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Dark Ponderings

1032 Views 8 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  Ignatius Hadrian
My first foray into the realm of 40k fanfic, written in 06 and reposted for your reading enjoyment. Please feel free to critique as you see fit, but remember that I was young and impressionable then. In case you were wondeirng, I stole the name from the story for my handle, not the other way around. :) Here it is in its entirety.

Dark Ponderings

Part 1

Consciousness broke over him slowly; he rose from the depths of blackness as though a deep ocean wave were finally releasing him to the shoreline. Agony was the only sensation he felt at first. Pain was not unknown or unwelcome to those of his kind, but what he had been subjected to was an all-new breed of pain. Over and over again they had done unspeakable acts to him, only pausing to let his body recover enough to keep him alive, and then going at it again. As he finally became fully aware, he felt cool stone against his forehead. While unconscious, he had been placed on his knees with his head to the floor in a submissive position, the ultimate insult to a warrior of his standing.

He was certain that he could not stand any more from being chained on his knees for countless hours, his arms chorded with some strange metallic alloy at the wrists and elbows behind him; biting painfully into his skin. It was a grim testament to his failing strength that natural bonds could hold him like a child. A failing he had not had since he had actually been a child more than two centuries before, on Nocturne.

His mind wandered, trying to distract him from the screaming in his joints and muscles. Only half conscious of what he was doing, he recited the Litany of the Damned under his breath. Ignatius thought back to that childhood and his entrance into the life of a Space Marine. All those of his kind were genetically enhanced to provide them with an eidetic memory so that they may remember past battles or lessons as if they had happened yesterday. The first memory that came to mind was his selection day. The day he was chosen to become an apprentice smith, which had eventually led to his acceptance into the hallowed ranks of the Adeptus Astartes.

* * *

At the tender age of six, his father had brought him to the smithy for judgment. He was of average size and strength, with no distinguishing features save his eyes. Those were a bright emerald green. The intense heat as he walked through the double plasteel doors was no worse than the lava flows that frequently altered the landscape around the settlement. The air was thick with steam rising from the furnace and from the kilns of water for cooling super-heated metal.

There were several forms moving in the near darkness, mere shadowy silhouettes dancing in the tendrils of steam lit by the flames. One shadow moved forward from the back of the large smithy, growing larger as it approached. A behemoth of a man fully three meters tall stepped out of the shadows and looked down at the boy with a stern face while wiping his massive hands on his leather apron. He was undressed from the waist up and tendrils of sweat streaked down over ritual scars that laced across his massive frame. A prominent brand of a salamander, the fiery lizard that gave the chapter its name, rampant breathing fire and speared through the heart, stood out over the giant’s left pectoral.

His head was bald, and bore scars as well, giving the impression of black flames licking up his scalp from the base of his neck as he moved. In his right temple two silver studs could be seen glinting in the near darkness. The man’s skin was a deep bronze, and leathery from many years spent in the harsh conditions on the surface of Nocturne. He was a Space Marine; of that there was no doubt, even to the young lad.

The smith finished wiping his hands on his apron and reached out to take Ignatius’ father’s hand, enveloping it to well past the wrist by the sheer size of his palm. They spoke for a bit as Ignatius looked around in wonder at the rest of the room, his eyes adjusting slowly. There were several boys working at various tasks. Their ages ranged from little older than him to nearing adulthood. Sixteen was the age of the oldest boy, he would later find out.

Before he could wander off, the two men turned to the boy and his father told him to go stand in line with the other boys. It wasn’t until now that Ignatius noticed a line of nearly a dozen boys against the wall to one side of the door, just inside the smithy. He walked over and stood at one end of the line, looking straight ahead, like the other boys.

The smith walked slowly down the line, hands clasped firmly behind his back, not looking at any of them. Stopping in front of the boy next to Ignatius, he turned sharply and stared down at him sternly.

“Who can a Marine trust?” he asked the boy.

“Hi… himself, Sir. Himself above all else…” the boy paused, thinking of the answer he had been taught by his own father “except for the Emperor of Mankind.”

“Correct,” said the smith, turning and walking back down the line and stopping in front of the boy at the far end.

“What is mankind’s greatest enemy?” he asked.

“Mankind’s greatest enemy is the enemy within himself, sir.” The boy replied immediately.

“Correct.” The smith turned and walked back a pace, to the next boy. So it continued, question after question. Each boy was asked several questions. Ignatius answered each question immediately, staring straight ahead as if he were already in a formation of his brother Marines. Few questions were answered wrong, for failure meant they would be sent home in shame.

Finally it came down to Ignatius for the last question. The smith stopped in front of him and asked, “What is the true purpose of a warrior of the Emperor?”

Ignatius stood straight as a rod and spoke with a well-rehearsed tone, “The Adeptus Astartes lives for the Emperor alone. His sole purpose for being is to burn the heretic, kill the mutant, and destroy the alien so that he may protect mankind.”

The marine kneeled down and had to bend over still further to look the boy in the eye. “Do you know what those words mean, son? That beyond all else, this is to be the entirety of your life until the Emperor calls you to him?” He rumbled in a deep baritone.

“I understand, sir. I will try hard and I won’t ever give up… sir.” The boy said with a solemn look on his young face.

“You do that, and you will have taken the first step on the journey of one of the Emperor’s chosen,” said the giant.

“My name is Veteran Sergeant Nikoense” he continued, rising and turning to face all the boys, “but from this day forward you will call me Artisan. You will work long hard hours learning the craft of being a metal smith, and if you prove yourself worthy, you will one day become a Space Marine. But that day is long off.”

