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Black Illusion

Lucian stared out the window of his Stormbird as it made its final descent to the planet surface.

Prospero was what they called it and Lucian thought that it was certainly a name that suited the world below.

When he had received the invitation from the Crimson King he had accepted it without question. On the voyage over he had read all he could about the Thousand Sons.

How their gene-seed had caused such horrendous mutations that when they were reunited with their gene-father only a thousand of them remained, and he thought the Emperors Children had a bad luck beginning.

The world of Prospero was a world of Psykers but even the warning of such a world did not detract from its beauty and although others held the misunderstood and sometimes unknown powers of the warp, he had never judged a man by it.

There were those that said they were evil but evil was a human trait not the power, if a man wielded it to kill because it gave him pleasure that was the evil, if he wielded it for the good of his fellow warriors and man then that was the inherently good in him.

They came over the city and the Praetorian all held a collective gasp. They called this the City of Light and they could understand why. White Marble gleamed everywhere clean and looked as if they had only been constructed in the last few months instead of years.

Tall spires that reached high into the sky and as they banked round they saw great obelisks and Pyramids dotting the city enhancing its beauty more with each turning pass of the Stormbird. Every single tower gleamed with the light of the sun and as the Spartan and his sons gazed down on the populace they saw people milling in the streets with no care in the world.

As they had flown into the atmosphere they had encountered many mountain regions and peaks, seen the ruins of an ancient civilisation. Lucian had learnt that the people that had founded this world had done so because it was so far from Terra.

Mutants and Psykers were able to live in reclusion free from the oppressive nature of Terra’s witch hunters. It was during this time that they studied and learnt about their abilities and their powers until over generations all of Propero was a world of Psykers.

So when Magnus arrived, a being of not only intellect and strength but of all the sons of the Emperor he was the most warp attuned after his father he found this world was to his liking.

The City of Light was situated on the most central of the mountain region and was sustained by underground hydroponics and techno psychic collective arrays providing sustainable energy.

Everything he saw spoke of an ordered society loyal to the emerging and growing Imperium not some coven of misshapen individuals plotting the downfall of an empire.

A cultural society that loved and craved knowledge, indeed he had been told that Magnus held history high in his agenda and whenever he conquered a world in the name of their father he went to great lengths to ensure the worlds history was preserved before the new masters destroyed it all.

“Take us down” Lucian ordered and glanced at his librarian.

Tanis was peering closely out the front window of the Stormbird and Lucian supposed that to a mind as powerful as his Librarians then this must be like taking a child to a candy store.

Lucian sat back in his seat and waited for his vessel to touch ground wondering what his meeting with the Crimson King was going to be like.

The Griffon Riders came down first in regimental lines and stood either side of the gangway. The Praetorian came down next followed by the Chaplin and the Librarian and behind them came the Spartan.

Ahriman, Khalophis and Hathor Matt snapped to attention as the Primarch of the Spartan Guard came into view and then moved to one knee. Their bodies trembling as they beheld the visage of one so beauteous as a son of the Emperor and one that did not seem so unnerved by their reputation.

He stood before them and bid them rise. Ahriman swallowed his trepidation as he looked into the amber flexed eyes of the being that towered above him, the eyes of a warrior and a king in equal measure.

When he had accepted his brothers’ invitation Magnus had ordered that his sons all learn about the Spartan Guard and their Primarch. Now the Librarian knew why he had felt such a spike in his twin hearts.

He had learnt that Lucian Dragos was not just a survivor of the so called Killing Ring but he had led his people free from the yoke of a man that their history called only the Tyrant, his true name struck from the records of Eden as if to even recall that such a monster had a name was sacrilege in itself.

The man was a natural ruler and a warrior of such skill and fervour that his sons and daughters for there were women in the Killing Ring fought like enraged animals by his side,

When he bid them raise his voice was as deep as a volcano but gentle as an ocean breeze.

“My Lord” Ahriman bowed his head, “I bid you welcome to our fair city”

“And I bid my newest brother welcome for long have I hoped this day would arrive brother”

Lucian looked past the Librarian to see a giant in gold bronze and leather, powerfully broad across the shoulders and from them broad horizons hung a cape of iridescent feathers all catching some point of light and shining in a myriad of colours that was not unpleasant to behold.

His crimson mane hung in three large braids down his back and his skin was the colour of copper no wonder they called him the Crimson King. His left eye was a pool of amber that seemed to change with his moods and right now it glowed with the brightness of one who had looked forward to this meeting long before today.

Magnus the Red, Primarch of the Thousand Sons opened his arms a little and Lucian walked into them and into a brotherly embrace that was all the more intense because of its genuine emotions.

