By then over eight hundred mortal soldiers under Kor’Farrah had formed up into eight ranks, eight men deep each.
Sor’Talla rolled his eyes in disgust. Kor’Farrah was a sycophant who knew nothing of the holy powers beyond the veil of the warp.
A young captain broke from the ranks and ran up to him.
‘My lord Astartes, what happened?’
A backhand slap that took the man’s head off his shoulders was not what he had in mind for an answer. The body crumpled to the ground and blood poured out of the space where the neck should be, but wasn’t. Sor’Talla looked at it in detachment, noticing how the blood mixed with the dirt and dust and thickened.
‘You have failed us!’ shouted a voice.
Sor’Talla looked up from the corpse.
The sycophant had arrived.
Stopping just far enough away to be heard, Kor’Farrah held his ground behind an armed guard of twenty men from the Colchis Royal Guard.
‘I charged you with uncovering the weapon, and you have failed. But not only have you failed me, you failed our master, the blessed Primarch Lorgar,’
Sor’Talla’s right hand moved smoothly down to the combat knives strapped to his leg.
‘You seem to be under the delusions you suffer again,’ he said to the General.
‘I am not delusional, you have failed and it clouds your minds. I will return to the base now, and I will report you to the Primarch,’
Kor’Farrah turned and began walking back to his personal transport.
‘Instruct the men to return to base, from there we will go back to the fleet and return to the Primarch,’ the General said to his adjutant.
‘Yes my lord,’ said the young man.
Around them the companies of men from several different regiments began filing back into their landing craft.
‘What should we do with the Astartes my lord?’ asked the adjutant.
‘We leave him, he is of no more use to me. When we take off I will order the pilot to fire the defense missiles on his thunderhawk,’
‘Yes s-‘started the adjutant before the blade of a knife stabbed through his neck and blood sprayed out of his jugular.
The General turned around and saw Sor’Talla standing sideways, with his arm out and hand empty.
‘Kill him now!’ he shouted and hundreds of lasguns turned on the Word Bearer.
Sor’Talla hooked his foot under the corpse of the man he killed just minutes before and kicked it up, grabbing the back. Astartes physiology allowed him to do this before the soldiers fired and he used it as a shield against the las-fire.
The body was vaporized almost immediately, but not before Sor’Talla managed to rip the officer’s grenade strap off his hip and flung it into the crowd of soldiers.
Ducking low Sot’Talla trusted his enhanced body to move him faster than the humans could aim as he ran. The explosion of the grenade belt was like an event barely worthy of notice to him when it happened. All he knew was that he had no ranged weapons, and that to charge the General with nothing but a combat knife was to die.
Dimly, at the edge of his awareness he heard a voice shout “forget him, just get to your landers!”. It was the General, no one else on this world would command with such cowardness.
Sor’Talla spotted a boulder from the destruction of the mountain dived behind it.
The marine hunched down behind the boulder and drew his knife, holding it in a reverse grip. He felt the impact of two fragmentation grenades on the other side of the boulder and a few las-shots impacted the earth on either side of him.
A few minutes of waiting was all the Astartes suffered before he heard the whining of VTOL aircraft taking off.
Peeking over the rock Sor’Talla watched as dozens of ships took off. He noticed as one, more decorated than the others, hovered lower than the rest. He watched as the vessel shifted in the direction of the Thunderhawk he had come to this damn place in.
With a mechanical whine a missile cylinder lowered itself from the hull of the ship and aimed at the hull. The rear end of the cylinder vented steam and two long and sleek missiles rocketed from the ship.
The missiles slammed into the hull of the blood red Thunderwak and tore the metal open like it was only so much scrap.
‘No!’ shouted Sor’Talla, and the General’s aircraft turned around in the sky, and went to join the rest, taking place in the middle of the formation.
Secondary explosions went off when the flames reached the munitions on the Thunderhawk, reducing it to even less scrap.
Sor’Talla roared his anger at the sky once more.

It was several hours before the Astates gathered himself. Locked away within his mind his sense of purpose had retreated, allowing rage to consume his body. He had torn apart Kor’Farrah’s head a thousand time in his mind. He had butchered every single mortal on this world a million times in his imagination. But that would get him nowhere. So he prioritized.
First he came to the conclusion that to return to the legion empty handed in defeat would be a death warrant, and worse, that his soul would become the plaything for the lesser denizens of the warp, a place he was determined to hold his own court in.
Thus he realized that he must both kill the bastard General, and accomplish his task.
But he knew he could not do this alone.
Recalling the sacred rituals he had been taught within the warrior lodges he sat upon the ground, resting on his knees.
Closing his eyes he leaned forward and with the tip of his right index finger drew a circle around himself, leaving no gaps.
Next he took his combat knife and cut across his wrist and poured his life blood into the channel in the dirt and dust, flexing the joint so the blood would not clog.
When he was surrounded by a circle of blood he once more took his finger and carved a line down the circle across the middle. Then another, intersecting it.
Two more lines he drew, making the sacred eight pointed star design.
Angels of the aether come to me… he whispered, eyes shut tight. Nothing happened, save the wind picked up just enough to be noticed.
Again and again he chanted the mantra, summoning the entities from beyond reality.
Angels of the aether come to me and show me the way… he whispered for hours.
When darkness fell and the heat of the desert turned to the cold of the wasteland Sor’Talla had just about given up hope of an answer before he felt something behind him.
‘Kohrne’s raging balls you mortals are fickle. Just because I don’t come the second you call you assume I’m ignoring you. Are you not aware there are other, bigger, more interesting things, going on right now? Do you have any idea how fun the Isstvan system is about to get?’ asked the daemon.
‘It is good to see you to friend,’ said Sor’Talla, rising to his feet.
‘What do you want this time Talla?’
‘I need to fulfill my lord’s command, and kill a traitor,’ the marine stated simply.
‘Well for the second part all you have to do is slit your own throat,’ said the daemon.
‘We were the betrayed as you know damn well,’ said Sor’Talla.
‘Whatever you say. So what makes you think I can, or even should, drop everything I’m dealing with and focus on your problem?’
‘I know your name,’
‘Well now that is cold,’
‘A bit more willing now?’
‘I never was unwilling, just wondering why I should. So cut to the chase, what do you need me for?’
‘You always enjoyed slaughtering those who think they follow the true word but could never understand it, its what I aim to do, but first I have to get somewhere,’
‘I know what you have in mind, and I’ll do it. Just answer m this: Do you care that long term exposure to the raw warp will mutate you into something your Primarch would hunt for sport? Something driven insane beyond repair and will never again retain cognitive function?’
‘I don’t give a shit, all I have is my own duty right now,’
‘Okay good, in that case there is a younger lad, in the circle of men you killed earlier with that grenade belt, he’s been unconscious for some time now. We’ll need him,’

Cargo lifters picked up crates of munitions, fuel and other supplies for easier packaging into bulk Navy landers, speeding up the process of repackaging the entire pre-fab base for transport.
Kor’Farrah didn’t care how much faster the process went because of the machines, he wanted off this planet, it and the task he’d been assigned was a dead end, all because Sor’Talla disobeyed his orders. At least that’s how the report would go.
The General was distracted from his thoughts as the crack, boom and blinding flash of thunder and lightning raped the night sky.
Thousands of men looked up from their tasks, this was something they’d not encountered on this world below.
‘Get back to your work,’ commanded Kor’Farrah.
The men did not need to be told twice.
Men outside the walls hurried even faster to get equipment back inside the security of the base. They, men of a dozen campaigns were spooked, and it wasn’t the strange weather. There was something else out there.

‘A bit much don’t you think?’ asked Sor’Talla, standing on a cliff not far from the base, his armor dulled by the dust, one hand holding his combat knife and the other holding the human soldier slung over his shoulder,’
‘Said “Mr. I’m going to burn down this village with a couple hand flamers”?’ mocked the daemon.
‘When was that?’ the Astartes asked.
‘Colchis, during the cleansing. Don’t you remember?’
‘Oh yes that’s right. As I recall it was you who talked me into it,’
‘You were so easy to persuade back then,’
‘Let’s get on with this,’ said Sor’Talla.
‘Yes, is he still alive?’
The man, barely into his twenties, groaned in pain.
‘A bit,’
‘Good, now sacrifice him,’
‘This isn’t my first blood missile Cherb,’ said Sot’Talla, pronouncing the first syllable of the daemon’s name.
‘Now I remember why we hate each other,’ said the daemon, ‘well go ahead and do it if you know how then’ he added offhand.

Finished: Too Much Love Will Kill You (working title), an original fiction novel. Working on: Second draft of Too Much Love, and the first draft of A Winter's Tale (working title).
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The howl split the night like a dagger in an unsuspecting dreamer’s back.
From the bowls of hell the blood missile streaked across the landscape, leaving a trail of blood that burned like fire.
To it the walls built by mortal hands were nothing, and it tore a hole in reality through them before pouncing on the men within.
Men fired on the hell thing with their weapons, expending solid and las-fire, hitting nothing but the air the blood missile occupied moments before.
Blazing like a comet through the camp the blood missile claimed its first victim, a young corporal who’d never set foot on another world before coming here.
Clamping its jaws around his head the warp creature bit down and was rewarded with a sickening crunch, which was all it needed.
Exsanguinating the newly dead body the blood missile sucked the man dry and gorged itself on the red liquid it prized so dearly.
Men watched in horror as the blood missile doubled in size and took on a more wolf like visage than it had before.
It’s jaws elongated and rows of razor sharp teeth jutted out in all directions.
Spiked speared out of its flesh between it’s shoulders and it’s legs, already long stretched out further.
Letting loose a blood curdling cry into the night air the blood missile once more pounced on the defenders and resumed its blood feast.

