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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-25-11, 08:51 PM Thread Starter
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AN: So, I decided to attempt writing a 40k AU story. Have fun reading?

(I realize Kharn was the 8th Captain. The change is the result of some changes, that I'll get to later.)

Ripples

Hound of War

Foreword

I admit that interviewing the First Captain of the War Hounds was one of the most daunting tasks in my whole carrier. Even if we forget the Legion’s penchant for savagery and bloodlust (and you can rest assured that I remembered it very well), there’s Captain Kharn’s own fearsome reputation. I am sure you can imagine my trepidation when the Captain himself expressed his interest in letting me interview him.

During the conversations that lead to the creation of this very tome, I have learned that there is much more to Captain Khrn then meets the eye. While indisputably one of the most feral of the Marines holding his rank, he is also a man of formidable intelligence and I believe his observations will give the readers more insight into the workings of the Great Crusade, as well shed more light on the latest, traumatic conflict.

While editing my work, I have strived to minimize my input and in doing so let the reader enjoy the Captain’s narrative with as little change as possible.

***

I’ve been told I should write something to the readers. While the whole book is going to be mostly me talking, Maxim insisted it’s absolutely vital that the foreword isn’t just by him.

In all honesty, I was not in favour of the whole rememberencer concept, when I first heard of it, but I didn’t piss and moan about it like some. It has been already implemented, so why bother? Besides, I thought all those civilian sissies would avoid us like the plague. I was in for a surprise and quick: the Primarch was actually all for the idea.

As odd as it might sound there was a logic behind his enthusiasm for a project that had so little to do with his interests. It was related to how he perceived the Emperor, beloved by all. I remember him saying, as if it were today, “Having Fulgrim be Mortarion’s nanny looked funny at the time and just look at them now.”

So, I figured I might as well get over the whole thing before I get asked to participate. I can see Maxim doesn’t mention exactly why I chose him. Out of the whole lot, he was the only one that clobbered a trooper when he annoyed him and then held of three others with a chair. I thought I’d nab him before anybody else gets the idea and I’ll be left with a quivering sycophant.

It turned out that we got along pretty well, once he stopped flinching every time I frowned. And that’s how I ended up co-authoring a book. I just hope nobody will have to read it at schola.

Enough of my ramblings and onto more of my rambling.


***

Beginnings

I’m not going to start with the real beginning. Everybody knows how everything started. What happened before the Emperor, beloved by all, discovered Angron is of little consequence.

The Captain pauses and shakes his head.

That’s a bad way of putting it. As far as the War Hounds go, what happened with us before the Emperor discovered Angron, is not as important as what came afterwards. We got deployed and we fought. Then the other Legions started finding their Primarchs and we started to worry that ours might be too badly lost to find him.

Then one day, we get summoned to accompany the Emperor to some system and then are told to stay in orbit and await further instructions, once we get there. So, we do just that. It took about three days, before the Captains got summoned. You can imagine how puzzled we were—no orders to deploy, just the captains and the Chief Apothecary are supposed to get to the Bucephalos.

I don’t think we made the best of impressions on Angron back then. We walked into the conference hall, huddled up and looking as confused as we were and there he was standing next to the Emperor.

I’ll never forget the sight. His face looked like it was covered in blood, decorated with red tattoos and he glared at us with such fury. Compared to the Emperor, he looked wild and brutal, like a wild animal. But he was our Primarch and we knew we would do anything to win his approval.

Then Ghreer started sobbing.

We had to take a break at this point, as the Captain felt necessary to voice his disapproval for the ex-Legion Master’s conduct. I have significantly expanded my vocabulary during that hour.

It’s hard to explain. You can probably insert one of those sappy monologues that Emperor’s Child produced when he had to describe meeting his Primarch. It was something like that only more manly. What I am trying to say is that all Legions got emotional when their Primarch was found. They’re the… the… living embodiment of the Legion. Something like a father to us and a leader, all in one.

What I’m trying to say is, we all were pretty damn happy to see Angron and we’re no good when it comes to a whole lot of things that are not related to war. Essentially, we acted like a bunch of morons, Ghreer taking the cake, candles and several stupid party hats to go with them.

The Emperor, in his eternal wisdom, did not interfere, as we made idiots out of ourselves. I spent several minutes staring at Angron like an utter moron—I’m really not sure if I remember accurately what the others were doing. However, at some point, my brain turned on again and I managed to kneel.

In retrospect, it was the dumbest thing I could have done, but at that point I knew next to nothing about our Primarch. It seemed natural. Next thing I know Angron is hovering over me, mid-strike and the only thing between me and a messy death is the Emperor’s hand.

