So, this is my first story I've been brave enough to publish here. It takes place in an alternate history of 30K, where the Eldar Empire was bigger, and bad stuff happened in their Fall. Note: I don't own 40k, or the associated trademarks.
NOTE: Since I started on this, it has changed genres; it's more of a small-f fantasy work now than science fiction, though it does take a few elements from 40K. Also, the stories of Angron, Mortarion, and Perturabo are unlinked and will probably remain so. That's unfortunate, but so much interesting stuff is happening on Desh'errea, Barbarus, and Olympia that anything else would be overkill.
These are dark times.
I say these in full knowledge that the times to come may well be even darker, yet I must repeat it: these are dark times.
I have read of the Golden Age of Technology, of the height of Mars and Terra, of the greatness before the fall. I have read, too, of the Eldar Empire, that nation which once held the Ruinous Powers at sway but became their greatest aid.
Some of them remain- how else could it be? Those that renounced the decay and tried to stop it were exiled and shunned for their beliefs. Now, though, they are shunned hundredfold for their ultimate failure, for what they caused.
And now, our greatest hope has been lost.
Now, the Ruinous Powers have taken the Primarchs.
-Malcador the Sigilite, 800.M30
Fourteen. Fourteen of my brothers are yet unfound, two are dead, and one might as well be.
My father has searched all of the Ultima Imperium for signs of us. He found seven. The four that remain- myself, Alpharius, Omegon and Vulkan- carry the hopes of the Imperium on their, our, shoulders.
How many others still live?
When the Primarchs first departed, my father was sure that even those that had landed in the Eye would stay loyal. But the Traitor disproved all of that. Gathering two others, he attacked Tau itself, seeking the destruction of all we have fought for. Horribly twisted, they batted aside normal defences, fighting those of us that had remained.
They lost. The two others were stricken from the Imperial records. The Traitor escaped.
His name shall never be forgotten, and neither will his twisted glory.
Why, Lorgar? Why?
-Roboute Guilliman, 836.M30
The lakes of blood were boiling. A great war was coming to Desh’errea, and the nobles had relished it. To prepare for the bloodshed, then, they had called together the greatest gladiator fights the world had ever seen. They had promised that the arena would be filled with blood and that just one of the gladiators would survive the battles. They had sworn that this would be a never-before-seen scale of destruction, and that they would gladly sacrifice themselves if they had failed.
They did not honor their oath.
Two gladiators, indeed, remained- Angron, the giant from space, and Grakix, an escaped daemon. Unfortunately, in the capriciousness of the gods, the gladiators had trouble dying and bleeding. Many were still alive, and even those that had been killed seemed to rise again. The favor of the gods was not with Desh’errea today.
For now, though, the watching crowds were not any less overjoyed in watching what they would soon depart across the stars to do.
Angron and Grakix lunged at each other, but after a misstep Grakix’ axe flew out of his hand and into the stands, cleaving an important noble in half. The daemon attempted to fight with his claws, but the advantage was clearly Angron’s.
Then the city’s ruler, the Daemon Prince Hurbjek, gurgled and fell out of his seat and towards the arena.
Hurbjek began to drop, spreading his sixteen arms in fright, understanding that his favor with Khorne was lost; below him, the crowd of daemons, humans, and aliens watched the location where he had fallen from to see the would-be new ruler of their town.
Half of them never saw her.
The murder of Hurbjek was followed by a gigantic explosion from below the decks, with the bodies of gladiators flying out from below. To the survivors’ surprise, these bodies were in fact very much alive, carving trails of destruction thru the stands. Angron and Grakix had long stopped fighting each other, and were now invading the spectators too, claw and sword slaughtering together.
“BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!”
Angron’s bellow was echoed by his people, the blood indeed flowing quite abundantly, along with other bodily fluids. The targets were more often than not high-ranking officials, who had moments before watched the gladiators fight each other with detachment.
The ones that were not being slaughtered didn’t attempt to stop it; they knew that they would fight when their time came, and for now they didn’t care from where the blood flowed, much like the patron deity of the planet.
Some of the less insane denizens began to flee, rushing to survive later; the rest watched in wide-eyed amazement as Angron ran to the top of the coliseum and jumped off, followed by a throng of loyal gladiators, tailing the escapees. Others stayed, continuing the massacre: eventually they would be defeated by the actual forces of the city, or turn on themselves and be doomed, but that was mostly because both Angron and Grakix had already left, and the most powerful fighters wouldn’t die easily.
Change had come to Desh’errea.
Standing above Barbarus, Mortarion gazed at his father’s dominion. The sky-tall mountains mixed into the atmospheric haze, and that haze- so painful and stinging- was permeating thru his mind. Barbarus wasn’t a kind world.
Below, small villages crowded in the valleys. Despairing, the living there were subservient to his father, and the infected and dead were no more than loyalty. The acrid smoke didn’t reach there, but the diseases were as potent below as above.