With that, he turned to Ignatius’ father with a nod of his head. Ignatius’ father nodded to his son with a hint of moisture in his eye, the most emotion he had shown in Ignatius’ short life, then turned away to start for home. The boys who had not made the selection were sent home to their families. Though the Marines would never look down on them for failing, their family would. The smith then placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder and turned him into the smithy, and Ignatius’ world was immersed in fire and darkness.
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Part 2

The darkness of the room made it hard to concentrate on anything but the fire burning in his shoulders, which nearly drowned out the screaming in his other joints, dragging Ignatius out of his reverie. Ignatius Hadrian, Veteran Squad Sergeant of Squad Hadrian, Third Company of the Salamanders Chapter of the Adeptus Astartes, struggled to retain lucidity, despite agonizing pain that wracked his body. He attempted to sit up straight, for the door was opening to his cell once more.

Each time the door had opened before it had been for him to learn new heights of pain and torture at the hands of these beings of seemingly pure evil that held him captive. Even though the light emitted by the guttering torch out in the hallway was so dim that most normal men would not be able to see more than a few feet by it, it pierced his eyes like a blazing sun, causing him to wince sharply and avert his eyes. How long had he been here, that he could no longer even look at his captors when they walked into his cramped little cell? Had his Emperor forsaken him to the whim of these foul beings?

Time moved so oddly in this place that short memories from long ago could be dwelled on for hours at a time, yet memories that seemed to last a lifetime could flash by in the span of a second. One such memory that occurred to him now was of his final test as a smith’s apprentice.

* * *

Slowly revolving around its orange sun in a long 15 Terran year cycle, Nocturne approached dangerously close to Prometheus causing massive tectonic plate activity. The volcanic activity deriving from this constant tectonic change was truly spectacular to see, ranges of active volcanoes stretched across the landscape belching forth lava, gases, and ash into the orange skies. The tremors of frequent earthquakes rippled across the planet’s surface, sending tidal waves crashing into the coastal areas, sweeping all before them.

As if this was not enough, once every Nocturne year the moon, Prometheus, approached perilously close and Nocturne is plunged into worse turmoil. Called the Time of Trial by its inhabitants, one could see constant tidal waves sweeping the seas; volcanic eruptions shook the earth constantly. Smoke and ash clouds were thrown high into the atmosphere and created an eerie darkness across the globe for the next three years.

Nocturne had a different kind of gravitational pull than Terra, being so close to its moon, Prometheus. Average men grew larger and stockier than humans from other worlds in response to the higher gravity. Those who had strenuous jobs, in turn, grew larger still. It was not uncommon to find a man top two meters before he finished growing. Ignatius might have been such a man, had he not become an apprentice. As it was, he topped out at just shy of three meters by the end of his training, standing nearly eye-to-eye with the smith.

The Veteran Sergeant he was apprenticed to was more than just the settlement’s blacksmith. He was also the leader of the temporary settlement and all the families that lived near it. The volatile nature of Nocturne forced even the largest settlements to be semi-permanent. The few places where mankind could thrive were wonders similar to the dark age of technology; building upon advanced technology the inhabitants of Nocturne had built beautiful cities surrounded by complex mechanisms to support them.

Located in the quietest tectonic areas and maintaining powerful void shields both above and below the city, the inhabitants were protected from the harshest environmental changes that the planet could throw at them. Life within these sanctuaries was overseen by members of the Salamanders space marine Chapter. As the liege lords of Nocturne they took an active part in the day to day running of the planet and each company was responsible for one of the mighty sanctuary cities.

Some Astartes chose not to live directly in these sanctuaries. Instead, they chose to spend their time on Nocturne with those who would not enter the sanctuaries except during the Time of Trials. Artisan was one such veteran, and when not away with his company, he lived and moved with the settlement Ignatius had been born to.

In ten Terran years working with Artisan, Ignatius had learned much of the craft of metallurgy, then more advanced techniques as he grew older. The mysteries of power armor, the intricate workings of a bolter, even the hidden art that seemed like sorcery that lay in the crafting and repair of power weapons were revealed to the apprentices. They had also learned much of the Adeptus Astartes and the ways of the Salamanders through their training in the Seventh Company. They learned everything from the litanies and hymns that went with each aspect of an Astartes' daily rituals to rank structure and forms of address, and it was not until they could recite all of this from memory that they were allowed to train for combat as a scout. Under the stern guidance of the Artisan, the young green-eyed boy grew to be a strong, intelligent young man.

At the age of ten Ignatius received his secondary heart along with the Ossmodula and Biscopea that would impact his bone and muscle growth exponentially. Between the age of ten and sixteen he received further operations that strengthened his resistance to extreme temperatures and toxins and increased his senses to super-human capacity. When his training was nearing completion, he received all but two of the alterations required to become a full Brother Salamander. Those were saved for his sixteenth naming day, when his body had had time to adjust to the other operations and his growth had slowed to more normal conditions. The black carapace that would allow him to interact with a suit of power armor would not have been able to keep up with the rapid growth he had gone through, and the glands that would contain the sacred geneseeds required a more mature body to work effectively.

It was then that he was ready to become a scout. It was be years yet before he had been allowed to take the final test and earn his own set of power armor, but as a scout he would receive the experience necessary to prepare himself.
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Part 3

The day finally arrived that Ignatius had long waited for. He was not told when he would be called for the testing, only that he would know when the time came. He had been cleaning his bolter and reciting the appropriate hymns when one of the younger apprentices approached, saying that Artisan wished to see him.