‘Isn’t this fun?’ said the daemon to Sor’Talla.
Both were still standing on the cliff, watching the base from a distance. Sor’Talla’s face was lit up when the blood missile’s reign of havoc started a fire and touched off an explosion.
The dried out corpse of the mortal human lay next to the, face pale and stretched out in pain and horror.
‘It is the means to my end,’
‘In more ways than one,’ whispered the daemon.
‘Excuse me?’
‘Nothing,’
‘When will this be done?’
‘Soon enough,’

Kor’Farrah showed men aside, pushing them down as they got in his path.
‘Kill the creature!’ he shouted, sending more of his men down the opposite way, towards the screams of death.
One young soldier tried to slip past him to get to the landers, which were resting on landing pads just ahead of them.
‘Get back there!’ shouted Kor’Farrah, grabbing the soldier’s uniform by the back of the neck and jerking back.
Around him his guard tried to clear space for the General.
‘Clear me a path!’ shouted Kor’Farrah as another explosion boomed behind them.
The guard detail lowered their hellguns and fired into the crowd of men before them, sending twenty to their deaths in the first volley.
‘Get me to my lander!’ the General shouted.

Sor’Talla and the daemon watched as a series of explosions ripped the command bastion apart, opening its levels to the air outside.
A shape flew over the explosion, only visible because of the reflection it gave off.
‘Potent aren’t they, blood missiles. Especially when they have so much fuel to feed on,’ said the daemon, smiling.
‘That was Kor’Farrah’s personal lander,’ said Sor’Talla.
‘What do you want me to do about it?’ asked the daemon
The Astartes glared at him.
‘Oh all right,’ said the warp being.
With a wave of it’s hand a rift was tore into the fabric of reality once more.
Sor’Talla stepped into the warp once more, and was engulfed by madness.
Cleansing his mind of all thought Sor’Talla let the currents of the warp take him where he needed to go.
Screaming all around him the sounds of life and death tore at his ears and clawed their way to his brain.
Keeping his eyes shut tight Sor’Talla kept the raw energies of unreality away from the soft flesh of his mind.
Something brushed up against Sor’Talla, like skin made of water, or some other liquid and the marine could feel it caress his body before letting go.
Behind the thin slices of skin that were his eye lids Sor’Talla could not see the fine details of the things that swam around him, brushed up against his flesh. He could see the colors of the warp, at once every color in creation and at the same time none at all.
The screams intensified as Sor’Talla felt the pull of the warp growing stronger and stronger before throwing up on the command deck of an Imperial Navy vessel in orbit above the planet that had brought him so much anger and grief.
The crew stared at this new comer in shock, some letting their mouths fall open.
Sor’Talla rose to his feet and stared at the mortals.
So pathetic.
‘I am commandeering this ship in the name of the blessed Primarch Lorgar from the hands his disloyal and dishonest servant General Kor’Farrah. You will follow my orders and if need be die trying or I will rip your head from your shoulders and suck the corpse dry, is that clear?’
The crew nodded.
‘Good,’.

Kor’Farrah sat back in his seat, relieved he had gotten off the planet in one piece. He had hoped to bring as many men and supplies with him as possible to join the Primarch Lorgar, but because of that bastard, Sor’Talla, for it could be no one else, he was lucky to get off the planet in one piece.
Ahead of his lander two battleships of the Navy forces under his command waited.
A small monitor in the control panel lit up and the face of Captain August appeared.
‘General Kor’Farrah, in the name of the blessed Primarch Lorgar I greet you and would like to inform you that we received your vox signal and preparations have already been made for your return. If you do not mind I would appreciate it if you would join me on the command deck,’.
The transmission cut before Kor’Farrah could say or do anything.
That insolent bastard of a Captain, thought Kor’Farrah.
It did not truly matter though, it was where Kor’Farrah had originally meant to go anyway.
‘Still alive?’ the Genereal asked his companion.
‘Yes, still alive,’ said the sorcerer.

Captain August did not know where the Word Bearer had gone.
One moment the giant war machine was giving him instructions to be filled out to the letter with the Captain’s soul for forfeit if they were not, then he was gone, disappeared from the well lit and clean command deck.
August had done all he could for now, doing everything the Astartes commanded him to do, never giving voice to any of his questions lest he die a painful death.
The long minutes passed slowly as August and command crew waited for the General. The Astartes had made it painfully clear he would kill the General, something August was not very keen on being around to witness.
But like fighting against a rip tide, he knew trying to get out of it was hopeless.
Sweat beaded August’s forehead and he wiped the sleeve of his jacket across it, blinking away the sweat that had trickled down to his eyes.
‘What is so damn important you must summon me to the deck when you already know I am coming?’ came a loud, arrogant voice.
August closed his eyes.

Dropping from the ceiling Sor’Talla held his combat knife in a two handed grip, ready to stab down on the bastard Kor’Farrah’s head.
In the two seconds before he hit the floor Sor’Talla analyzed Kor’Farrah and his guard.
The Colchis Royal Guardsmen were ill at ease, uneasy after abandoning comrades on a planet with a warp beast prowling and an unfinished ork threat. They were also at the edge of their resolve, having seen that warp creature and what it could do. But for all that they could still fight, they were armed in the traditional way with hellguns and power sabers sheathed across their backs and clad in stone grey carapace armor.
They would be no threat to him.
Then Sor’Talla the hunched over figure of the sorcerer, something he’d forgotten about but quickly remembered.
Sor’Talla knew what this being was capable of, his skills with warp craft almost on par with a novice of the legion. Sor’Talla also knew that while its powers were weak compared to Astartes, it made up for that with a devious mind and would no doubt have something hidden up its sleeve.
It did.
Crashing down on the invisible kine shield it projected was not Sor’Talla’s idea of a good start to his vengeance.
Nevertheless, he did.
Hitting the floor on his side Sor’Talla lost the grip on his combat knife but was on his feet in less than a second.
Uttering a word of power the sorcerer waved his arms against Sor’Talla and sent the marine flying across the room, crashing into a technician and the control panel he manned.
Before he rose he heard the rasping voice of the sorcerer as he shouted for the General to escape and make for the other ship, the Damavand.
Sor’Talla didn’t need to look in order to tell the General would take his advice.
Sparring no time the Astartes leapt from the floor and started after the General.

As part of any situation in which a commanding officer must retreat in the face of a lone assassin in order to live it is standard practice for his guard detail to stay behind and kill, or at least stall, the would-be killer. And this is what the Colchis Royal Guard did.
Drawing their power sabers five of the seven men moved to engage the threat to their master at close quarters.
Sor’Talla moved to eliminate them and reached the bastards in three long steps.
The first raised his saber to bring it crashing down on Sor’Talla.
Sor’Talla brushed the blade aside with his plated forearm, careful not to his the edge or the blade would go slicing straight through his arm. Not even power armor could protect against some things.
Shoving the blade aside Sor’Talla struck with his other hand, punching clean through the man’s head.
The second man came, swing is blade at an angle from the side with both hands.
Sor’Talla dived under the blade, feeling the electricity it used and smelling the burnt ozone smell it created.
Somersaulting across the floor Sor’Talla was on his back and brought his legs down on the man and kicked him in the chest, pulverizing his innards.
Jumping back to his feet Sor’Talla rose just in time to meet the next to Royal Guards as they attacked in a pair, swinging their sabers like madmen, using a seldom seen style of attack that originated from Colchis where two men would give their enemy the appearance of madness that hid a deadly cohesion to their moves.
Sor’Talla was surprised two mortals could master it, but it was something he knew instinctively and posed little threat to him.
As the two man both slashed, one from the left and the other from the right, Sor’Talla collapsed on his knees and the blades passed right over him.
The men took two steps too far and he was inside their guard, grabbing the sword arm of one and plunging it into the other before shoving his elbow into the throat of the first, breaking the neck.
The fifth man had seen all of this and held his sword firmly before him, guarding against the eight foot tall war machine.
Sor’Talla saw the weakness in this man’s eyes and advanced on him, staying just out of reach of the panicking soldier’s swipes, allowing him to hit nothing but thin air as he walked backwards, trying to find some way out of this.
There was none.
The crew of the ship stayed at their stations, either too paralyzed by fear to move or smart enough to know getting anywhere close to this melee would be their death.
No matter how smart it was to stay out of the way though, for one crew man time had come.
Grabbing the man by his throat Sor’Talla ripped the technician from his control station and swung him like a club against the Royal Guard.
Slashing with his saber the man cut the human club in two, the waist and legs falling to the ground while Sor’Talla kept the neck and torso.
Sot’Talla brought the now dead man up above his head before bringing it down, clubbing the Royal Guard on his head and beating him to a pulp.
‘Shoot him!’ hissed the sorcerer and the last two Royal Guard opened fire with their hellguns.
Sor’Talla felt the punch and jab of hellfire rounds hitting his warplate and felt no pain.
While stronger than the common lasgun the hellgun was still little compared to Astartes power armor. Nevertheless it could still bring a marine down in time.
The guts of the two Royal Guard who had been firing on him poured out onto the floor as Sor’Talla recalled that fact in his mind.
The sorcerer backed up against the wall and hissed.
‘The General will be gone by now, you are too late to stop his escape to the Damavand,’
‘Then he will die there,’ replied Sor’Talla, turning around to face the command deck.
Unsheathing a short barbed knife the sorcerer leapt at the Astartes.
Twisting around and backhanding the sorcerer across the face Sor’Talla thwarted his delusional attempt at killing him.
‘I know someone who’ll love to get his hands on you,’ Sor’Talla said, and the daemon appeared alongside him.
‘Captain,’ continued Sor’Talla, turning his attention from the sorcerer being dragged down the hall, screaming his hate.