Ahriman read the auras of the Praetorian, all were respectful and yet wary, he did not blame them, he supposed it was hard for an Astartes to descend to a planet inhabited entirely by Psykers without having to draw bolters.

As the Chief Librarian focused on the Spartan once more he saw a mighty sword of obsidian hung across his back and drew in an intake of breath, although this was the first time he had seen the mighty being before him he had heard all about the Mortis Sword, the weapon of the Spartan said to separate a mans soul from his body and send it to a realm far beyond death.
He could see no other weapons but he supposed that in reality a Primarch never really was without other weapons.

His armour like that of his sons were styled in the warriors of Antiquity of Terra once called the Spartans and from what he had learnt about that ancient civilisation they never retreated nether did the Spartan Guard and when their dead came home they were born upon their shields with their helms at their feet, flown to Eden and interred within its great fortress monastery.

The gene seeds sent to new initiates or Spartaks, as they were called ready for the next generation of warriors to walk alongside the mighty Spartan.
Lucian stepped back and looked his brother over once in swift appraisal.

Once Magnus had two eyes but the right eye was lost long ago and that side of his face was smooth as if it had never held an orb, something that had earnt him the less savoury nickname of Cyclops amongst some of his other brothers.

Lucian thought that the Crimson King suited him much better.

“It is good to finally meet you Magnus, it is a day I have long waited for”

“Walk with me Lucian, let your sons relax in the company of my sons and perhaps we will learn much from each other”

Lucian turned to his Praetorian and nodded once; as if that was the signal they were waiting for the Praetorian relaxed.

“Enjoy the hospitality my sons and take the chance to learn from a brother Legion”

They bowed their heads and watched as their master walked away with the lord of the Thousand Sons. The Sekhmet and Griffon Riders fell into step behind their masters leaving Magnus’s elite with Lucians Elite.

Ahriman made the introductions and then Anteaus made his introductions first to break the ice.

“I am Anteaus 1st Captain, this is Demetrius 2nd Captain, Nikoli 3rd Captain, Konan 4th Captain and Largo 5th Captain, this is Seranus our High Chaplain and Tanis our Master Librarian. In fact brother I believe that Tanis and the Thousand Sons may have something in common”

“Oh?” Hathor Matt arched an elegant eyebrow “In what way”

“In that where Tanis comes from all his people are versed in the mystical arts its what makes them good Librarians”

Ahriman smiled broadly “Come brothers let us show you the splendours of Prospero and then we will show you how we entertain.”

Largo stared around him. It was one thing seeing this city from the air but to see it up close and personal like this was awe-inspiring.

“I was once told of an ancient civilisation on Terra that built pyramids” Largo mused “no one could understand how they did it to attain such geometrical perfection with the tools they had in their day long gone now, even though I come from the lands that were close to those ancient monuments they were still spoken off in hushed stories told by mother to son at night as feat of mans ingenuity in aeons passed however, I never expected to ever see anything that could rival such tales brought to life”

Uthizaar turned to his fellow captain and rested a hand on his shoulder “You are Terran born then brother?”

“I am brother, on Terra the great palace is the most awe inspiring sight that anyone would see but this…. this is amazing”

“You honour us Brother” Uthizaar smiled and turned to face the quiet Librarian whose features were hidden behind his helm even though the others had cast their helms off he kept his on and unlike the other Spartans his helm was fashioned like any other Space Marines.

Tanis looked around him taking everything in with a quiet detachment and once stopped walking to gaze down at the populace below.

“Have we offended your brother that he does not take off his helm?” T’Kar asked Demetrius.

Demetrius glanced behind him and briefly watched as Tanis observed the people below as if he were reading something indiscernible to them save him.

“No Brother, Tanis hales from the Dark Lands, the only place on Eden that is shrouded in perpetual night and as such its populace are sensitive to the sun and other such light. There is no offence intended brother I assure you”

T’Kar nodded a little and waited for the Spartan Librarian to rejoin them “I am told brother that your people are revered as seers on your world”

“We too had a small civil war brother T’Kar” Tanis darkly explained “some of our more treacherous countrymen sided with the Tyrant and his foul gods so we used our powers to send them to hell”

The rest of the Praetorian stopped in their tracks, Tanis rarely spoke about his time before the coming of the Emperor.

“Was it a harsh war brother?” Ahriman asked

“A war of Psykers of all manners of denominations is harsh Ahzek when it was over those that had sided with the Tyrant were all but burnt out husks of their former selves and we executed them when I was 16 summers I was called to the court of the King and Queen and I acted as their ambassador, with the coming of the Emperor I became a Librarian, a position that I am most proud of but being here, on a world that is populated by Psykers who do not use their powers for malevolence is – refreshing to me.