Placing the bolter gently back into its frame in his footlocker, Ignatius rose and followed the apprentice to the forge where he and the other apprentices normally received instruction from Artisan. This time something was different. This time no learning would be done, for the fire beside the anvil stood cold and still, its master equally as motionless beside it, waiting for him.

At his arrival, Artisan turned without a word and walked out the back door to the smithy, expecting Ignatius to follow on his own. Doing so, Ignatius found himself in a dark field, lit only by torches standing in a square large enough to fit several homes in. The smith halted next to one of these torches and waited, hands clasped behind him, looking at the few stars that could be seen through the clouds and volcanic ash that thickened the atmosphere.

Resolving to wait until he was told what to do, Ignatius stood beside the smith and assumed the same stance. It was nearly an hour before something happened. Ignatius knew better than to look or act bored or impatient, so for all that time, the two had stood in silence. Then a sight that took the young man’s breath away appeared in the sky above them. A flash of stars grew into a rapidly approaching solid light, which soon revealed itself to be a Thunderhawk. It streaked across the sky to land in what he now recognized to be a landing field, marked off by the four torches. This would truly be the day he had waited for.

When it had landed and the engines were powering down, the front ramp opened and four figures emerged. All four were in full artisan power armor of Salamander Space Marines. Three bore what Ignatius had learned were the markings of chapter Librarians and the fourth wore the distinctive skull-faced helm and carried the Croizus Arcanum of a Chaplain. When they had approached and Artisan had given greetings to each in turn, they all turned to the young man and looked at him appraisingly.

The smith informed him that this was to be his judgment council. These five, including the smith, had nearly a millennium of experience between them, and would decide whether he was ready to become a Marine. He would only receive one chance to pass all the tests set before him, if he failed any one, he would never be allowed into the ranks of battle brothers. Though Ignatius had been tested before this in his training, this would be the final examination, a culmination of all that he had learned.

Ignatius was brought into the Thunderhawk and told to sit in a wrought iron chair set in the middle of the cargo bay. The chair had been placed under the only light in the bay save the indicator lights on the walls and doors. Every detail was calculated to impress on him the baseness of his position and intimidate him if possible. He was then grilled by all five veteran Marines in everything he had learned in both the smithy and the battlefield, from the most intricate workings of the bolter to the names of the dark powers of chaos, to the history of Vulkan, Primarch of the Salamanders. Ignatius was even asked to describe the method he had used to kill his first Xenos.

Ignatius was kept there for hours under that harsh light, one face coming into dim illumination long enough to ask its question only to be replaced by another before the answer was finished. Each answer sprang from his lips as soon as the question was asked, for Ignatius had learned well. Finally, the questions ceased. Ignatius was asked to stand a moment later. He got to his feet and followed the four men back out of the transport ship and into the field.

The smith turned to Ignatius and spoke. “You have acquitted yourself well so far, but there still remain two parts to your test. You will be given one day in the forge on your own. You will forge a weapon that you will then provide for the use of the chapter. So that we may be sure that the weapon is true, and to prove your ability to stand on your own against the greatest of foes, you will then use it in single combat.

“I shall give you time to decide on what weapon you wish to craft, and in one day you will return here with that weapon for appraisal. If the council and I deem it worthy of a Salamander to bear in battle, you will take it to Deathfire Mountain and not return until you have slain a Salamander to bring back to us.

“If your weapon should break in this task, you will have failed as a smith, but you may yet live. If you should fail in your task to slay the beast, you will not return. Do you understand this task set before you?”

“I understand, Artisan,” replied Ignatius.

“Very well, return to me in ten minutes time or when you have chosen your weapon to craft,” said the smith.

“I have chosen.” Ignatius said after only a brief pause. “I wish to craft a hammer, as Vulkan before me, and may his hand guide my blows to the heart of the enemy.” The Chaplain and Librarians looked at each other and then at Ignatius, the approval in their eyes hidden by their helmets.

All of the apprentices had been trained in various forms of close combat with hand-to-hand and short-range weaponry as well as with the various forms of longer-ranged weapons. All Marines must to be able to fill any role required of them on the battlefield. Also, it was explained to them, one cannot truly say a weapon is ready to stand the test of battle if one does not know how to fight with it.

Ignatius did not take to close combat at first; the boy was growing quickly and soon outpaced his own coordination. It wasn’t until the hammer was taught that Ignatius truly found his calling in war. The head of a hammer did not require flashy twists and thrusts to strike where it was aimed as a sword might. Nor was it a cold and impartial way to kill from afar, such as a bolter or lascannon. It only required that the one swinging the hammer had more strength than the one being hit. It was for this reason that he chose to craft a hammer for his trial.

One day on Nocturne lasts for fifteen Terran days. The day is broken into ten 36-hour cycles for sleep and wakefulness. Ignatius spent eight and a half cycles of that working in the forge. Hammer and fire were his constant companions. He ate only sparingly, and paused to rest only when fatigue started to impair his ability to see. At the end of it, he slept for twenty-two hours straight in preparation for his upcoming ordeal.

Ignatius returned to the council with several hours to spare. He brought the hammer he had crafted wrapped in cured salamander hide, as was customary. The Thunderhawk was still located in the same field, with the council standing in a line, waiting for him to return, silent and intimidating in their Terminator armor. There was a bonfire burning brightly on either side of the line, with torches in a semi-circle behind them, bathing them in a primal reddish light. Ignatius stopped several paces from the line, directly in front of the senior Librarian who stood in the center. There was a Librarian on either side of him, with the Chaplain and Artisan taking their places on the outsides.