Captain August opened his eyes.
‘Yes sir?’ he asked.
‘Open fire on the Damavand,’
‘At once my lord,’

Finished: Too Much Love Will Kill You (working title), an original fiction novel. Working on: Second draft of Too Much Love, and the first draft of A Winter's Tale (working title).
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The sister sips Damavand and Mikasa were constructed in the fleet yards above Mars. Both colossal vessels held starboard and port broadside cannons for void combat along with ranks of support and defense guns to fend off smaller vessel while the main cannons dealt with the main threat.
Both ships once shared a combined fighter complement of sixteen assault craft, but now the Mikasa had gone over to a primarily troop carrying capacity while the Damavand maintained half its original fighter complement.
In exchange for the loss of its fighters the Mikasa had had a torpedo bay installed, which had not been available back in the early days of the Great Crusade, as did the Damavand.
All in all the ships were of equal strength, and it was only by the strength of its crews and the speed of its commanders that a contest between the two would be decided.
Which is what happened.

The duel began when the Mikasa fired on the Damavand, moments after the Lord General Kor’Farrah boarded the battleship.
The Captain of the Damavand, Captain Davir responded by firing a blockade barrage, a volley from the defense guns designed to put as much scrap metal and debris as possible between the two ships in the hope that the next round of fire directed at the Damavand would hit that instead of the hull.
Fire intensified as the Mikasa’s gun crews resumed their duties after weeks of inactivity and remembered long lost skills.
Unprepared for the attack Captain Davir ordered the ship into the warp, without a destination.
‘After them!’ shouted Sor’Talla, on the command deck of the Mikasa.
Turning about like ship leaving port in the forgotten oceans of ancient Earth, the Mikasa turned about before jumping into the warp after the Damavand.

Onboard the command deck of the Mikasa Sor’Talla stood next to the Captain, surveying the crew.
The Astartes had ordered the viewing ports opened after they made the jump into the warp. No one wanting to upset the man who’d killed several elite soldiers of Colchis in the blink of an eye, the ports had been opened and the myriad of colors of the warp were made visible.
Everyone save Sor’Talla averted their eyes, instead focusing on their given tasks.
‘You know where they are going?’ asked Sor’Talla.
‘Yes my lord,’ replied Captain August ‘The Damavand is a big ship with a distinct warp profile and won’t be able to hide from us anywhere,’
‘It had better not,’
Silence fell between the two.
For Sor’Talla the passage through the warp boring, on the ships of the legion the Gellar Fields would be discarded in favor of the new comfort unreality brought and purity it left with its passing.
Under normal circumstances Sor’Talla would order the crew to lower the protective barrier against the warp and allow its hands to caress the ship. But this was not a normal passage, the crew, while firmly on the side of Lorgar and the vessel Horus, had not yet been given the privilege of the blessings of the true word and thus could not stand but moments in the warp before falling into insanity.
Sor’Talla could do much, but he could not run the entirety of a battleship by himself.
‘Sir, the Damavand has dropped out of the warp,’ said the helmsman.
‘Let’s join them,’ said Captain August, stepping forward before pausing.
‘My lord,’ he said, to Sor’Talla ‘this is my ship and while I will carry out your orders to the best of my ability, I would appreciate it if you did not interfere,’
Sor’Talla bristled with anger, thinking himself insulted, but reason came to him and he stopped himself before he took things too far.
‘You will have nothing to worry about Captain, as long as you disable that ship you will have nothing to fear from me,’
Captain August turned his head away from the Astartes to hide the fact he sincerely doubted that last part.
‘Yes my lord,’ he said.
The two turned their attention back to the viewing port where the sea of the colorful warp dissipitated into the cold black of real space.
Ahead of them was the Damavand, unmoving in the void and facing them, sitting like duck in pond, but with the power to destroy worlds at its disposal.
Almost immediately the Damavand opened fire on the Mikasa and the command deck went to full alert.
‘Torpedoes incoming sir, port side,’ said a crew member.
‘I see that Mr. Jellen, Mr. Woodesn, fire a scrap shot into their path,’
‘At once sir,’ replied the gunnery officer.
‘And someone close the viewing port, we don’t need a crack in the glass right now, or ever,’ said the Captain.

In the cold darkness of space thirty torpedoes locked in on the Mikasa and soared towards the behemoth, each one more than capable of bypassing the void shields and blowing open the adamantium hull.
Lines of gas propulsion trailed after scrap shots from the Mikasa, exploding and unleashing fields of debris a safe distance from the ship, forming a protective barrier against the torpedoes.
The first of the torpedoes was stopped in its tracks by the debris and exploded in short lived fireball.
Fourteen other torpedoes were stopped in the same way, leaving half to rocket toward the Mikasa unscathed.

‘Close defense fire patterns now!’ shouted Captain August on the deck of the Mikasa.

Rows and rows of short close range guns, designed with fighter and bomber assault craft in mind, opened up and hundreds, then thousands, then millions of tracer rounds were fired in moments in the direction of the torpedoes.
The tracer rounds intercepted and ruptured seven torpedoes which exploded not far away from the hull. Which left eight.
Slamming into the hull the torpedoes tore through seven decks before exploding and tearing an entire section out of the ship, taking two major gun decks on the port side and hundreds of ratings who went screaming silently to their deaths in the vacuum.

‘Close all patches now!’ shouted August.

All along the corridors crewmen scrambled to get to safety and escape the pull of the void. As the patches closed some men lost limbs trying to squeeze through two ton doors as they closed. Some didn’t make it at all.

Warning klaxons wailed at the impact and the lights went to emergency red, giving the whole command deck a bloody appearance.
‘Return fire!’ ordered August and at his command rows of main cannons alongside either side of the Mikasa fired their explosive heavy shots.
The Damavand saw this and fired its engines, moving out of the path of incoming fire.

‘Sir, sensors detect the Damavand is turning about, removing itself from the path of the cannon fire,’ said a crewman.
‘Plot their trajectory and fire a volley where they will be, throw in a lance shot to go with it, see if we can weaken their shields,’ said Captain August.

The Mikasa’s first volley passed the Damavand by by only a couple miles, almost making contact.
The second volley caught it on the prow, almost entirely disintegrating under the inferno that was the lance strike that broke the void shields apart just long enough for the main cannon shot.
The force of the impact shoved the Damavand to starboard, sending it out of its path and unintentionally bringing its port batteries to bear.

‘Ram it,’ said Sor’Talla on the Mikasa’s command deck, breaking his half-hearted promise to the Captain.
‘My lord sensors detect that Damavand’s port batteries are powering up for another volley,’
‘Power to shields,’ said August to his command crew before addressing Sor’Talla, ‘my lord I thought you weren’t going to interfere, if we ram there is a chance we will miss the Damavand entirely and if that happens we will be at their mercy,’
‘I need the traitor’s blood on my hands,’ growled the Astartes.
‘You won’t get it with ramming that ship, there’s no way to board it afterward, I’m sorry my lord but this is not an Astartes strike craft,’
‘Are there any ways to get on board that ship?’ asked Sor’Talla
‘There is the usual way I get you somewhere,’ said the daemon, appearing behind the Astartes.
Some of the crew let out a scream in fright. Sor’Talla ignored them.
‘Honestly, why you didn’t think of me before just baffles me,’ continued the warp being.
‘I feel it changing me, what you said before was true, it is only a matter of time before it ruins me,’
‘Once more won’t kill you, and I thought you wanted the bastard’s head more than anything,’
Sor’Talla was silent, considering his options. The deck shook as the Damavand’s volley slammed into the Mikasa, several crew men were throw from their seats by the force of the impact.
‘Not yet,’ he said.

The battle continued for another two hours, the ponderous order of void warfare making even this minor exchange more costly than the largest of solid ground battles.
Both ships tried constantly to gain the upper hand, but they were too evenly matched. When the Damavand launched its assault wings the spacecraft scored a few hits, but were ripped apart by the close defense guns on the Mikasa.
When the Mikasa fired its lance guns on the Damavand they penetrated the shields and wrecked the starboard engines, but when the Damavand counter-attacked the Mikasa lost two of its main batteries in the explosions that followed.
Eventually the fight ground to a halt, each ship facing each other across thousands of miles in space. Each ship held every working gun at the ready and aimed at the other, ready to unleash everything they had.