The next few moments, we spent learning that our Primarch really hates kneeling and he does not want to see us ever doing it in front of him. I never said it, but I was wondering how we’d manage that. If you ever meet a Primarch, you will notice that kneeling is almost a natural reflex. Thankfully, the Emperor managed to keep our Primarch from throwing us around the hall.

We managed to introduce ourselves in the end and it turned out I was the only one around with enough presence of mind left to string more than one sentence together. This being the case, I did my best to explain that we’re really glad he has been finally found. The funny thing is, I don’t really remember what I said. I remember that Angron was staring at me and I that he was wearing a kilt, and a lot of other inconsequential details, but not what I said. Odd, isn’t it?

Luckily, the speech Captain Kharn gave need not remain lost to posterity. Primarch Angron himself decided to quote it for my benefit, once he found out that the Captain claimed to be unable to do so. (Incidentally, not kneeling had been amazingly difficult.)

“My Liege, we did not intend to insult you with our conduct. We are soldiers, not diplomats. We speak through actions, not words. To us, you are our long lost father. Be our leader; command us and we will follow.”

I must have sounded at least half-way sensible since Angron seemed to calm down somewhat. Though, the Emperor, beloved by all, holding his shoulder helped much more.

“I already agreed to lead you,” he said. “You were called, because this planet,” he indicated the display, “needs to be conquered. Soon you will be deployed.”

That was a surprising turn of events. As far as I can remember, all the other Primarchs upon being found had had already conquered the planet of their origin. I suppose, this is why the Emperor stepped in and started to explain Angron’s background to us. I have to say we did not take it well.

As it turns out the War Hounds, if Captain Kharn is a good example to go by, still “do not take it well.” The following citation is actually compiled from several attempts at explaining, which had been punctuated by frequent swearing and several thrown objects, among which had been a rather nice table.

“Unlike his more fortunate brothers, Angron’s past has not been one I would have wished my son to have. A barbarous practice is the main entertainment on his home planet. Slaves are forced to participate in gladiatorial combat for the amusement of the nobles. Your Primarch has been one of them.

“Recently, he has led his fellow gladiators into rebellion, but, alas, their forces were too weak. Had we arrived scant days later, he would have been annihilated along with his forces. On his request, we have evacuated his army along with him. They will be joining the War Hound’s fleet as soon a certain other matter is resolved.”

It was only due to the Emperor’s presence and his force of personality that we started yelling about going down right then and there, and chewing our chainaxes after he finished talking. No unaugmented human can imagine our fury. The Emperor raised his hands and we fell silent. It does not meant that we stopped being furious. Far from it. However, we simply could not disobey him.

The Captain stares at a point over my head, deep in thought, as he speaks.

Primarchs are already far beyond what a human being can perceive, but with time one can learn to treat them differently than just mindless worship. The Emperor is not like that. His presence is far too great to ever forget. If you are in his vicinity, he becomes the center of whatever is happening. There cannot be a being greater than him.

So, we had no choice, but listen as our Lord explained why he would not lead us into battle.

“I wouldn’t be a good leader right now,” he said and tapped his head. “All gladiators have an implant that boosts the adrenaline production once we’re under stress.”

To my embarrassment, the Chief Apothecary had to explain why this was a bad thing to me and the other Captains. Essentially, it would limit the victim’s ability to analyze stressful situations properly, leaving them with only the option of fighting. While in combat it could be a benefit, it would put a damper on many other situations.

“Think of meeting a long lost family member,” he told us. “Anybody would worry over making the right impression. That’s stress. Add those Butcher’s Nails and you have an explosive fit of fury, because you’re going to meet somebody you don’t know.”

That certainly put the scale of the problem into perspective. And we aren’t just speaking about Angron here, but also about a whole army of gladiators with the same issue. Our joy at having found our Primarch was rather diminished by those revelations.

Our moods were somewhat brightened by the fact that we would lay our vengeance upon those that brought those problems upon our Lord.

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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-26-11, 12:32 AM
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I quite enjoyed it. Makes me want to know more which shows good writing.
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-26-11, 08:06 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you.

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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-26-11, 12:38 PM
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Default good read

.I really enjoyed the read. Your writing gets better with each story you write. The concept was real good and I cant wait to find out where this train of thought is going.

Some things to work on though. When you are transfering from one person talking to another it is sometimes hard to fallow. for instance I thought the Remembrancer had stopped talking and that Kharn took over in the creation of the tome. Later I thought Kharn was talking when it was, I think, the Rememberancer. Might want to make the transitions more smoothly.

Your spacing is great and your spelling has greatly improved with each story also. Over all, I really did want to keep reading.