The Chaplain broke the silence first. “Have you completed your task and forged a weapon for the use of the Chapter?”

“I have, Chaplain.” Ignatius replied in a level voice.

“And do you feel it is worthy of a Space Marine to use in battle?” asked one of the Librarians.

“I do, my lord.” Ignatius said.

“How will you prove this to the Chapter?” asked a second Librarian.

“I will take this gift made by my own hands and given freely to the Chapter,” said Ignatius with the ritual response set down in the annals of the Salamanders, “and I will use it to slay a great beast for the glory of the Salamanders.”

“And what kind of beast shall you slay?” asked the third and final Librarian.

“I shall slay the largest salamander I am able to find and bring its remains to you as proof.” Ignatius thought he would feel nervous saying those words, but the flames dancing in the darkness seemed to whisper that there was nothing a Son of Vulkan could not do. He was indeed a Son of Vulkan, and he would prove it or die trying.

At that, Artisan stepped forward and held out his hands, saying “Show me the results of your diligence. If it appears worthy of this task, you shall make your way to Deathfire mountain to slay a firedrake.” What would happen if the weapon was not deemed worthy was never spoken of, for Ignatius would have to return to the forge in shame, to live out his life as a serf of the Chapter.

Receiving the salamander hide from Ignatius, Artisan turned to the council and unwrapped the bundle, revealing the hammer with studied motions. The hammer beneath was a work of art, as it should be. Wrought in plasteel from the basic battle hammer mould, this hammer was inlaid to form an intricate replica of a silver salamander rearing up on its hind legs and breathing gold flames on either side of the head. The single eye showing in each was inlaid with a bright green emerald, and the detailing of the scales was remarkably precise. Turning the weapon over in his hands, Artisan knew it was perfectly balanced for ease of use. The handle was wrapped in young salamander hide, and the pommel was a salamander head snarling with two emerald eyes glaring at its foes.

The handle also contained an activation stud, which Artisan pressed, the weapon held away from him in the unlikely event something should go wrong with the circuitry. The soft hum of a power weapon charging, and the light blue glow of a power field forming around the head of the weapon, was all that occurred, however. Convinced the field was stable; Artisan then took a few practiced swings with the hammer. The balance and heft allowed the weapon to move as smoothly through the air as a combat knife, although not as swiftly.

Having seen what he needed to see, Artisan deactivated the field and turned to the rest of the council saying, “I find this weapon to be adequate to this task. He has much to learn before he may be called a master smith, but it should not fail unless he fails himself.”

The senior Librarian pierced Ignatius with his gaze and bid the young man forward with a wave of his hand. Ignatius came to stand a few feet away from the Librarian and felt a tingling on his skin as he did so. The other two Librarians stepped forward and turned to face Ignatius, one on either side, with the senior Librarian still staring intently into Ignatius’ eyes. Unaware of what they might be doing, Ignatius resolved to stand firm and not blink under the oppressive gaze of the veteran Librarian. The tingling sensation began to grow stronger, turning to pinpricks, and then to the stinging of wasps on his skin.

Suddenly, it ceased. The Librarians returned to their place in line and the senior Librarian nodded once.

“You do not possess any latent psychic powers that might allow the taint of the warp to come upon you. This shall be your last test in that regard, as well as your final test before we may call you Brother. Go now, and return only when your task is complete.” With that, the council turned away from Ignatius as one and walked back into the Thunderhawk. He would not be spoken to or aided in any way until he returned triumphant.

Ignatius would only carry his pack with enough food and water for the journey and the hammer he had crafted. Armor and any other weaponry but his combat knife and the weapon he had crafted were strictly forbidden on this journey, so he wore only a pair of breeches and a vest, with sturdy boots for the long miles he would have to cross.
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Part 4

The trek to Deathfire Mountain was a long one, being over one thousand miles away. Ignatius’ long strides and enhanced speed and endurance allowed him to cover great distances before needing rest, but he was still only a man. Nearly two full Nocturnian days had passed before he arrived at the base of the active volcano that was home to the most ancient of salamanders, called firedrakes. The landscape was barren and covered in a layer of ash nearly two inches thick. Deathfire Mountain had been active almost constantly since before Vulkan’s time nearly eight thousand years before.

The atmosphere on Nocturne was always hot and dry, but the continuous rivers of lava flowing out of the mountain made it all the more oppressive. Ash built up in the mouth even when closed, and not even flushing it with water could remove the taste. The sun never shone in this region, being hidden by thick, dark clouds of ash blanketing the landscape for hundreds of miles around.

The only way to locate a salamander in this unforgiving terrain was to find its lair in a cave dug out of the volcanic rock, or to approach a lava flow and hope one of the beasts were hungry, for salamanders would lay in the warmth of the river of lava for weeks, only coming out to hunt for their next meal. Little was known about the great lizards, but after generations of Astartes hunting them, they had learned that there was a hierarchy among the beasts, with the largest and oldest ones securing lairs near the top of the mountain and the lesser ones being found closer to the base.

If the largest were to be found at the top, then that was where Ignatius would go. He began to climb up the side of the mountain alongside one of the lava flows. Not too near, for the black crust of the shoreline may have been hiding a wider flow beneath, but near enough that he could keep an eye out for one of the serpents should it rear its head. The climb became more strenuous as he continued up the mountain face and after a few hours Ignatius found himself pulling himself up with his hands as much as with his feet.