What right did his adopted father, Tnays, Champion of Nurgle- what right did he have to rule, other than brute force and devotion? Was being infected with a thousand contagions truly enough? The diseases that they had weakened the body, yet strengthened it simultaneously. The diseases of the poor did not have that. Those brought weakness alone, degrading the doomed and eventually killing them, the souls to join with the Plague God and their bodies to become shambling automatons. Of course, the various plagues had different outcomes, and Tnays could never be sure whether a certain slave would become his servant after the end.
Mortarion, for one, had always wondered about those unfortunate beings. They lived without the blessings of the Grandfather- but was that truly the greatest difference? And, most of all, where did he stand?
It was a question above all others, for in all of the strangeness that his world had seen, he did not see himself. He did not follow the Plague God, though he did not oppose Nurgle either- that would be the height of stupidity. He was not like his father in any form- ever since he fell onto the planet’s surface from space, something was alien about him.
Who was Mortarion?
He would find out tonight.
For now, Mortarion merely gazed from the parapets at the wavering surface below. The planet was wrong, offended his senses, and generally felt strange even after he had lived there all of his life. It felt strange to his father too, for that matter. Barbarus was that way.
Walking down into the castle, Mortarion thought back to earlier days. The beginnings were hazy, but he knew that something about life itself and Barbarus felt like agony, that the smell offended his nostrils, that the taste of the food was painful. He was beyond that now, but nevertheless his impending escape would- he knew- bring back memories of that. There would be people younger than him below; there would in fact be people below- not just himself, his father, undead slaves and daemons. It would be companionship, perhaps, or hatred. There were still rebellions, although the Warlords had defeated each one. He was a powerful fighter, though. He would be safe.
Mortarion nodded, having noticed Tnays a second before. “Yes, father?”
“It’s time for you to choose a deity, a patron. I understand that you have some prejudices against Nurgle, but even if you leave this planet- I care for you, son, and I cannot allow you to reject the gifts of the Gods much longer.”
“I understand. In a few days, Father.”
Mortarion stepped away, and the clapping of his feet on the concrete floors resounded through the hallway.
Perturabo had always looked on his father with awe. The Tyrant was power-hungry and strict, but he loved Perturabo nevertheless, and although Perturabo viewed the entire situation rationally and isolated himself from similar emotions, he respected his father for more than that.
Dammekos had refused Chaos.
Perhaps the Tyrant of Lochos was afraid for his power, or perhaps it was a moral worry, but Dammekos had never given in to the whispers of the Chaos Gods. Perturabo had the suspicion that their planet was the only one without daemons in the universe, but even alone, its light of logic and honor shone above the surrounding darkness. Perturabo, of course, followed his father. The Chaos Gods were- all of them- lacking in logic to the extreme. They could not be comprehended, and therefore they could not be used- and, of course, there was the matter of driving followers into insanity.
Therefore, his father’s actions were disturbing him greatly.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean what I said: your father is dealing with one whom I suspect to be a sorcerer.”
Perturabo momentarily froze, then thanked his servant and rushed towards Dammekos’ section of the palace. Baeton had never been wrong before, and if his father was indeed falling to the insanity and destruction of the Chaos Gods-
Perturabo, if worst came to worst, would kill him personally.
It would be for mercy.
The doors were, as always, locked, but as Dammekos’ favored son Perturabo of course had the keys. Voices were coming from the armory, and the heir to Lochos gritted his teeth- how did they dare to defile such a place with whispers of Chaos?
Then he bit back the emotion. It was illogical: Chaos was a disease, but not a physical one, at least not its majority. There was nothing right with discussing Chaos anywhere, and there was nothing sacred about the armory.
Dammekos exited the room first, as a cloaked figure rushed off in the other direction. Perturabo made to chase after it, but Dammekos grabbed him.
“What are you doing, boy? You are not so young as to be chasing after insects, but does that mean that you should chase after my ministers? NO!”
“And which minister is that suspicious figure?”
“That, son, is Myxerh, the new Minister of the Warp.”
Perturabo nodded. It was a believable explanation: Myxerh was indeed new, and Perturabo had never before seen him. There was still something strange, though, about the man.
“Perturabo, leave. Now. I have personally slain many assassins; I can assure you Myxerh has the best interests of himself and the nation at heart.”
Perturabo meandered back into his room, thinking about what had transpired. He had already made clear that he would not fall to Chaos, and had not been tempted. Therefore, if a coup was brewing, he would be eliminated- for example, at the feast tonight.
“Baeton, bring me more paper. I need a plan, soon.”
The servant nodded and rushed off to wherever. Perturabo grimly thought back to the encounter and forth to the feast. Something Chaotic would happen there, he knew.
He would be ready.
(To be continued, hopefully.)