I see their thoughts and their minds reach out to me but all is in joyous harmony with love for the Emperor Beloved by all, a world so completely at ease with it self is indeed a rarity.”

The Thousand Sons Captains swelled with pride and the Praetorian had never heard their brother speak so passionately about anything but it seemed that the spell of Prospero had made its way into Tanis’s heart and would remain there.

“Your land is that where all the Librarians for the Spartan Guard come from?” Toron asked.

Tanis nodded “the only place that Lord Dragos allows the Chapter Master to recruit from as he knows that our loyalties are to him and him alone”

The group made their way through the streets of Prospero. Civilians moved aside not only as the sons of Magnus made their through the throng but the sons of another mighty being also and there were some that touched the armour of the Brother Legion as if that in itself would bring them some measure of luck in their endeavours all of which the Astartes found most amusing.

Lucian stared at the inner sanctum of the Crimson King such a work of beauty rippling glass with carefully chosen marble that spiralled around in exact measurements centre of which was a golden sun dais, that which Magnus stood upon when he called his inner circle to order.

Lucian had heard so much about Magnus he had expected to see symbols of all manners of magicks but there were none. There were books of learning and knowledge all in order and lovingly kept.

Konrad had not been joking when he had said that Magnus had a thirst for knowledge that matched Russ thirst for battle.

He was shown to a recliner and given a glass of wine that once Lucian had sipped from the goblet found that it was the sweetest tasting wine he had ever sampled across his pallet.

He had noticed that the Crimsons Kings eye was never one dormant colour instead it had changed to a pale blue that sparkled with warmth and it was true; Magnus’s remaining eye reflected his moods.

Like the seasons of the Tide and the moods of the weather his eye depicted his moods. It was a strange thing to see and was a wonderful thing to behold.
Magnus listened as he told him the story of his coming to Eden and the battle against the Tyrant to make his land the paradise it was once again.

Magnus told him about how he arrived on Prospero, how his cryo-tube had crashed to Prospero in the centre of the very plaza that his own sons were even at this moment walking through.

He told him how his father had remained in contact with him through their very conception telling him the secrets of the great ocean as he called it, the warp to others.

He listened intently as Magnus spoke of the curse that befallen his sons, how their gene seeds were harvested at a time that was wrong for the Thousand Sons and the instability was causing what the sons called the flesh change, whenever they used their powers too much or over used the intensity the great ocean wrought horrific mutations against their bodies until the only recourse for them was death.

Although he did not enter the specifics he told Lucian how he had saved his own Legion but he rubbed the smooth skin over where his eye had been and Lucian got the idea that whatever Magnus had done to save his sons had cost him more then anyone believed.

Lucian sipped some more wine and settled back in comfort.

“Who have you met so far brother?” Magnus wanted to know “I mean fifty
years for a Legion to crusade is a short time”

“When father came to my world he was joined by Angron, Konrad and Lorgar” Lucians voice held the pride he felt for them and because of them and Magnus read his aura perfectly, they were three of his closest brothers with ties of brotherhood that would broke no discourse.

There was genuine love and affection for the Night Haunter, the Red Angel and the Urizen and he was glad to see it for they were three of the most vilified Primarchs in the eyes of others Konrad for his moody and violent nature, Angron for his barbarism and violence and Lorgar for his religious fervour.

“Then I met the Lion”

Lucian’s aura spiked red and violet. Clearly Lion El’Johnson was not someone he cared for in fact there was downright hostility at the mention of the name. Magnus had heard of the altercation between the two brothers and even now when the two legions had met they had done their theatres and left with neither Primarch meeting or exchanging words.

“Then I met Roboute and warred alongside him and our father. I lost an entire company that day as did Roboute”

His aura was spiked with mourning and it was obvious to Magnus that his battle beside the Ultimate Warrior and their father whilst the proudest battle he had ever fought would always cause him sorrow for the loss of his sons. He held Roboute in affection and that was plain to see.

“I have met Fulgrim and find him to be a little.”

“Vain? Esoteric?” Magnus offered

“To say the least, his Lord Commander Eidolon fell out with my Praetorian son Largo and although Fulgrim was most apologetic I felt that it was insincere as if he was doing it for the sake of doing it”

“Once you get to know Fulgrim brother you will see that he is a great warrior”
“I have no doubt of that just I am not keen on over prideful men it can cause a fall and in beings like us it can be a big fall”

Magnus could see the neutral spike it was true what he had said, he had no real feelings for Fulgrim one way or the other.

Lucian sat forward “But the best was fighting beside Horus” Magnus moved back suddenly, the intensity of the Spartans aura was one that he had never expected.

He loved his father but that was made inconsequence by the love and loyalty he felt for Horus Lupercal, the beloved son, the first Primarch and the father of the Lunar Wolves.