After twenty hours of climbing, Ignatius was nearing the highest stretch of the mountain face he would be able to climb without scaling the wall like a spider. He decided that this would be as good a place as any to begin his search in earnest. A short rest to regain his strength and pray to the Emperor and Vulkan for success, and Ignatius was prepared for the final confrontation. The salamanders, on the other hand, were showing no desire to cooperate. Twelve hours of searching revealed no more than tracks and Ignatius was beginning to despair of finding one before darkness fell.

In what he believed to be twilight on the mountain, Ignatius finally saw his first sign of one of the great lizards. He came upon an empty cave with a gaping mouth that five Astartes abreast could easily have entered. Volcanic rock jutted up on either side forming almost tooth shaped stalagmites, but the rock in the opening itself was worn smooth from some large creature passing this way numerous times. Ignatius’ dilemma now became should he wait here in hopes that the beast would return to its lair, or should he try to follow the trail and hope it led to the beast itself.

Preferring to fight in the open where he could make use of his speed and swing his hammer more freely, Ignatius opted for the latter choice and set out on what appeared to be a more recent trail. Less than a half hour later, Ignatius came upon a particularly wide lava flow crossing the trail. He could see no marks on the far side of the flow indicating the creature had continued on, so he hoped that it would still be found within the lava itself.

Ignatius placed his hammer on the ground, leaning against a rock outcropping, and picked up a boulder with some weight to it. His aim was to throw it into the lava and either strike the salamander or to disrupt the current enough to cause it to stir. He heaved the boulder out towards the center of the flow directly in front of where the trail stopped. The heat from the flow caused the underside of the rock to burst into flame just before it hit, then it landed in the lava with a small splash. The lava, being molten rock itself, was much thicker than water, and even the heaviest of objects would not cause it to stir much.

Ignatius only hoped the boulder would not disintegrate before it struck. He waited for a minute, and then turned to reach for a larger boulder when he saw a ripple in the flow. Suddenly a great green head more than a meter long crested the lava and was followed by a long powerful neck. The largest salamander Ignatius had ever seen hauled its massive body out of the flow and onto the rocks, bringing some of the lava with it to flow down its legs to melt the rocks below.

With it standing on all four limbs, Ignatius could see that the beast was nearly twice as long as a Astartes from head to tail. It had an angled head that split at the brow into three crests, on going up the middle and one on each side. All three ended in chitinous horns that angled straight back from its snout. The salamander began looking around for what had disturbed it soon as its front claws touched the shore, its eyes glowed a deep orange that matched the color of the lava. Ignatius decided to take full advantage of its momentary distraction to snatch up his hammer and activate the power field, charging for the beast.

The drake caught sight of him and turned to face him straight on, moving its large bulk with unnatural speed, droplets of lava landing up to ten paces away with a sharp hiss as they stuck the cool rock. The beast drew a deep breath and screamed a challenge at him, to which Ignatius responded with a war cry of his own, swinging the hammer with all his might at its head. The salamander’s reflexes were fast, faster than Ignatius’ own genetically enhanced ones. It drew its head back, easily avoiding the blow, and struck forward at his chest. Ignatius ducked to one side at the last second, receiving only a glancing blow to the left shoulder.

The mark would not have been especially painful, had it not been made by something freshly ascended from a river of lava and still several hundred degrees centigrade. The wound cauterized itself instantly, leaving a bright pink scar across the top of his arm. Blocking the pain as he had been taught, Ignatius traded blows with the beast for several minutes. He could not land a strike of his own, but received several small wounds where he was too slow to get out of the way.

He had been taught that in order to be effective in combat, one does not need to strike the fastest, only to strike in the appropriate place at the correct time. This philosophy, combined with the odd gravity of Nocturne, was the main reason that the Salamander chapter of the Adeptus Astartes were considered slower in reflex than other chapters. They calculated their strikes to where they would have the greatest impact.

If Ignatius wished to survive this fight, he would have to find a way to beat it with something other than brute force. The beast continued to advance on him as he backed away slowly, brandishing the hammer before him to try and ward off the great maw and sharp teeth. While he was backing away, Ignatius examined the terrain around him, looking for possible advantages he could gain by using it.

Seeing a huge boulder to one side, Ignatius got an idea. He planted himself in front of it and roared at the beast with his arms flung wide. The salamander paused to see if this were some new attack, then darted its head forward to strike anyway. At the last instant, Ignatius threw himself to one side as the beast hit its snout on the rock, stunning it. Ignatius went into a combat roll as soon as he struck the ground and jumped up while the beast was shaking its head to clear its vision. The brief moment with its attention turned was all he needed. Ignatius swung with all his might, landing a blow on the side of the drake’s head directly on the crest on the left side.

The field on the power weapon flashed with sparks as the bone crumpled beneath the head of the hammer. Blinding pain flashed through the salamander’s head, causing it to rear up and let go a deafening screech of pain. The crest had been shattered and the horn now jutted out at an odd angle. The beast reared up on its hind legs and thrust its body forward trying to smother this puny being that had caused it more pain that it had felt in decades. Ignatius darted back between some more stones hoping to draw its head after him and limit the beast’s mobility.

The creature had not reached the age it had without learning some cunning in a fight, however, and moved its whole body up over the stones instead. Seeing that his plan was not working, Ignatius decided it was time to find a new tactic. He turned and ran several paces, then darted behind a spur in the mountainside. The salamander followed him and snapped out once more with its teeth. Ignatius was caught by the tip of one of the teeth in the left thigh, drawing blood and eliciting an oath of pain from the now limping scout. The teeth had cooled by this time, and so did not cauterize the wound. Instead, the scout’s enhanced blood cells began to clot and had sealed off the majority of the bleeding in a matter of minutes.