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Less Perfect


Fulgrim did not stare, but he came pretty close to it. While he was happy and flattered that the Emperor of Mankind, beloved by all, had chosen him to be the mentor of another Primarch, he found the choice odd. There was no question of him doubting his father, nevertheless the word “but” hovered in his mind and begged for him to finish the sentence. His brother was so… grey: his clothes, his complexion, everything. It was almost as if he had been somehow drained of all colour, save for the amber eyes.

The Phoenician also took note of the scars on the other Primarch’s face. Some of them appeared old, but others were new and still red. To be honest, Fulgrim’s first impression was bad—couldn’t he have at least tried to look less... mundane? Still, he could not help but wonder what could have caused those wounds? Primarchs were a pretty durable lot, after all.

“This is Mortarion,” the Emperor, beloved by all, announced, placing his armored hand on the shoulder of his other son. It did not escape Fulgrim’s notice that Mortarion flinched, even if it was only ever so slightly. Puzzling as it was, he could not ignore it. Had something happened between Father and this new brother?

However, this was neither the time nor the place to start inquiries. Fulgrim smiled at Mortarion and closed the distance between them in several steps.

“Welcome, brother,” he said, embracing the other. “I am Fulgrim.”

A moment later, he stepped back, feeling awkward. Mortarion hadn’t done anything and that was the reason for Fulgrim’s unease. The other Primarch hadn’t moved an inch; it felt like he was hugging a pole. Perhaps, in retrospect, he shouldn’t have assumed that Mortarion would react positively to being suddenly touched by somebody whom he had only just met. To Fulgrim it seemed natural to cordially welcome each and everyone of his newly discovered brothers, but this was no reason to forget about cultural differences, or not to take into account the differences in personality.

“Greetings,” Mortarion replied quietly after a moment – long enough to make the silence awkward. He didn’t sound pleased, either. If anything, he sounded uninterested and maybe regretful, but of that Fulgrim was not certain.

Nevertheless, it was a little hint of sadness there that kept the Phoenician from announcing that as flattering as his father’s request was, he was not going to tutor Mortarion. He could have declined, as hard as that would have been, but he didn’t want to simply abandon one of his brothers. Grey and gloomy as this one was, Fulgrim couldn’t just go away. Brothers should help each other.

“I am glad to finally meet you, brother,” he replied a smile creeping back onto his face. To be completely honest, it was a lie, but he’d be damned if he wouldn’t somehow make it become reality. At that moment, he had to deal with a suspicious look that Mortarion gave him. He tried to deflect it with a smile and it seemed to work, as Mortarion’s features, or what was visible of them, eased back into neutrality.

“You will be able to learn much from Fulgrim,” the Emperor addressed Mortarion. “Take his advice to heart, my son.”

Fulgrim’s heart lept at the praise and he basked in its glory. Father appreciated him; it was all he wanted from him.

“However, I think you can learn from Mortarion, too, Fulgrim,” the Emperor continued.

It took not only Fulgrim by surprise, but Mortarion as well. Both looked at each other: Fulgrim taking in the gaunt figure in a drab grey cloak. Out of all his brothers, he would have placed Mortarion fairly low on the impressiveness scale and when it came to assigning value, Fulgrim usually placed a lot of it on appearance.

Slowly, it dawned on him that Mortarion was equally surprised. They appeared so different; Fulgrim in his golden and purple armor, dashing and bold; Mortarion looking like a gloomy specter, withdrawn and silent. Being the one to introduce somebody so fundamentally different from oneself to the duties of a Primarch was a daunting perspective and Fulgrim felt a small pang of doubt. Was he really up to the task?

The Emperor was watching him, though, and Fulgrim was not going to give up on something his father asked him to do before even trying.

“As you command, Father,” he said, nodding.

***

Mortarion poked a golden leaf with his finger, looking at it as if it had offended him on a deep and private level. He shook his head, still taking in the ornaments decorating the corridor that led from the deck of the Pride of the Emperor to Fulgrim’s private quarters. This was a military space ship; its purpose was to carry troops from one place to another and yet it appeared to be more of a flying art gallery. What could be the point?

He didn’t feel comfortable on this ship. It was so impractical, so different from what he had known his whole life. Fulgrim was the same. He could close his eyes and remember the elaborate golden ornaments decorating the purple armour, the long lustrous hair and the unblemished face. He didn’t look like somebody who had ever had to work for his life, let alone fight.

The attempt at a warm welcome had been quite nice, though, and he felt rather bad about not reciprocating. He had meant to, but his wounds from his journey to his father’s stronghold had not fully healed. Fulgrim, quite unfortunately, managed to place his arm over one such spot. It had been unpleasant enough for Mortarion to freeze. He supposed he’d have to explain it later.