‘Hail them,’ said Sor’Talla on the deck of the Mikasa.
One of the crew members tried, but got nothing for his troubles.
‘I’m sorry sir, they know we’re hailing them but they can’t respond right now, we must have knocked out their communications system earlier,’
The vox set in the starboard aft corner buzzed and crackled. It technician raised a hand to her ear and acknowledged it.
‘My lord,’ she said to Sor’Talla, ‘it’s the Lord General, he wishes to speak to you,’
‘Very well,’ said the Astartes before walking over to the station.
‘Leave me,’ he said to the technician. She couldn’t get out of her chair fast enough.
‘What do you want mongrel?’ asked Sor’Talla.
‘I wish to negotiate some form of truce,’ said the General.
‘You are in no position to negotiate,’
‘Neither are you,’
‘All our guns are powered up and trained on the Damavand, you have no hope of escape,’
‘We are in similar positions, the Damavand’s guns, while fewer given our exchange of fire, are all ready and aimed at the Mikasa, it is more than enough to leave you stranded here for eternity, and let’s not forget, you hailed us, you were about to negotiate as well,’
‘Your hubris knows no bounds, I only wished to inform you of the situation,’ said Sor’Talla.
‘You’re a terrible liar Astartes. Anyway, there is more to this situation than you think,’
‘Like what?’
‘Check your long range sensors,’
Sor’Talla looked to the vacant long range detection station. It was formerly occupied by the man he’d used as a club. He snapped his armored fingers at the Captain and pointed at it.
August went over to the station and checked it.
‘Sir, long range scanners show a ship, a battle barge it looks like, en route to our current position,’
‘Do you see it yet?’ crackled the vox.
‘We see it,’ said Sor’Talla.
‘The question then, is what do we do about it,’
‘You mean what I shall do about it,’ said Sor’Talla, hanging up on Kor’Farrah.
Sor’Talla walked back to the middle of the command deck.
‘My lord, scans show the battle barge is the Star of Macragge, it’s an Ultramarine ship sir,’ said Captain August.
‘Don’t worry about it,’ said Sor’Talla.
‘Don’t worry about it? If they find us it will be more than within their power to destroy us,’
‘It takes months for news to spread, and the legions sent to crush the lord Horus have not yet entered the Isstvan system, I’ll be alright,’
‘You’ll be alright?’
‘Yes, send me over daemon,’
The daemon ally of Sor’Talla appeared next to the Astartes before conjuring a warp hole. The marine entered the screaming portal and disappeared, the daemon going in after him.
‘What do we do sir?’ asked a crewman.
‘We wait,’

This passage through the warp was much like the last, but Sor’Talla knew it was still only a matter of time before he was changed.
Again the voyage through madness made tangible ended with a slam against a cold hard floor and all eyes of the Damavand’s command crew turned to the intruder in their mist.
‘Where is Farrah?’ Sor’Talla asked.
The General looked at the Astartes in shock, he’d thought he’d escaped when he made it to the Damavand, he’d almost made it until the Mikasa fired on the ship and battle began. Now Sor’Talla, the Astartes who’d caused him so much grief, had returned.
The Lord General drew his power saber out of its sheath and addressed the Captain.
‘Captan, resume fire on the Mikasa, I’ll kill this son of a bitch,’
‘As though you had a hope,’ retorted Sor’Talla.
The General did not reply, instead he yelled his anger and charged Sor’Talla.
The Word Bearer drew his combat knife from its leg sheath one last time and held it ready to deflect the General’s first blow.
The Damavand shook as a volley from the Mikasa slammed home and ripped new holes in the battleship.
The General closed on Sor’Talla and brought his saber up in a two handed grip above his head.
The General brought it down on Sor’Talla’s head, only for it to be deflected by the marine’s knife.
The General punched the Astartes in his face, the force of blow knocking the marine’s head to the side, he was stronger, much stronger, than the average human, yet still no Astartes, and the strength of his punch had taken him by surprise.
‘You didn’t think I’d get this far in life without a few augmetics did you?’ smirked Kor’Farrah.
‘Nice, but still nothing compared to what I have,’ said Sor’Talla, slamming the back of his free fist against Kor’Farrah’s torso.
The General went flying across the deck while at the same time a round of torpedoes penetrated hull, not too far away from the command deck and another violent tremor ran through the ship with the explosion.
Outside the viewing port Sor’Talla could see flames rise from holes torn in the hull before the void killed them. The ship was falling apart, and Sor’Talla knew the Mikasa would be getting as good as it got and had not long to live.
Kor’Farrah rose from where he had fallen, still holding onto his power saber.
‘Why are we fighting Sor’Talla? We serve the same master,’
‘You serve yourself,’ replied the Word Bearer ‘You are no better than the golden bustard back on Terra,’
Kor’Farrah roared his hated again and charged Sor’Talla once more.
When he almost within reach a lance strike brought down the shields around the Damavand and hit the engines, destroying them and ripping away part of the aft section of this ship. The life of the warship was now measured in minutes.
Seizures wracked the hull and cracks appeared in the bulkhead and ceiling. The command crew tried desperately to minimize the damage and hurt the Mikasa as badly as they could.
Sor’Talla was sure they were, but he had his own problems.
The Astartes ducked out of the way of the charging General, wary of his revealed strength now.
The General charged past Sor’Talla before turning and slashing his blade, wich Sor’Talla deflected with his forearm, careful not to touch the edge of the saber.
All around them the ship continued to fall apart, the cracks in the wall were getting wider and Sor’Talla could here explosions on the other side of the door as the Damavand and Mikasa destroyed each other, not holding anything back as both crews knew the end had come.
‘This ends now,’ hissed Sor’Talla and butted his head into Kor’Farrah’s.
The human let out a yell of pain and staggered back.
Taking a step back Sor’Talla raised his foot and kicked the General square in the chest, sending him crashing against the opposite wall.
Kor’Farrah groaned and began to slid down the wall.
Sor’Talla grunted his disgust before throwing his knife into Kor’Farrah’s neck and arresting the General’s descent.
The ship shook again, much more violently this time and Sor’Talla was thrown off his feet and sent crashing to the floor.
The Damavand was hit again and out the viewing ports Sor’Talla could see more sections of the hull ripped apart.
In the distance the Mikasa fared no better, it to was coming apart and had only a little while left.
Just in front of Sor’Talla the floor of the deck exploded outwards as torpedo from the Mikasa found its mark within the belly of the Damavand.
Sor’Talla was sent slamming into the ceiling, and lost his gift of sight, of smell, of hearing, and of feeling as the ship was finally and utterly destroyed by the Mikasa.

When Sor’Talla awoke it was to the blinding light of a medicae station. Around him were blindingly white walls that reflected tenfold the light from the ceiling.
Sor’Tall could hear the movements of servitors around him, but could not see them.
‘Ah good, you are awake,’ came a voice, and Sor’Tala tried to see where it came from out of the corner of his eye.
‘I am Apothecary Crixus, and you are onboard the Star of Macragge, we found you in the wreckage of the Damavand, a ship designated for one of your legion’s exploration fleets, we would very much like to know how what we found came to be,’
‘What of the other ship? The Mikasa?’ asked Sor’Talla, feeling a dry thirst in the back of his mouth.
‘It fired on us the moment we came to investigate, it was already beyond repair, we put it out of its misery,’.
Thinking fast, Sor’Talla let no signs of what he knew show on his face.
‘The traitors in service to Horus infiltrated the fleet, I was lucky enough to guide the Damavand to victory against the Mikasa, which was fleeing our wrath, their mission for the traitor forces I know not,’.

Finished: Too Much Love Will Kill You (working title), an original fiction novel. Working on: Second draft of Too Much Love, and the first draft of A Winter's Tale (working title).
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Part 4: The Calm

Sor’Talla walked calmly through the hallways of the Ultramarine battle barge Star of Macragge. On either side of the hallway strode Sor’Talla saw trophies of battle won by Captain Decius and his exploration company.
Sor’Talla had learned much in the days since he was brought onboard from the wreck of the Damavand. He learned that, due to the sheer size of the tenth legion, exploration companies such as this were spread far and wide throughout the galaxy. He also learned, that this particular exploration company had been long out of contact with the Imperium at large, and knew nothing of recent events, which suited Sor’Talla just fine.
Hearing someone behind him, Sor’Talla turned just in time to see scout Sergeant Fellion, in his dark blue carapace armor, walking up to him.
‘Your ears are keen,’ said the scout Sergeant.
‘Among other things,’ the Astartes replied.
‘The captain wishes to hear once more of the events that transpired, of both how we found you and what the Warmaster has done,’
‘Very well, lead me to him,’

‘We do not know when the enemy will arrive, it could be years from now or they could be trying to break through the ceiling as we speak,’ said Custodian Xavis to Colonel Fortensen and his new apprentice, Clarkson, as they walked the long path of the dark grey chamber.
‘No matter when it happens though we must be ready,’ he finished.
‘What do you suggest Custode?’ asked Fortensen ‘half them men don’t have weapons, some don’t even have armor, and they’re all completely demoralized,’
‘They are alive, and they are men. From them we will forge a blade to strike into the heart of the enemy,’
‘And how do you plan to do that?’ asked Fortensen when the trio arrived at the edge of the ad hoc camp the men from the Glison Regulars and Flying Jackals regiments had made.
‘The training and preparing we can handle, the chamber has provided food for me for a long time, I wonder if it can provide more. We shall find out soon enough I expect,’ said Xavis.