Falling on the ground as if grievously wounded, Ignatius readied himself for one more swing as soon as the beast attacked. It obligingly struck down at him, affording him the opportunity to swing with all his might at the same side of the head he had hit a few minutes before. The beast saw the hammer coming up at the last instant and tried to jerk its head to the side, but the blow still landed on the horn sticking out, breaking it off with a jarring snap.
Once more, the beast roared out in agony, the remaining bone from the horn being pressed forcefully into the nerve center at the top of its neck. All it could do for several moments was writhe around in pain, gouging deep furrows in the mountainside with its claws and knocking chunks of rock down the mountain with its thrashing. Ignatius could not get close enough to the beast to strike without possibly being knocked down the mountain himself, so he chose to climb above it instead.

Reaching a spot a few meters above the beasts still thrashing form, Ignatius grabbed a large rock with sharp edges and threw it with all his might at the beast’s back. It struck the scales on its shoulder blades and bounced off with little result. The beast was starting to calm down from its throes and looked up at him, its eyes now glowed a deep red in its rage. Ignatius did what any good Astarte would do with the high ground. He charged.

Taking his hammer in a two handed grip, Ignatius threw himself bodily off of a ledge and struck down at the beast still looking up at him. The blow landed squarely on the top of its snout, crushing the bones in its face and driving the head to the ground with its weight. Blood spurted out of the salamander’s mouth where it bit its tongue, and also out of the wound in its crushed upper jaw. Some of the blood hit the power field of the hammer and evaporated quickly, sizzling as it did so.

The beast was dead, but it still flailed about in its death throes. Ignatius stepped up to the side of its neck and struck one more blow to the base of the skull where it met the spine. With its nerves severed, the body grew still.

Ignatius had dragged the massive carcass back to the settlement unaided. It took more than twice as long to return with the dead weight of the salamander as it did to get to the mountain. Ignatius had to stop on more than one occasion to procure food from a settlement along the way. Now that he had his proof of killing a salamander, it was permitted for people to speak with him again.

When at last he reached the field where the Thunderhawk had landed, the transport was no longer there. It was daytime, and the field was empty, save for the torches that still stood to mark the landing site, and the remains of the bonfires, but the ship itself had been taken back to Prometheus long since. Placing the carcass on the ground between the blackened piles of wood, Ignatius looked around, his hammer leaning on one shoulder. He had not expected a fanfare of the entire settlement upon his return, but he had at least hoped for the council to be waiting for him.

He felt abandoned. All the hard work he had put in, all the danger he had come through, and there was no one there to share in his triumph, they had left him alone.
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Excellent story! Can't wait for more updates, only one thing though, I noticed in the last update you called Space Marines "Space Astartes" just wondering if it was a stylistic choice. Or if you accidentally merged the two names (Something I've been known to do on occasion haha)
I wrote this one back before I got used to calling them Astartes or Adeptus Astartes, so I had to go back through and try to update the terminology, find+replace doesn't always work so well. Thanks for the catch. More up today.

Part 5
He had once again been left alone. No one would be coming for him in this place, not after so long had passed. He couldn’t even hope for a good death, for that was to be found only on the battlefield. Pain was his constant companion, but despair had been knocking on the door for some time now, waiting to be let in to accompany him as well. Ignatius had fought it off with prayers and hymns, with memories of his battle brothers, and with anger when all else had failed. But he could not hold despair at bay forever, yet forever seemed to be how long he would languish there.

Ignatius had not been abandoned when he returned with the body of the salamander so long ago. They had shown up at nightfall bearing torches and congratulating him on passing his trial. He had been gifted with his own set of power armor in a grand ceremony, culminating in being branded over his primary heart with the brand of a salamander face on, hammer and flame crossed beneath it to denote the method he had used to kill the beast.

It had been one of his former mentors that had later explained to him that there was a reason he had been left alone in his hour of triumph. An old platoon sergeant had explained that no matter how far Ignatius went in this galaxy, no matter what feats he had accomplished, there were times that only the Emperor himself would see it and take note. It was those times that would count the most in the Emperor’s judgment. For the actions taken alone, not for the glory or the reward but for the will of the Emperor, would show a true Marine’s character.

He knew also that this was not the first time fear or despair had assailed him. Many times he had relived his first combat, and seeing the death of one of his mentors. Each time he had mentally berated himself for not acting faster, for not doing what he knew he should have, but could not. Despair had truly been knocking at the door for a long time. If he would admit it to himself, Ignatius would realize it had started with that first mission, fought alongside that mentor who had taught him so much.

* * *

He had been newly raised from apprentice smith to scout and on his first mission with his new platoon. It would be years yet before he would go through his trial with the salamander and receive his power armor, and instead wore specialized body armor adapted from the Imperial Guard to fit his larger frame. Their daily assault training had been interrupted that morning by the company commander, who ordered the scout platoon to investigate a disturbance on one of the fallen hive worlds in the sector, named Xanath II. The planet had been overrun more than a decade ago by Eldar and then abandoned for some unknown reason. Now there were reports of Ork ships in the area that had dropped landing craft onto the planet and left quickly.

As the region around Nocturne was relatively quiet, the apprentices would receive combat training by going on training voyages as scouts. They were assigned to the Seventh Company, but would be attached by platoon to the company that ruled their home city. When part of the company was called to action within the sector, the platoon would go with them. Trial by fire was literal for them. They would be dropped into a combat zone ahead of even the assault marines and told to scout forward to report troop strengths and possible courses of action. During this time, they would also be given quiet instruction on tactics, both Imperial and the enemies. If they came into contact with the enemy before the main force of marines arrived, they were on their own.