With a sigh, Mortarion thought that the Emperor simply didn’t like him: otherwise, why would he have chosen somebody so fundamentally different from him to teach Mortarion? It didn’t make any sense at all.

Nevertheless, Mortarion had promised to serve the Imperium of Mankind and that meant following the Emperor’s orders. He would try to learn from this Fulgrim. If nothing else, the other Primarch had more experience in leading Astartes.

He finally stepped away from the wall and continued his way to Fulgrim’s quarters, trying to ignore all the ornaments that simply did not belong on a battleship. Once he finally entered the room, he had to wonder if he really was in the right place. Surely, a room like that did not belong to a general? The ornamental furniture, the paintings decorating the walls, everything really, screamed of decadence and wastefulness to him. All the resources that went into furnishing this room; he couldn’t help but to consider how he’d use them.

He looked around, still, almost in fascination. He had never seen so much luxury in one place. His gaze met white stony eyes. There was an unfinished sculpture in the corner. If Mortarion was right it was meant to be one of the Marines from Fulgrim’s Legion. He stepped away from it; there was just something wrong about it. He could still feel it staring at the back of his neck with its empty stone eyes.

“Good day?” he said.

Fulgrim did not appear to be there, but this didn’t mean he shouldn’t announce he was present. There was a reply, but it was distorted by a wall and then a door creaked. Fulgrim emerged from what appeared to be a bathroom, from the glimpse Mortarion managed to catch.

His “brother” was dressed only in a towel.

“Oh. I thought you’d take more time to explore,” he said grinning, quite unperturbed at being essentially naked. “I’m quite sure this is all new to you and you must be curious about your new surroundings. Really, there is no need for you to-”

Mortarion stared. He really had nothing to say, well other then ohmyyourpretty, which was definitely not what one said to his brother. Then he realized he was staring and said, trying not to sound too cowed, “I can wait outside.”

Belatedly, he realized he interrupted Fulgrim. Still, it had mostly been the same over and over with a side-dish of ego.

“I’m not sure, if I follow?” Fulgrim’s tone made it quite clear he had no idea what Mortarion had wanted to say.

“For you to get dressed,” the newly-found Primarch of the Dusk Raiders supplied. His lips twitched, as he realized that the situation was rather humoristic. It was not the highest sort of humour, but nevertheless, he was beginning to feel amused.

Fulgrim looked like he was about to say something, but he closed his mouth before making a sound and smiled. Only then did he address Mortarion. “Take a seat; I shall go back to the bathroom. There is no need for you to wait outside.”

***

Once he was properly attired, Fulgrim re-emerged from his bathroom. While still somewhat puzzled at Mortarion’s reaction, he didn’t begrudge it. Logically, he was aware that culture was responsible for such things like reacting to seeing your long lost brother dressed only in a towel with embarrassment. It was the same situation as with demonstrating public affection. Obviously, Mortarion just didn’t feel comfortable around Fulgrim.

The realization knocked his mood down a peg or two. He had tried to welcome his new brother and yet it wasn’t helping at all. The thought had him falter mid-step. What if he never managed to close the distance between him and Mortarion? Father would be disappointed. The mere thought made him feel sick. He did not want to fail in living up to Father’s expectations.

Then he looked up and noticed Mortarion looking at him with a faint smile. It was pale and barely noticeable, but once he observed it, he could tell it was friendly.

Fulgrim, true to his nature, grinned at the sight. If somebody like Mortarion was smiling then clearly things were not nearly as bad as he had feared. Besides, if Father chose Fulgrim for the task, then clearly, even if the Phoenician couldn’t see it yet, he was the right person. He should never have doubted Father.

“Is there anything you wish to learn first?” he asked.

Mortarion looked at his hands, his brow creasing in a frown. Fulgrim wondered if he’d somehow managed to spoil whatever had made Mortarion smile. Perhaps he had even misinterpreted it? He’d already done so twice. Clearly, he wasn’t very adept at reading his brother.

“About you,” Mortarion replied, looking up.

***

Interview with Kharn will be coming back in next chapter.

@Adrian: That's something I'm aware I sometimes have problems--I'm working on improving that, hopefully it will get easier to follow as I write.

Er... did you notice any spelling mistakes? I sometimes do miss them.

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Hound of War II

Naturally, we prepared for war. Nobody should escape with what they did to our Lord unpunished. They obviously had expected something, though maybe not retribution: a whole army had just been snuck off the planet and they were advanced enough to detect incoming space ships. They just weren’t prepared for us. We—that is the Eighth, the Sixth and the First Companies, deployed directly into their capital: Desh’ea. Our main objective was taking out the government.