‘What do you think they’re talking about?’ said private Rennen of the Glison 33rd to another trooper of the Flying Jackals, private Banner, pointing to Colonel Fortensen, the trooper Clarkson, and the gold armored giant who were standing on the hill of the path that led from the ad hoc camp.
‘Don’t know,’ the other man said ‘nothing fun though that’s for sure,’.
Rennen went back to trying to start a fire out of the few materials they had. Other groups within the pressed together regiments had managed, barely, and had made little flames that danced on discarded packs and bags.
‘I wish Markus had made it, at least he’d have a few contraband sticks on him,’
‘Who the hell said this would be an ideal galaxy?’
‘The Emperor did,’

‘I cannot believe this,’ said assault leader Barca, of the Ultramarines, to his fellow lieutenant, Oenomas.
‘It is difficult to accept,’ the devastator leader agreed.
‘That Horus, most beloved by all save the Emperor himself, could turn traitor and bring three legions down with his is too terrible to comprehend,’
‘I suppose we should be thankful we have learned of this now, rather than return to the Imperium unaware. At least now we can prepare,’
‘According to the Word Bearer eight legions are en route to crush this rebellion as we speak,’
‘If only traversing the great gulf of space was not matter of weeks and months,’
‘Yes, the Captain will know what to do once he and the Word Bearer have gone over everything that has transpired,’
‘His talks with the Word Bearer go on still?’
‘Yes, they do,’
‘I am uncomfortable with a member of that legion being so close to our Commander,’
‘I am as well,’

‘That is much to take in,’ said Captain Decius of the Ultramaines 23rd exploration company, leaning back against the seat of his chair.
On the other side of the oval shaped table the Word Bearer Sor’Talla sat, facing the Captain. Behind the Ultramarine stood two guards, armed with power swords and armored in ornate power armor dotted in gold. Behind the red armored space marine were two of the Macragge auxilia, carapace armored humans assigned to escort the Word Bearer.
‘It is what it is,’ replied Sor’Talla, ‘The Warmaster Horus had rebelled, and his net of treachery was cast long and far, which is why you found me where you did, in the wreckage left over by the betrayal of the ship that fired on you,’
‘You are a fellow Astartes, which is why I believe you Sor’Talla, no one of our kind could easily lie about something this dire. But nonetheless, I will need confirmation of this from the Imperium, which is why we have added more speed to our progress thus far.
‘I understand,’ replied Sor’Talla. In truth he did not care though. His only goal now was to find the weapon his master charged him with obtaining for the holy cause. If he could sway these Ultramarines, then it would make his task all the more easier.
‘I will send for you in the event something of interest happens,’ said Decius, standing up from his chair and breaking Sor’Talla’s line of thought ‘until then you are a guest onboard this ship,’
‘Thank you Captain Decius, I am thankful to you and your men for saving me, I would also like to thank you for letting go of the bad blood between our legions in this trying time,’
‘As you said, these are trying times. Four of our brother legions have fallen from the light, there is little need to keep creating strife within our ranks,’
‘You are absolutely right Captain, you are absolutely right,’ said Sor’Talla.

Devastator Commander Oenomas sat down behind the bar, a glass of vadenca, a very potent drink, in his hand.
The bar was originally constructed for remembrancers, but not many could or would make it out to the fringes of the galaxy.
‘Would you like another?’ said the bar servitor in a breaking down mechanical voice.
‘Let me finish this why don’t you?’ asked Oenomas.
‘Error, inquiry not understood. Please restate inquiry,’
‘Shut up,’ said Oenomas, taking a mouthful of the drink. Swallowing what felt like liquid fire Oenomas sighed.
‘Much to take in isn’t it?’ asked a voice behind him.
It was the Word Bearer.
‘It is,’ replied the older marine.
The Word Bearer sat down on the stool next to him.
‘You were one of the Praetorians were you not?’ asked the Word Bearer.
‘Yes, that is what we were called before our Primarch was found, and I was one of them,’
‘You’ve been serving the Imperium for quite some time then,’
‘Yes I have, and right now I feel all those years on my bones,’
‘I know the feeling. While I have not served as long as you, when I learned of the rebellion… everything seemed heavier somehow. I just wish everything could stay the same somehow, that nothing would change at all,’
‘Sometimes I think that would be best to. To go back to the days where we fought for our lives and safety, before the Emperor gave the crusade to bureaucrats,’ said the devastator Commander before making a sound of disgust.
The old broken down bar servitor finally registered Sor’Talla’s presence.
‘Would you like a drink?’ it asked.
‘Do you have any poison behind that counter? I’d rather like to dust off my Betcher’s Gland,’
‘Coming ri ri ri ri ri right up,’ stuttered the servitor.
The robotic human hybrid set down a glass of thick murky green liquid down on the bar.
‘Why do you keep that right there?’ asked Oenomas.
His question went unanswered as Sor’Talla downed the poison in one large gulp.
‘Ah, that was something,’ he said, putting the glass back on the table. Oenomas noticed a small amount of the poison was still in the glass.
Sor’Talla stood up from the stool.
‘If you will excuse me, master devastator, I am going to my chambers to meditate,’
Oenomas nooded.
The Word Bearer left the lounge.
‘Sh sh sh sh sh shall I take that off the table?’ asked the servitor.
Oenomas hesitated.
‘Not just yet,’ said the old marine.

In the depths of the chamber, where Xavis often went to receive his food, Colonel Fortensen, private Clarkson and the Custode stood in wonder.
Before them was a forest of spears, thick shafted and long of blade, enough for every unarmed man above and then some.
To go with the weapons was enough food to feed the three hundred men.
It truly was an all providing chamber.
‘My suspicions were correct,’ said Xavis.
‘They certainly were,’ added Fortensen, ‘now we just have to train men who have used lasguns all their adult life to use a pointy stick,’
‘They will learn, there is little else to do here except for prepare for the inevitable day the enemy comes to unleash the weapon,’
‘Then they will learn,’ said Fortensen.

Tactical squad Commander Leotis blocked and parried assault Commander Barca’s frenzied attacks in the training hall of the Star of Macragge.
The assault Commander hacked and slashed with his power sword, deactivated for practice, and stabbed with his dirk, a short dagger weapon.
‘What do you think of our guest?’ asked Leotis.
‘Distracting an opponent does not become you Leotis,’ said Barca, turning aside Leotis’s blade with his power sword and knocking the younger marine on his head with the bottom the dirk’s grip.
His next moves saw the tactical squad Commander, a rank similar to his and Oenomas’s that put him in command of three squads, answerable only to the Captain, lost more and more control of the duel before he was finally outmatched and the assault Commander’s power sword was at his throat.
‘And I think he is anxious to be believed,’ Barca added.
‘Wouldn’t you be anxious to be believed if you were in his position?’
‘I would,’
‘So do you think we should believe him?’
‘What kind of question is that?’ came a voice at the opposite end of the near vacant training hall. It was Oenomas, walking towards them. ‘Yes our legions have had their differences, but we must be united under a singular cause. Doubt is the enemy of unity,’ said the venerable marine.
‘I take it you have been spending time with the Word Bearer?’ asked Leotis.
‘I have,’ replied the devastator leader, ‘and the Word Bearer, as you call him, is a very intelligent man,’

Rennen and Banner griped their spears in both hands, side by side, next to each other in one of the seven formations of forty men training in a space just next to the large campsite.
Under the directions of the Custode, Xavis, they trained to use their new weapons in perfect cohesion with the rest of the phalanx.
The Custode stood with Colonel Fortensen and the Private, Clarkson, on the hill they had begin using as a sort of balcony to look on the improvised training ground in the chamber.
Rennen remembered reading about such ancient military formations and tactics when he and four thousand other men of Glison underwent training to join the new Imperial Army, but he never thought he would have to learn how use them.
Focusing on his movements, Banner thrust his spear out towards the imaginary enemy before them in near-perfect cohesion with the other men of the phalanx.
Having undergone parade drills many times before being dropped into this ordeal, men from both regiments were used to moving and acting at the same time as the others around them.
Banner learned long ago that one way to pass the time quickly was to completely lose himself to what he was doing and let go of all thought. This tactic worked well when little beyond mechanical movements was required.
The Custode Xavis barked another order, Banner thought he could have been a Drill Sergeant at some point in his life, or maybe it was just that fact that the golden armored man was almost ten feet tall and nearly half that wide with his armor on and held a spear that made everything the mortals held pale in comparison, and the formation brought their spears up, turned to face the opposite direction and brought their weapons down again.
They continued with the drills for another hour before the Custode ordered them to halt and rest. Up on the hill Xavis and Clarkson turned away from the men and went down the opposite path, away from the camp.
Colonel Fortensen talked down towards the men and joined them, walking through the ranks and stopping occasionally to give advice to some men, a little encouragement, all that could be mustered, to others.
Rennen watched his Commander and saw some of what the older man had been before all this, before 3-55. He wasn’t quite happy, it seemed as though he’d let go of that part of himself long ago, but now that he and the men of Glison and the Flying Jackals had a purpose, he looked less lost than he had before, which Rennen figured on being a good thing.
Rennen only hoped the Colonel could get them all through this.