Magnus understood that feeling; it was the kind most had when they met Horus for the first time.

Lucian took Magnus’s hand in his and held it in a firm strong grip and in that moment of contact Magnus saw the Spartans possible future and his past as if they were open pages.

A possible future where the Spartan and his sons rode the galaxy smiting the Eldar and bringing them to their knees more so then the birth of their god she who must not be named had done and a future where worlds burned beneath their touch.

Magnus reeled a little but recovered quickly and let go of his brothers’ hand.

“I would like to see your world now Magnus if that is ok, it’s been so long since I set foot on a Homeworld”

Magnus rose to his full height and called for his Sekhmet “Escort Lord Dragos to his quarters I will attend him momentarily”

Magnus embraced him once more and watched him go then sat back down. Closing his eyes he took himself through the enumerations and then recalled the connection with his youngest brother.

Letting his now calmed mind recollect the myriad of images and followed them to their logical conclusions.

The room was darkened save for the lighting of candles around a five pointed star that Magnus recognised as an old symbol from times of unenlightenment during Terras spirituous times.
Two giants stood before each other shrouded in darkness the first was listening intently the second was raging the anger so visceral that even though this was merely a vision of what might be to Magnus it was as real as if it were happening now. The second shadowed figure rested two hands on the enraged others shoulders and whispered to him in a low voice.
Magnus was about to dismiss the vision until he heard the seconds voice, so softly spoken and yet with the skill of one used to swaying people to his word he groaned inwardly as he saw the smile crease the darkness and then the eyes turned upon him and he was hurled out of the vision

Magnus sunk to his knees breathing harshly he composed himself he hoped that he was wrong that for all his knowledge and his skills and his mastery and the fact that he knew that he was hardly ever was wrong he prayed that this time he was wrong so completely and utterly wrong.

Lucian marvelled at the city around him and whenever he saw one of Prospero’s citizens they almost wept at the sight of not only their Crimson King but also his brother. Magnus watched as his brother lifted a human child into his arms and with a broad smile set him on his shoulders so the child could see the world as a Primarch does.

When he was returned to the parents they bowed and wept their thanks moving backwards lest they be struck down by being in such close proximity to one so beautiful as a son of the Emperor.

Magnus saw the gentleness that his brother showed those that would never understand what it was like to have been created in the way they were that he had a capacity to understand the human psyche.

When Magnus introduced him to the elders of the city he showed great deference to their wisdom and spoke with them at length about their youth on this world of Psykers he seemed to hold them in reverence and later he explained that on his world the old men and women were regarded for their wisdom and even the Tyrant bowed to the wisdom of his elders.

Lucian regarded Magnus for a long moment or two then said, “Should ever you need my aid brother you have it”

Magnus beamed inside, for a being of his immense stature he sought deep down for the approval of his brothers and he clasped his brothers’ hand in his but as he did that vision assaulted him again.

He kept his face poker straight and drew Lucian into a bear hug and whispered in his ear “If anything ever troubles you Lucian you can always call upon me”

Lucian frowned a little but nodded thinking that Magnus was just being cautious. As the Spear of Eden departed the Praetorian having made firm friends within the ranks of the Thousand Sons Magnus turned to his sons and a sorrowful look crossed his face.

“My Lord?” Ahriman asked concerned by his masters’ sorrowful expression.

Magnus shook his head and forced levity to his features once more but decided that he would keep a closer eye on his younger brother, especially if the other giant in the vision was who he believed it to be and if that was the case then he would have to be the only one to save his brothers soul.

Lucian stretched a little and poured himself a draft of ale as Prospero vanished from his sight.

He had found an intelligent being in Magnus and believed that he used only his powers for the good of the Imperium he could see no wrong in what

Magnus did but the feeling that somehow the Crimson giant had read his very future unnerved him a little. There had been a jolt inside him when he had gripped Magnus’s hand he looked at his hand as if by reading it would reveal the secrets of what was it the Crimson King had called the Warp? Oh yes the Great Ocean he shrugged a little to himself and thought of it like brothers reuniting once and for all.

He turned as Davinus entered his strategum and handed him a wafer.

“What’s this?” He asked.

“We have been summoned to the world of Behemoth IV Lord?”

”Summoned? Who by?”

Davinus felt his mouth go dry “The Wolf King Lord”

All of Lucians humour faded “Russ? Russ seeks to summon me like some underling?”

Davinus did not answer it did not require an answer Lucian clenched the wafer in his hand and it crushed

“No one summons me like some dog to heel” He growled “Head for this Behemoth IV Davinus and I will show the so called Wolf King what I do to them who dare talk to me as such!”

Davinus bowed his head and exited the strategum leaving his master sometimes it was best to leave the Primarch alone.
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