At this point I mentioned it must have been a difficult objective, having listened to several soldiers complain about having to fight in a city. The Captain saw fit to enlighten me on the differences between Space Marines and unaugmented soldiers at this point.

If you’d ask an officer of the Imperial Army, they’d tell you that fighting in a city is difficult. So many spots for ambushes that the defenders know, but you don’t; so many places where you can place a sniper… We are a different story.

As I said, we deployed directly into their capital—that’s what Drop Pods are for. That gave them little time to react: first it started raining metal from the sky and then we were pouring bolter rounds into them. It wasn’t even their army we were facing at first; they were looking for their arses, while we were faced by their police forces.

My Eighth Company landed in a slum. We had to advance towards one of the more fancy quarters. We got to a… I think it was a bakery. I recall a smell of bread.

At this point the Captain started making a plan of the city with the help of my favourite tea mug and his armor parts. He later agreed to sketch the progress of his company, which you will find attached at the end of the chapter.

There was a barricade there. Pathetic thing really, it wouldn’t have held back a mob, let alone us. They tried shooting us, but that didn’t stop us at all. It’s really amazing how long it takes for people to realize they won’t dent power armour. They were still shooting when we were on them. We are already furious by then—had been ever since Angron told us about those implants. And here we had those people trying to stop us.

So we slaughtered them.

At this point we made a break, since the Captain went to retrieve a dataslate with the recordings made by his helmet, mentioning something about pictures saying more than a thousand words. He was right. I was not prepared to witness what I did, but I shall endevour to share my impressions.

The picture was shaking and it took me a moment to realize that it was because the Captain must have been running. There was a surprising amount of screaming, too and it was the War Hounds doing it. I think this was the first thing that truly shocked me: I have always envisioned Space Marines as being somewhat dignified when they fight and my imagination had somehow never included them yelling wordlessly at the top of their lungs.

The barricade was made to stop normal people and as such, not charging Astartes. It had been reinforced with some planks, but that didn’t even slow the War Hounds down. In seconds they were upon the defenders.

Slaughter was an apt word here: I had never realized how much damage a chainaxe can do. The phrase that a person who’d never seen it may be tempted to use would be that it cuts through a body like a knife through butter. It’s not an apt metaphor: a chainaxe tears more than it cuts. It’s not a smooth process and neither is it clean. It’s not just that there’s a lot of blood, there were also chunks of meat and bone flying. One man managed to jump away in the last moment and instead of being cut in half, he only had his stomach ripped open. Blood and feces poured out as he fell to his knees and then on his face into this disgusting soup.

That was the point where I had to urgently visit the toilet. I managed to preserve some of my dignity and did not sully the floor, though I think that did not make much of an impression on the Captain. When I returned he was watching me with exasperation.


What did you expect? It’s war. We’re there to kill. You think a man dying from a stroke is anymore aesthetic than that? Bah. Death’s death and we’re there to kill until they understand there is no other way but ours – or until there’s nobody left. Their choice.

I had only one way to regain my dignity. I had to watch the whole recording. I hope you all will appreciate my sacrifice. It didn’t get any better, but after a while I managed to recognise some overarching pattern.

What surprised me was that the fighting wasn’t really constant. It was more of a series of short skirmishes, with the War Hounds all but trampling over their opponents. The Captain had been very helpful and informed me about such things like the force necessary to hit somebody hard enough to punch their head off and similar charming details.

At some point, I asked him about the way they moved through the city. It had seemed odd
.

There are many different ways to plan a city, and Desh’ea had a circular design. No, it was more of a spiral—the main street was a spiral and it went through the whole city. Following it would have slowed us down, but then so would have had looking for shortcuts or demolishing too many buildings. One of us, I think it was Degwin—he’s a Veteran Sergeant now—suggested we keep blowing up things. He really had, still has, an unhealthy obsession with blowing things up.

It’s not really funny.

Stop laughing.

I think I was sounding at least a bit hysterical at this point. It was not the easiest tale to listen to, I can tell you that.

We got to the governmental quarter by midday. That was where their soldiers were. Cowards, the lot of them. Yes, the soldiers, too—their damn police force had had more guts than they did. I know, I saw them. The rulers hid in their villas, the soldiers shot at us a few times and then they ran. For most of them it was the last time they’d run away from anything.

The Emperor, in his wisdom, had ordered us to take some of the dignitaries alive. It wasn’t particularly hard, I have to say. Some people get amazingly cooperative when they see a Space Marine pointing a weapon at them.

Heh. I remember one time when one Blood Angel did it. He pointed his bolter and snarled, his pretty face all contorted—it looked rather funny to me, but the officer he was aiming at obviously did not share my amusement.