Sor’Talla meditated alone in the chamber provided for him by the Ultramarines, surrounded by candles and the smell of incense.
Alone with only his thoughts for company Sor’Talla let his mind soar beyond the confines of his physical body, still armored in the dark red of his legion’s new colors.
The Astartes considered his present situation. He was onboard an Astartes battle ship filled with marines loyal to the Emperor but far from contact with His Imperium, but getting closer and closer by the hour.
By now the loyalist legions who had traveled to Isstvan to crush what they thought was a rebellion of four legions will have been crushed and knowledge of the Word Bearer’s loyalties would be well known.
Sor’Talla still had his mission from the Golden One, his Primarch to bring the weapon back to the legion, and the bastard Kor’Farrah, once his most valuable tool in retrieving the weapon, was a cowardly cur and now lay dead in the cold void of space.
He’d already begun to introduce some of the more open minded Ultramarines to the fringes of the ancient Colchis ways and with perhaps a little more time, could forge valuable allies from the thirteenth legion.
As long as he kept them oblivious from the events in the Imperium long enough until they were firmly under his control.
Which meant the Star of Macragge’s astropath must die.
And soon, before the battle barge was in communication’s range with an outpost world.
Sor’Talla threw his mind outside the confines of his chamber, invisible, formless and wielding a power that would crush the minds of the unenlightened.
Sor’Talla surveyed the corridor his chamber was situated in, two doors separating his room from a hundred Astartes and more than twice that number of their mortal servants.
Two guards in blue carapace armor guarded Sor’Talla’s chamber. They were chosen to escort the Word Bearer wherever he went, to see to his needs, and report back to Captain Decius. Armed with hellguns and chainblades they were capable soldiers in service to the Primarch Guilliman, and a fierce training regime had forged them into some of the best mortal warriors in the Imperium.
They were corrupted by Sor’Talla the first night he had come onboard.
Their weak minds had been the clay to his potter’s hands, malleable to his goals and molded to fit his purposes and his purposes alone.
Leaving his puppets his mind soared through the hallways of the ship, on the way to the astropath’s chamber where the mutant, so precious to the Imperium yet so reviled, spent his days.
Sor’Talla passed patrol groups, mortal humans led by an Astartes down the halls of the Star of Macragge. Occasionally he would pass a techmarine making adjustments on exposed machinery.
Like a ghost of old stories Sor’Talla sent a chill up the spines of those he passed.
Before long Sor’Talla found himself drifting outside the astropath’s chamber, resting in one of the highest sections of the ship.
Outside the chamber were two guards, similar to Sor’Talla’s, awaiting the on astropath’s command.
Sor’Tala, if he were in his flesh body would have smiled, the Emperor, in his wisdom, had condemned delving into the more arcane arts of the mind and so these men had no defense against him.
The Word Bearer surged forward, splitting his spirit in two and broke through the minds of the mortal guards.
For a brief instant Sor’Talla felt their pain as his, the seizures rocking up their spines and wracking their bodies with agony were his. It was all Sor’Talla could do while invading their minds to keep them from yelling out and calling for aid.
The invasion was as painful as it was brief and Sor’Talla overcame their weak minds and consumed their will.
They were his.
The knowledge contained within them was his, the number code required to enter the astropath’s chamber were his.
Sor’Tall turned the guard on the left around and faced the number pad before punching in the code.
Four.
Eight.
One.
Five.
One.
Six.
Two.
Three.
Four.
Two.
The doors slid open with a hiss and Sor’Talla walked in on four legs, his thumbs switching the hellguns’ safeties to off.
On the other side of the doors was a room containing a table with two chairs on either side in the middle, and two more doors on the far wall with two more mortal guards.
‘What are you do-‘ said one of the guards before Sor’Talla cut him down in a hail of blood red and fiery lasblasts.
‘Emergency on astropath’s corridor!’ shouted the remaining guard into his shoulder vox.
Snarling, Sor’Talla adjusted his aim and opened fire on the second guard, killing him almost immediately.
Sor’Talla walked his hosts up to the second pair of doors and approached the number pad, stepping on the corpses. Out of the edge of his hearing, one of the many things the Astartes found weak in comparison to his own enhanced body, Sor’Talla heard footsteps running up the hallway.
The Word Bearer sent one of his host bodies to the doors.
The other body he had focus on the door, typing in the first door’s number code.
It didn’t work.
The footsteps were getting closer now and the guard sent to the door opened fire into the hall.
Sor’Talla looked at the corpses of the guards in the room, only one of their heads was intact and it was that that Sor’Talla went for next.
The Astartes soared out of his host’s mind and into the dead brain of the astropath’s guard.
The effort of searching in a dead brain for information while controlling another host trying to keep a score of Ultramarine auxiliaries at bay was taxing, but Sor’Talla was trained for this and before long he found what he was looking for and soared back into his second living host’s shell-shocked mind and took control of the petrified flesh once more.
Typing in the second number code Sor’Talla heard a satisfying click and the doors opened just like the first pair.
The Word Bearer inside the auxilary’s body stepped inside and saw the astropath he so desperately needed to kill.
And he did.
Never one to waste breath on unnecessary ceremony Sor’Talla simply raised his hellgun and aimed at the physically weak yet mentally strong, and fired.
The mutant crumpled and fell over onto his side, with barely a sound uttered, and died.
Sor’Talla, his task complete, left the bodies of the auxiliaries he had possessed and fled the scene of the crime, leaving the mortal soldiers of the Ultramarines to gun down two of their own.

The ancient Custode Xavis and his apprentice Clarkson walked the long tunnels in the bowels of the great chamber.
The tunnels spiraled down from the main chamber and led to a place even Xavis had never walked to.
‘I know what is down there, I know what it looks like for it invades my dreams, and sometimes even my waking vision,’ he said.
‘How do you know what you see is what you think it is?’ asked Clarkson.
‘I just do,’
The two walked in silence for a while, Xavis leading the way.
Clarkson felt like they were walking in circles after a while.
‘Can we stop?’ he asked, a trace of fear and anxiety in his voice.
‘Of course, my apologies. It is about time we go over what we came down here to do anyway,’
‘Which is?’
‘When the Emperor gave me a measure of his powers it was only a small portion of his potential, but it is still a power I never imagined a man could wield, and you share some of this. So far I have only trained you how to not let the power rip you apart, how to defend yourself against attack, now I will teach you how to use your strength to turn the tide of battle,’
‘Am I really that powerful?’
‘The Emperor used weapons but subtle and obvious to unify Terra, so shall you and I combine our power to turn back whatever Horus sends our way,’
‘Alright, so how are we going to train inside a tunnel system?’
‘We are not, there is a smaller chamber a little ways away from where we stand. It is nowhere near as large as where the Glison and Jackals train and barrack. I felt it was wise to practice the arcane arts in plain view of those not yet accustomed to psychery,’
‘I see,’
‘Follow me, and we wil begin the next phase of your training,’ said Xavis, before turning and walking into a side tunnel.
Clarkson followed.

Colonel Fortensen ate with his men, both the Glison he’d led through ten years of conquest and his newly adopted Flying Jackals.
He was surrounded by other officers of both regiments, most of them much lower on the command ladder than he would like.
‘Sir,’ said one of the officers, a Lieutenant by the name of Sinise ‘do we have a battle plan?’
‘Yes,’ replied Fortensen, ‘we’ll try to meet the enemy out here in the open, using the phalanx tactics we’ve been working on, and if that doesn’t work we’ll fall back to the tunnels and use them as a choke point, from there we’ll protect the weapon at all costs,’
‘And then what?’ asked a Sergeant, his uniform colors showing he came from the Flying Jackals.
‘Excuse me?’ asked Fortensen.
‘So we protect the weapon, that only the Custode has seen, from the traitors coming after us, and if we live what then? Do we just spend our days down here? Away from real sunlight and living in this dark gloom with magic sludge to eat every day for the rest of our lives?’
‘If we have to, Xavis, the Custode, has seen the devastating potential of this weapon,’
‘In his dreams,’ interrupted the Sergeant.
‘and he has shown me that power and if the galaxy requires our blood and lives to keep it away from the devastation it will bring then so be it, I will not see the Imperium drown in blood because we got bored,’
‘We can’t even leave,’
‘Then why are you arguing with me?’
‘I’m just saying we’ve been shafted, we’ve gotten the shittiest deal in the galaxy right now,’
‘That’s enough Sergeant, I think its time you take a break,’
‘Yes sir,’ grunted the Sergeant and the man stood up and left the circle.
A few minutes of silence passed before someone found the will to speak.
‘He is right sir,’ said a Glison Lieutenant.
‘I know he is, but I don’t want his attitude right now,’ said Fortensen, looking down at the food in his bowl. He poked the nutritious yet tasteless sludge with his spoon and frowned.
‘So are we going to leave?’ someone asked.
‘I just don’t know. Let’s just focus on this task, fight through the coming storm, and then look to the future. It may be possible to devise a way to leave, ’

Sergeant Lamarca of the Flying Jackals stalked through the ad hoc camp the two ruined regiments had formed.
He overheard bits of conversation, all of which made him want to tear his ears out.
‘How about the Flying Glison?’ he heard.
Lamarca rolled his eyes.
These fucks were so stupid.
Colonel Fortensen was a bastard idiot.
He doesn’t want to leave.
‘I know,’ Lamarca uttered under his breath.
I want to help you.