Ignatius had been anxious to prove himself to his platoon mates, and his new platoon sergeant most of all. Though he was still apprenticed to Artisan when at the forge, the smith had a company of his own to train with. The apprentices were brought to Seventh Company after their first round of operations to learn to use their rapidly growing bodies. Ignatius, and the other nine boys he started his apprenticeship with, joined fourteen more young men, who were slightly older and had more experience.

Their new Platoon Leader was a sergeant called Goliath by everyone who knew him, and few even knew if he had a real name. His name came from the fact that he had been a full three meters tall before he had taken his test to receive power armor, and even when he had donned the armor of a full marine he had grown larger, requiring him to have specially fitted armor made. Standing nearly a head taller than most other marines, he could lift heavy objects with his bare hands that most other marines would need power armor to assist them, and no normal human could dream of lifting on their own.

Goliath had taken Ignatius under his wing from the first. He trained the young man especially hard and forced him to go beyond what the other new recruits who came in at the same time were put through. Soon, Ignatius had surpassed even some of the veterans on the shooting range, despite his continued distaste for anything but the hammer. But the firing was not combat. No one knows what might occur during their first time in combat, and how one acquitted himself in that first skirmish, or assault, or even full out battle was the only way to prove the true measure of a Marine.

When they hit the ground on Xanath II, the more senior scouts who had arrived first told Goliath that there were signs of a raid by the Orks. There was a small city that had once held a few hundred thousand people near where they were. In a world of 40 billion, that was miniscule. Having been abandoned, though, there was no discernable reason for the raid. Nearly every building had been burned to the ground or was pockmarked by crude explosive devices. What had not been burned or taken had been ripped out of the ground and strewn about in a careless manner by the Ork raiders.

Goliath had split the squads up and sent each in a direction to find out if there were any survivors or if there were any Orks still in the area. He had not needed to wait long to get his answer. Mere minutes after they were split up, one of the squads had come under heavy fire by more than a dozen Orks. The rest of the platoon was called into support and eliminate the threat.

Finally, Ignatius would have his first taste of action. He sprinted to the place where the fighting was going on, his long legs carrying him across the distance in no time. Then he saw what he was up against. There were dozens of them, and all were huge, green, and rippling with muscles. Each was bellowing some form of war cry and firing a crude weapon for all it was worth.

Ignatius began returning fire as fast as he could sight and pull the trigger. His first kill he would remember for a long time to come. The green skinned brute came charging at him with a topknot holding his coarse purple hair up off his head, wearing a yellow vest and brown pants. The Orks mouth had one tusk protruding out further than the others, which could be clearly seen as he was howling away like a hound on the hunt. It held a blood splattered red axe in one hand, and a handgun in the other roughly the size of a bolt pistol.

Ignatius’ training kicked in before he even fully realized what it was he was doing. Aim, breathe, shoot. Time slowed and Ignatius’ hypersensitive hearing brought him the sound of the high-explosive bolter round smack wetly into the Ork’s chest, and that of its ribs cracking out through its skin as the round detonated, spraying internal organs out through the fist sized hole it had made going in. Every drop of blood hung crystal clear in his mind more than a century and a half later. The look of dimwitted realization dawning on the thing’s face as it realized its life had just been extinguished. A feeling of power grew in him, brought by the knowledge that Ignatius had control over life and death for his enemies.

Then the moment was over and the battle came crashing back into reality. He thought he got one or two in those next few seconds, but it was all a blur of green and brown, punctuated by the sharp cracks of Imperial Bolters, by the deeper reports of combat shotguns, and by the reverberating blasts of Ork weaponry. The Orks closed the distance between the buildings and the scouts quickly. Bolter fire took down several of them as they advanced, but there was no way to kill them all before they came close enough to use the rusty axes or swords that they carried.

More than one Ork literally dove into the line of scouts, trying to get close enough to wreak havoc in the name of their clan. Orks lived to fight, and loved to fight up close where their beady little eyes could see fear and pain in the faces of the ones they slaughtered. The Astartes scouts accounted themselves well, killing at least two Orks for every one of them that fell, but it was not enough. They needed something to push them beyond their capabilities; to make them something more than they thought they were. That something came in the form of Sergeant Goliath.

Time had slowed to a crawl for Ignatius as he had made his first kill. It seemed to halt completely as he watched his mentor wade into the thickest concentration of orks and begin hacking and slashing his way through them like rag dolls. Ignatius could not help but stare as nearly half a dozen went down before the huge marine in seconds. Goliath was not even wearing his helmet, and he stood head and shoulders above the tallest of the green monstrosities. The other scouts saw this display of ferocity and redoubled their efforts. More and more Orks went down and the battle started to turn in favor of the scouts.

Then there had come a deafening racket as a lumbering hulk of rusted metal and green skin came out of one of the few buildings that remained standing. There was no telling where ork left off and machine began, short of the rust that covered most of the metal. One arm bent at an odd angle, and had what appeared to be a buzz saw bolted onto it where the hand should have been. The other arm was held straight out and had a claw on the end in the same location. In some places, it looked as if plates of metal had been bolted directly to the unfortunate creature underneath.

This thing had torn a hole in the wall by just walking through it, and then raised both of its arms to the sky in a challenge to all comers. Goliath stepped forward to meet that challenge. The smaller Orks had fallen back by this time and it was just Goliath and this machine of death. Goliath never even blinked as he charged at the thing. Brandishing his chainsword, he threw himself at the obscene mixture of ork and machine.