Sometimes just glaring works, or even just looking with mild disapproval. Never managed to pull the last one, but I remember an Ultramarine who could do it.

But, going back to the topic, after a day, Desh’ea was ours.

This was when they had figured out we were just plain better then their soldiers. But instead of doing the logical thing and giving up, they figured they’d continue fighting. It was the stupidest decision they could make. We had their leaders.

Instead, they decided to use the gladiators that hadn’t joined the revolt as cannon fodder. Surprised? We were too. Obviously, Angron was right: those High Riders were not fit to live. Why hadn’t all the gladiators joined him? Now I know it was all related to where they were from. The arena Angron fought in was in the capital, but there were others on the planet. In fact, why didn’t the whole damn planet acknowledge he was right? That’s just how Primarchs work. You can’t conceive that they could be wrong and that anybody could disagree with them, but that’s not the case. If you believe strongly enough in something you can stand up to them. I know I did. But we’ll get to this later.

So, they sent the gladiators at us. That was stupid too. Remember the implants? We can run into enemy fire. We can fight equally with the strongest orks. They just ran into our axes.

At this point I had the privilege of watching another recording. It was as shocking as the previous ones. A mass of bodies, armed with close combat weapons, charged. They screamed, got in each other’s way, trampled over each other. Then the War Hounds met them and started cutting through them like a harvester through wheat.

I hope I do not need to mention the gore? It’s… disturbing in how many ways a human body can be maimed in combat. Lost limbs and heads are but the tip of the iceberg. Let us just say that yet again, I proved to be not ready for the horrors of combat and had to commune with the toilet.

That summed all shortly just how bloody the whole fight had been.


In the end, we won. It didn’t take long. As I already had mentioned, we were just plain better.

That was not the end of our troubles, though. First, there were the gladiators. The implants could be removed from Angron, but nobody else had the slimmest chance of suriving the surgery. Nobody was happy about that: we ended up stuck with an army of maniacs, who tended to fly into rage at the drop of a pin. You can imagine just to how many conflicts that lead. As you know, we’re not the most peaceful of legions. Now, add the Imperial Army—they picked fights with them on a regular basis and it’s not like soldiers are impossible to provoke--and you have a kind of flammable situation that’s just waiting to explode. We were quite aware of this. Unfortunately, we couldn’t exactly drop them off on some nice planet and just leave the populace to deal with them, now could we? Keeping them was ultimately the best choice, but it was far from ideal.

It was also the decision of our Primarch and the Emperor himself accepted it, so even if any of us had wanted to protest, there really was no point. I’m not saying they were bad, but at that point we weren’t all that happy about them being around. We still remembered the remnants on their planet that we had fought.

This turned out to be a significant factor in Angron’s early campaigns. He was used to commanding… undisciplined people. We are blood-thirsty, but we can control ourselves.

Most of the time.

Will you stop snickering?

I am not yelling!

As you might imagine, we had to take a break at this point, seeing that Captain Kharn saw fit to demonstrate how well the War Hounds control themselves. And to those who would accuse me of sarcasm, I would like to point out that I am still alive and well.

As I was saying, we weren’t too happy about having those gladiators with us. Not all of them were glad about Angron’s decision either. It might seem odd to you, but they thought he had robbed them of a chance to get even or at least die trying. We were his vessel for his anger, but not theirs. They didn’t really have a chance to fight. On the other hand, he was still one of them and not one of us. We were his vessel; they were his brothers and sisters.

If a fight broke out, he’d always side with them. He ate with them, he remained in the same part of the ship as they did. He knew them all by name, while with us… He was wary of us, not entirely convinced we’re proper warriors. Back then, I think he thought of us as something between weapons, usurpers and strangers.

To us, it looked like those gladiators didn’t appreciate that he had agreed to join the Imperium to save them from dying and being forgotten.

The first to voice their disapproval with just being taken away and not given a chance to fight was a slip of a girl, actually. I was quite surprised when she first marched up to our Primarch and started yelling. She had amazing lung capacity, though I’m afraid she didn’t get much of an opportunity to demonstrate it.

We didn’t kill her. Angron stopped us, but it was quite a scene nonetheless. Though, I’ll give her credit for courage. Yelling at a Primarch is not something even Space Marines manage to do on a regular basis. I think I heard Abbaddon managed to actually have a row with Horus, but I have no idea how true that is.

You know, she actually wore her hair in pig-tails. It was one of the most surreal things I’ve ever seen: this girl, small with a huge scar across her face and her hair in pig-tails. She was even blonde, with freckles.

Our Primarch tried to explain. It was a bit like watching somebody trying to explain things to cudbear. It just didn’t work at all; she’d been too angry to listen. In the end two other ex-gladiators dragged her off and I spent the next hour repeating variations of “I’m sure they’ll understand once they calm down.”