Rennen and Banner were sitting on either side of their fire, talking over dinner.
‘Flying Glison sucks as a name Banner,’ said Rennen.
‘Well then what do think we should call ourselves?’ Banner retorted.
‘Not that,’

Finished: Too Much Love Will Kill You (working title), an original fiction novel. Working on: Second draft of Too Much Love, and the first draft of A Winter's Tale (working title).
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Sor’Talla once more found himself in Captain Decius’s command room, sitting at the opposite end of the long table that occupied the floor.
‘No, I have no idea what could have caused two normal, rational men to lose their minds like that,’ the Word Bearer lied.
The assassination of the astropath had been big news on the battle barge, as it left the exploration company with no way of contacting the Imperium at all.
The navigator still lived; she would be needed if Sor’Talla or anyone else wanted to even get close to the Imperium.
‘That’s what I thought,’ replied the Captain, standing up from his seat.
Assault and Devastator Commanders Barca and Oenomas were also in the room, standing close to the walls and still as statues.
Tactical Squad Commander Leotis stood with the Captain’s honor guards behind Decius.
‘If you truly know nothing of what has transpired, you are free to leave Sor’Talla,’ said Decius.
Sor’Talla rose from his seat and bowed his head to Decius, who returned the nod and walked out the door that led to his chamber. Leotis and the honor guards followed him.
Oenomas and Barca looked to Sor’Talla, who nodded to each of them in turn and the three walked out of the chamber through a door opposite that Captain’s.
Once they had been in the hallway for long enough to feel comfortable Sor’Talla broke the silence.
‘Decius is a fool, lashing out against anything in his haste to please his Emperor,’ said the Word Bearer. In his time speaking to Barca and Oenomas the Astartes had learned much about the exploration company’s recent history.
Apparently Captain Decius was an unpopular replacement for the late Captain Ventrii who had fallen several years before.
Sor’Tall had been delighted at this kernel of information, which he used aggressively in his swaying of Barca and Oenomas, who were coming more and more under his influence every day.
The Commanders had already made clear to Sor’Talla just this morning that they stood with him, that together they would cast out the scab that was Decius and one of them would take his place to live up to the legacy of Captain Ventrii.
Finally countless hours spent in the shadows, speaking with the marines one on one had paid off, and Sor’Talla had a small force of veteran Astartes to call on.
But they were not quite servants of the Colchis Gods, they had only a negative view on an Emperor and Primarch who cast them out into the cold galaxy to fight in the most distant and remote systems.

Captain Decius stepped into his personal quarters with Tactical Squad Commander Leotis behind him.
‘The Word Bearer is lying, I could see it in his eyes,’ said the Captain.
‘I don’t doubt you my lord,’ said Leotis ‘but why would he do such a thing? And how could he do it, he was on the other side of the ship when it happened,’
‘I don’t know how he did it, but he told us of Horus’s betrayal, and all It would take is a simple lie on his part to convince us his legion has not fallen. We must kill him,’
‘I’ll assemble my squads,’ said Leotis.
The two Astartes felt a sudden gust of wind and the hair on the back of their necks stood up.

Sor’Talla found himself alone in his chamber once more, meditating.
The time was soon coming to dispose of Captain Decius, he would never be swayed. But the Captain still had his honor guard to protect him, and the Tactical Squad Commander Leotis to back him up.
Sor’Talla had wished he could have swayed the younger marine as well, but had learned from Barca and Oenomas that Leotis was like Decius, a replacement for a more popular Commander who had fallen alongside Captain Ventrii, and Sor’Talla would not lose the support of two Astartes to try and sway the only marine who had been promoted by Decius.
Sor’Talla felt a gust of wind at his back and opened his eyes.
‘Just announce yourself when you come why don’t you,’ he said.
‘If you wish,’ said the daemon.
‘I trust you have completed the task I set for you?’ asked Sor’Talla, rising from the eight pointed star painted in the floor.
‘I have, and there is something else you may wish to know,’
‘Just tell me what I instructed you to learn,’ said Sor’Talla.
‘Very well,’ said the daemon, sitting down on Sor’Talla’s Spartan cot.
‘Kor’Farrah’s pet sorcerer’s soul is ripped open and bleeding in the warp, gibbering harpies feasting on it daily, and that is only what I had to do to get the information you needed,’
‘You know where it is?’
‘I know where it is, but we cannot get there through the slow passageways of reality,’
‘We must go through the warp,’ said Sor’Talla.
‘Yes,’ said the daemon, smiling, knowing how hesitant the Word Bearer was to expose himself to the unfiltered essence of change and madness once more without the proper wards and sacrifices.
‘What is the other thing you wanted to say?’
‘Decius and his pet Commander Leotis know you had a hand in killing the astropath, they plan to remove you forcibly from the ship,’

Barca and Oenomas had assembled their squads on the training deck, as per Sor’Talla’s urgent communiqué.
Barca’s assault squads milled about anxiously, unorganized and wondering why they had been called from their rooms at this late hour.
Oenomas’s men were more organized, some standing at attention while other performed maintenance on their heavy weapons.
‘What are we doing here?’ Barca asked Oenomas.
‘I received the same communiqué as you, and I know as much as you do right now,’
‘Trust me my friends, I will reveal everything to you soon enough,’ said Sor’Talla, appearing out of nowhere at one end of the hall,’
‘What is going on Sor’Talla?’ asked Oenomas.
‘It is time we move against Captain Decius,’ said Sor’Talla, ‘he does not deserve his command,’
A ripple of astonishment went through the gathered Astartes, not all knew of Sor’Talla version of reality, nor of their Commanders’ support and intentions. But they were all minds cast from the same mold, they would gladly move against Decius.
Oenomas hefted his personal weapon, a heavy bolter, more decorated than the rest and clearly a weapon for a Captain who favored smiting his foe from afar.
The older marine cocked the heavy bolter and the sound reverberated through the room.
‘Good,’ he said.

Captain Decius stood in his command room, only his guards for company and waiting for Leotis to return.
He soon did, and informed Decius of his squads’ readiness.
‘They will be here inside two minutes, then we will be able to apprehend Sor’Talla and learn how he killed the astropath,’
‘Magic is the only word that comes to mind,’ said Leotis ‘and if the Word Bearer legion has fallen alongside Horus I can’t see the Council of Nikea holding anything back, it hardly did with us,’
‘It hardly ever did, but Sor’Talla gave no indication of being a psycher,’
‘There is no way we could have known Captain,’
‘Yes there is,’ said Decius, casting his eyes to the floor.
Leotis knew what preoccupied Decius’s mind.
‘You didn’t know, Scout Sergeant Fellion and his men missed it,’
‘No they didn’t, I made the wrong decision and because of it Captain Ventrii, Tactical Squad Commander Hallon and Librarion Codien died because of it,’
At that moment Commander Daeden of the Ultramarine auxiliary troops came bursting into Decius’s chambers, followed closely by Decius’s guards.
‘Commander,’ said Decius, waving his guards back ‘what is so urgent?’
‘It’s the Word Bearer sir, he’s leading the assault and devastator squads to the bridge, Lietenant Corman and his men tried to stop them, find out what they were doing but instead of just brushing my men aside they opened fire, I saw it all on the security feed,’
‘We are betrayed, Sor’Talla has warped their minds and used their anger and resentment to bring them under his influence. There can be no doubt as to what he is, a traitor,’
‘And he brings our brothers down with him,’
Several Ultramarines under Leotis’s command had gathered outside the doors and heard everything.
‘To the bridge,’ said Decius.

Oenomas let out a burst of fire from his heavy bolter, tearing apart the Ultramarine that had foolishly tried to cross the hall with nothing but a bolter and stall his men.
‘They crumble before our divinity,’ said Sor’Talla, clad in his red power armor and sporting a simple bolter from the Ultramarines’ armory.
When picking out the weapon Assault Commander Barca had told him he could choose any weapon he liked, but the Word Bearer declined simply saying “the weapon destined for me to wield will reveal itself in time”.
All Sor’Talla’s talk of divinity and destiny did not escape the notice of Barca and Oenomas.
‘Many things have been hidden from us my brothers, I will educate you in the days to come,’ he said simply.
Another Ultramarine burst from cover out of a side hallway and unlike his fallen brother managed to get a shot off with his weapon, blowing open the head of one of Barca’s assault marines.
‘You bastard!’ shouted the Assault Squad Commander and the Astartes sprinted toward the marine and after he gained enough ground leapt forward, raising his power blade and bringing it down on the Ultramarine’s head, slicing it in two.
The rest of Sor’Talla’s company caught up to Barca.
‘Blood of a brother demands blood of a brother,’ he stated simply.
‘You will go far,’ said Sor’Talla, placing his hand on Barca’s shoulder.
‘Let’s move,’ said Oenomas.
The company went back to their mission.