As you can imagine there was one problem with that—the ones that were angry did not calm down. Ever.

Still, we were…

The Captain pauses, considering his words.

I think I can say we were happy. We had our Primarch and he would lead us. Once he was up again after the surgery, I had the privilege to train with him. It was amazing. I had no chance against him. Really, there was no comparison.

At this point, the Captain suddenly punched the wall next to me. I barely had the time to flinch.

That’s how fast we are. That’s how strong we are. He’s more than that. Where I make a crack, he can punch a hole. Where you can flinch from me, you wouldn’t see him coming. Watching him fight was—is indescribable. It’s best seen.

That was about the time when we were concluding military operations on the planet.There were the rulers of the planet and Angron had to start making his first difficult choices as a primarch. He’d have to practice on the nobility from his whole world.

He hated them. He called them High Riders and wanted them all dead. He had no mercy for them; the prisoners we had taken in Desh’ea were all executed. Bastards deserved all they got and more. I’d kill each and every one of them all over again, if I had a chance.

The planet was in disarray—fine, let’s make that complete, utter chaos—once we were done fighting and since it was going to join the Imperium we had the joyful perspective of staying in orbit for months, while the situation calmed down, as we had to keep the more blood-thirsty charges of our Lord away from the planet.

They wanted a lot of things. Some of them wanted to glass the whole place. Others wanted to be involved in ruling it. I don’t think our Lord expected them to actually want to rule and that they wouldn’t listen when he told them no.

It did not escape my attention that the Captain did not mention anything about destroying the entire planet and, naturally, I asked.

Our Lord didn’t say anything except, “It’s not to be done.” I’ve never learned what he thought of just wiping out all life on the whole planet. I think the Emperor had dissuaded him out of it, though I cannot say how. We had to start bringing order there again.

This phase of compliance is usually the most tedious part of bringing the world to compliance. You’re done with fighting; mostly at least. Sometimes, there are some nests of resistance left. This is the point when the Governor is chosen, if it’s necessary and then we wait until it appears that everything is in order.

The Captain sneers in distaste.


This really isn’t a task for Astartes. We’re there to fight and yet… Sometimes I feel like the only sane person around. You would not believe what some otherwise reasonable people can suggest. There was this one time… But that’s a different story.

I think I felt like this back then. Our Primarch had no idea about running an Expedition Fleet and-

He pauses and shakes his head.

I don’t blame or condemn any of my brothers. I blame my shitty luck while drawing lots. The Emperor had other duties calling him—he stayed as long as possible with our Lord, but once we entered the later stage of bringing that world to compliance, he had to leave, while we had to stay. Somebody had to… point him in the right direction and show him certain mechanisms of running an Expedition Fleet. I ended up with the job, until our Lord would join one of his more experienced brothers.

And for months, we just sat there, wrapping up all loose ends and waiting for another fleet to rendezvous with us.

I chose to end the chapter here, as next the Captain has described his efforts in educating Lord Angron. It is a most interesting narrative and I think it deserve a separate chapter.

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Less Perfect II

Mortarion found himself confused. On the one hand, Fulgrim appeared to be obnoxiously full of himself. He practically leapt at the occasion to talk about himself and his Legion, and how amazing they were, and how he wanted to be just like daddy. Well, the last part wasn’t exactly stated like this and, despite being arrogant, was not obnoxious at all. In fact, it was honestly something he found very likeable. On the other hand, Fulgrim had barely mentioned his childhood or the time shortly after he had been found.

Odd. Still, it would be intrusive to inquire. He would wait until Fulgrim decided he wanted to tell him about it. After all, he did not expect to learn everything about his… mentor, he supposed, on the first day. Some things were simply too private to share.

“How about you, brother?” Fulgrim asked, looking at Mortarion encouragingly. “Perhaps you’d wish to share some tales of your exploits with me?”

Mortarion considered the request for a moment. It seemed fair enough.

“I grew up on Barbarus,” he started, “where the Warlords ruled. They dwelt high in the mountains, where none other could breathe…”

He had never been good with long tales and merely listening to Fulgrim had told him his brother would be disappointed to hear his story in the way he would usually tell it. Instead of doing so, he borrowed the words of another, slightly paraphrasing it, replacing “he” with “I”. He had a good memory, after all, and could repeat the tale word by word. Not out of vanity, but simply to honour the person who had created it.

Fulgrim listened attentively. For all his egotism, he did appear genuinely interested in what Mortarion was telling. He was leaning slightly forward, making small noises of surprise or affirmation at the appropriate moments and his gaze never wandered away from Mortarion. In its own way, it was quite gratifying.