Captain Decius stood on the command deck of the Star of Macragge.
Standing behind him were his two honor guards, and around him were the remaining two tactical squads that were all that remained of his exploration company. One of the squads had been either intercepted on the way to the bridge or had disobeyed orders and chose instead to try and stall the advancing traitors.
On their flanks were the legion auxiliary troops, hellguns at the ready.
Around them were members of the command crew trying close all the blast doors on the ship, but something in the system kept getting in their way. A techmarine was working on the problem but Decius knew they would be getting nowhere in time.

‘We’re almost there Commanders,’ said one of Oenomas’s Sergeants, reading an auspex scanner.
‘When we reach the command deck,’ said Sor’Talla to Barca and Oenomas ‘you must be ready to act, Captain Decius is as much a fool as a puppet for the ones who threw us out to the cold reaches of the galaxy,’
‘We will be ready,’ said Barca.

‘Captain the traitors are getting closer,’ said Leotis.
‘We stay here,’
‘My lord?’
‘We meet them here, on our terms,’
‘My men are being torn apart out there,’ said Leotis.
‘Your squad has broken your orders, but it is not your fault,’
‘Yes it is, everything is someone’s fault, and my squad’s inability to follow my orders are my own,’
‘Perhaps they have merely taken it upon themselves to stall the enemy while we prepare for the showdown,’
‘I hope so,’
‘I know so, they are true Astartes,’

A true Astartes lay maimed under Sor’Talla’s foot, his squad lay dead around him and he was the only one left from the decision to stall the traitors.
‘The command deck hatch is just ahead,’ said Oenomas’s Sergeant.
‘Oenomas, you and your devastators will blast a way in,’ said Sor’Talla ‘Barca, once the hole is wide enough Oenomas will lay down a suppressing field of fire, long enough to force their heads down for you and your men to force their way in,’
‘Your will be done,’ Barca grinned.

Scout Sergeant Fellion ran down the passageways of the Star of Macragge. His scouts were close behind him as he sprinted towards the aft section of the battle barge.
At first, during their mad dash, there had been argument, the scouts had wanted to go back and join Captain Decius to meet the traitors, but Fellion knew the fight was lost against veterans such as Barca and Oenomas. The only thing they could do now was prevent the traitors from going any further.
‘Where are we going sir?’ asked one of the scouts.
‘The engines!’ shouted Fellion.

A blast of metal was all the announcement Captain Decius and the loyalists got to signal the final advance of the traitorus marines.
‘Open fire!’ he shouted and twenty bolters opened up and fired through the smoke and dust that had yet to settle.
The favor was returned when a hail of heavy bolter shells penetrated the asbestos mist and shredded apart the mortal auxiliaries and stitched a path of blast holes around the Astartes.
‘Get down!’ shouted Leotis and the marines hit the floor to avoid the hail of death.
‘No!’ ordered Decius, but was too late, the shells hit the crewmen and ripped them apart along with their control stations, blowing half the command deck apart.
Like a storm of hate and fire the assault marines of Commander Barca’s contingent blew through the smoke and stormed onto the command deck.
‘You!’ came a shout of fury and Decius turned his eyes from the assault marines tearing into the tactical squads and saw Barca standing just in front of the settling cloud of dust and pointing his power sword at the Captain.
‘You’re going to kill me now?’ asked Decius.
‘Like I’ve wanted to since you got Captain Ventrii shot down and butchered by the greenskin,’
‘I suppose it would be pointless to remind you that you supported my elevation to this rank?’
‘What?’ snarled Barca.
‘You fool!’ shouted Decius ‘the Word Bearer has twisted your mind, planted half truths and lies to suit his own purposes!’
‘You lie!’ shouted the enraged marine and the Assault Commander leapt forward, sword held forward ready to pierce the Captain’s armor and split through his heart,’
Decius waited until the last moment as the Assault Commander seemed to fly through the air in slow motion, letting loose a feral cry of rage.
Fast as mercury Decius grabbed the blade of the sword, feeling the cutting energy that ran up the edge and pulled it past him, bringing himself inside Barca’s guard and slamming his elbow into the crazed marine’s face.
Decius tossed the power blade to the side and unholstered his bolt pistol.
With death all around him Decius leveled the pistol at Barca’s head.
‘This is what traitors get,’ said Decius, and pulled the trigger three times, sending three bolts into the bastard’s head and killing him.
The Captain once more looked around the command deck and saw his still loyal Astartes putting up a stiff fight against the traitors, giving as good as they got.
Even though the air was full of the sounds of bolter fire Decius’s ears somehow picked out the sound of one bolter, firing one round.
That was when one of hundreds of explosive bolts crashed into his side, almost sending him to the floor, but he arrested his fall.
That was when his remaining honor guard, the one who yet lived, stabbed into his back with his dirk.
‘You to?’ Decius asked, pain flaring throughout his body.
The honor guard simply nodded, before grabbing the Captain’s face and throwing him down.
Decius hit the floor and heard the steps of more Astartes entering the command deck.
His vision fading, Decius ad only enough time to regret not throwing the Word Bearer off his ship before all this happened before something red and blurry entered his sight.
Decius felt a hard crack against his skull and fell into the dark embrace of unconsciousness.

By the time Oenomas stepped onto the command deck the fighting was over, the assault marines hacked the command crew and loyalists to bits.
‘Traitor…’ came a weak voice, and Oenomas turned to see Leotis, slumped against the bulkhead with his saber held in limp hands and two dead assault marines laying next to him.
‘What was that?’ asked Oenomas, approaching Leotis.
The Tactical Squad Commander spat out blood and coughed.
‘You are a traitor to your Captain, your Primarch, and the Emperor,’
‘He was never meant to be Captain, the Primarch and the Emperor threw us out here to be forgotten,’ retorted Oenomas, raising his heavy bolter and pointing the deadly weapon at the maimed marine’s chest.
‘He has warped your mind,’
‘Your words are the words of a lackey, who can never believe in something real like what Sor’Talla can show us, and so they mean nothing,’
Oenomas pulled the trigger.

Scout Sergeant Fellion placed his det charge on the main engine fuel line. In five minutes it would blow, blasting the main engines and warp drive to parts unknown, but it wouldn’t be enough to destroy the ship.
‘They won’t be going anywhere now,’ he said, flicking the switch on the charge and watched the little green light bulb go on only for the red bulb to light up.
‘Oh I don’t know about that,’ said an eerie voice and Sergeant Fellion spun around, raising his bolter up to confront whatever had spoken.
‘If you want to get to the det charge you’ll have to go through me,’ he said.
‘I don’t care about a det charge, not when there are so many other ways to travel space and time,’
‘What are you talking about?’ said the Sergeant, the last words he would ever speak hung in the air for a moment before he got a reply from the darkness.
‘I speak of truths hidden from you and power kept out of your reach my the one you call master,’ said the daemon, suddenly appearing from the pipes and electrical wires that formed a matrix of metal and wire that hung from the ceiling.
The Scout Sergeant let out a wordless shout and compresses the trigger of his bolter, sending a stream of deadly, yet ineffective bolts into the creature, but the bolts just seemed to glance off the foul thing or miss altogether.
‘Are you done?’ asked the creature when the bolter’s clip ran dry.

The bodies of four scouts hung from the ceiling and dripped blood and other fluids as the screams of their Sergeant consumed the engine deck.

When he came to Decius tried to move his arms, but when he turned his head to his side he saw that they were tried down, and ended at the wrist. The same went for his legs and ankles.
‘What have you done to me?’ he asked, and Sor’Talla entered his vision, behind him and upside down in the fallen Captain’s sight.
‘Only rendered you unable to resist us,’
‘You’ll get nowhere, Scout Sergeant Fellion is going to blow the engines soon enough,’
‘I won’t even bother telling you why you are wrong to assume this is some sort of victory for you,’ Sor’Talla said, bringing a power blade, one Captain Decius recognized as his own, and placing the tip lightly on the neck plate of his armor.
‘Any last words?’
‘I don’t know what you are trying to do or why, but I do know you will fail,’
‘We shall see,’ said Sor’Talla, and drove the blade down into the Captain’s neck, severing his head.
The assembled Astartes let out a bestial cry of triumph and raised their heads to the ceiling, shouting their war cries of victory.

The daemon sucked the Astartes corpse dry of blood down in the engine deck.
He was smacking his lips when the det charge began beeping.
Thinking for a moment, the daemon watched as the red bulb on the charge began blinking faster and faster.
It was not until the beeping became nothing but one long warning note that the daemon finally acted, deactivating the det charge with a contemptuous flick of the wrist, while Sor’Talla and the others would likely survive the detonation, the risk was too great, and to throw away the only way of unleashing the weapon they sought was the height of foolishness, no matter how pleasing it would be to see Sor’Talla die, but there were fates worse than death.

Finished: Too Much Love Will Kill You (working title), an original fiction novel. Working on: Second draft of Too Much Love, and the first draft of A Winter's Tale (working title).
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