He did not expect what came after he had finished, though. Fulgrim, it seemed, was a lot more emotional than Mortarion and far more open about displaying what he was feeling at any given moment. Just as the Primarch of the Dusk Raiders recited the final words, he found himself being embraced again.

He was glad about it; after all, he had probably upset Fulgrim last time and now he could fix that. To tell the truth he was pleasantly surprised and touched to find that Fulgrim did not seem deterred by his initial reaction at all. For all intents and purposes, he could have decided to keep away from Mortarion for good. Instead, he seemed to be ready to try again and welcome him. Somewhat awkwardly, he slid his left arm around his brother. His wounds were almost healed by now, but some movements still left him feeling uncomfortable.

Then Fulgrim pulled away, looking quite amused. “Those were not the patterns of speech you have used so far?”

Not expecting Fulgrim to notice had apparently been a mistake, though in his previous experience others generally did not pay attention to changes in syntax. It would still not do if he left it unexplained, simply because Fulgrim might jump to the wrong conclusions again.

“I’d have omitted half of it, if I hadn’t used what somebody else created,” he replied, shrugging only with his left shoulder.

Fulgrim laughed, “I could have asked questions, couldn’t I?”

That was technically true and Mortarion wondered why he hadn’t thought of it. Perhaps, he simply did not like telling his own story in his own words. Some things were just too private to share at the first meeting. He smiled a pale half-smile in response, as an admission of his mistake.

“I have another question,” Fulgrim said, peering at him, his brow now creasing in a frown. “Is there something wrong with your shoulder?”

Mortarion looked at it—it didn’t hurt anymore, though moving it remained uncomfortable. Almost unconsciously he balled his hands into fists. The pain might have dulled by now, but there would be a scar there to join all the others. It wouldn’t be the only new one either, but then he was quite certain it didn’t really matter in the long run. Warriors were scarred.

“It’s just a chemical burn,” he said quietly.

Silently, Fulgrim touched one of the many scars on Mortarion’s cheek, the frown not leaving his features. He seemed to be examining the texture and the shade, while Mortarion tried not to concentrate too much on how… odd the sensation was. He didn’t really feel the touch on his skin, just the barest hint of pressure in the muscles.

“Are they all chemical in origin?” Fulgrim asked, as he withdrew his hand.

The only thing that had stopped Mortarion from slapping the prying hand away was just how worried Fulgrim seemed. It… It puzzled him to some degree that this man, whom he barely knew and who appeared so fundamentally different, appeared to treat him like a true sibling moments after they had met first.

“Yes,” he replied, taking a small step back. “Don’t touch them again—I don’t like that.”

For a moment, Fulgrim looked both puzzled and hurt. Then, before Mortarion could add anything, he exhaled slowly, his expression even again. “I apologize. I have been told I tend to be too… affectionate.”

For a moment, Mortarion stared at Fulgrim, fighting the urge to at the same time hide his face in his hands in exasperation and laugh.

***

Fulgrim found himself very much unhappy with his own thoughts as he accompanied Mortarion to see him address the highest ranking Captains of the Dusk Raiders. He had never been fond of thinking back to his childhood on Chemos, but now he found himself comparing his own fate and what he had found out of Mortarion’s.

The differences were there and yet, he could not help but wonder. What would he do, if he were to fight in an environment that even his constitution could not handle? How long would it take to succumb to the poisonous mists of Barbarus? It was not easy to harm a Primarch, but the living proof that it was possible was walking beside him, still covered in angry red scars, ones that would always be there to remind them all they were not indestructible.

Suddenly, he realized Mortarion would never have it easy. If he was so unnerved by the scars, how would his other brother’s react? Would any of them appreciate learning they could be harmed? He doubted that.

Mighty Russ would not take well to uncertainty. He could hear the Wolf King of Fenris now, the rough growl of his voice and the hostility in it. What would Ferrus say?

Perhaps this was why Father had chosen him to tutor Mortarion? While he could not relate all that well to his brother, he certainly could try to make sure at least some other Primarchs did not focus on the first impression and try to minimize the distance that would surely be caused by it.

He would have dwelt on all the problems in front of him now, had Mortarion not chosen to this moment to address him. They were still on their way to the docking bay, passing through rows of exquisite statues and marvelous paintings, though so far Mortarion did not appear to show any interest in them. Now, all of a sudden, his brother indicated one of them and said, in an absolutely serious voice, “That one isn’t too bad.”

Fulgrim stared at him for a moment, until he finally caught the slight way the corners of Mortarion’s lips had curled up and he found himself grinning, if only because his brother’s intention was to cheer him up. And it had worked.

“You can have it,” he said impulsively. “It’s a gift.”

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