He ducked the first few blows of the buzz saw, and managed to hit a glancing blow off of the thing’s chest plate, but did not appear to have done it any harm. A flurry of blows rang out with metal hitting metal, neither getting the better of the other. Then, the claw shot out with surprising speed and grabbed Goliath by the forearm. With strength that could only have been granted by hydraulics, the dreadnaught ripped Goliath’s arm out of the shoulder socket and waved it in the air for all to see. Goliath had begun bleeding profusely from the stump, but he fought on, face a solid mask of stone, hiding the immense pain he must have felt. He still had his chainsword in his remaining hand, and swung with all his might at the claw that held his dismembered arm. The screech of metal on metal sounded as the chainblade connected with the joint of the arm where it was attached to claw.

With inhuman effort, Goliath had sheared off the claw, watching it drop to the ground. The buzz saw had then come around and dug into the Marine’s unprotected side, nearly cutting him in half at the waist. The Dreadnought had turned and faced directly towards Ignatius, roaring in triumph as the Veteran Marine fell behind it before beginning a lumbering gait in his direction. Ignatius knew there was nothing he could have done, and the only thing that saved him from the same fate had been the arrival of a heavy weapons squad that opened fire directly into the thing’s side, tearing holes in its armor and severing its leg at the hip joint. It fell mid-stride to the ground and was hit with several krak missiles, destroying it in place. With the machine gone, the fight had ended quickly and the Orks had fled, their morale broken.

The Apothecary was called in to tend to the fallen sergeant, but he had been beyond the point where anything short of a full Apothecarion could spare him. The Apothecary did what he could to stabilize Goliath until they could get back to the ship, but he would most likely never fight again. Or so they thought.

As it turned out, Goliath had shown such skill and bravery as a warrior, and a leader, that the Chapter Master had decided to craft a Dreadnought sarcophagus for the fallen hero. He would be granted the right to continue fighting for the Emperor in a new body.

Ignatius had been haunted for the rest of his career by that day. The Adeptus Astartes knew no fear, but awe was another story. That which would cause a normal man to cower in terror was just a tool to be used, a hammer that forged an Astartes' will into a weapon to strike at the enemies of the Emperor. But for just a moment, Ignatius had frozen. Whether it had been fear, or shock, or awe Ignatius did not know, but he had not been able to move fast enough to even save himself, let alone the one he looked up to and called mentor.
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Part 6

Even if it had been fear that stayed his hand on Xanath II, he had not learned the true meaning of fear until recently. The battle that had brought him to such a lowly state as being held captive by these sadistic beings had taught him the meaning of fear. Fear was watching your battle brothers die left and right and not being able to do anything about it. Fear was a net that drops on you from a shadow above, tightening around your body, constricting your arms and chest. Fear was watching the battle fly by below and around you and knowing that you would not be allowed to die there, but would be taken to die in a dark cell, alone and un-mourned.

* * *

The battle had begun like many others he had fought against pirates within the Imperium. After his training, Ignatius had been transferred to the Third Company and served there for many decades. The company had recently been called to Califax II on the outskirts of the Salamander’s sector in response to a call for aide sent by the Administratum. Reports of pirates raiding nearby planets had been received by the sector governorate and the techpriests’ cogitators had deduced that this was the most likely planet to be hit next. Not fully trusting information not gathered by the Chapter’s own sources, Captain Caminos had sent only one platoon to the surface, with the rest of the company held in reserve on the strike cruiser in orbit should the pirates strike somewhere else.

The three tactical squads took up a standardized semi-defensive position around the perimeter of the small spaceport. They did not want to build defenses that were too obvious, or the attackers might decide to break off before the Marines could have a chance to destroy them. Instead, they set up crude looking barricades with plasteel plates to support them. That way they would still have decent cover without appearing to. Pirates were not known for their daring, and if they even had a hint of there being Astartes helping the PDF defend the area, they would most likely run.

Ignatius’ squad held the North side of the perimeter, with Squad Helios covering West to South, and Squad Austus covering East to South. The scouts were ordered to set up observation posts on the outskirts of the settlement, and the assault squads were held in reserve. Ignatius set himself in the center of his line so that he could have the best chance of communicating with his squad should any fighting occur.

The first signs of impending attack came two days later with the loss of communications from the scouts to the North and West. They failed to check in for their hourly report just before dusk on the second day. Before the platoon leader could sound an alarm, the air to the West was filled with dark colored, wicked looking skimmers. They floated above the ground about three meters and had sharp blades and chains covering their fronts and sides.

Tall, slender figures could be seen hanging off the sides of these vessels, shooting weapons that fired hundreds of needles per second at their intended victims. The ships themselves had weapons mounted on them that fired what appeared to be concentrated darkness at the marine emplacements. Ignatius heard the Marines of squad Helios open fire and saw more than one of the attacker’s vehicles go careening into the ground as they were hit with missiles from the squad’s single launcher. Dozens more survived to reach the Marine’s lines, though, and the figures hanging off the vessels jumped to the ground behind the protective emplacements, forcing the Salamanders to turn and fight both front and rear at once.

Ignatius opened his mouth to vox his squad and have them move to support squad Helios, when the air directly in front of him rippled with dark lightning. Several figures jumped through a hole in space to land less than ten meters from him. They wore black power armor and had bone-white skulls painted on their masks. Each carried a halberd that flickered with black energy; so dark it appeared blue or violet. The first figure through the portal did not even pause to take in his surroundings, choosing instead to charge straight for the two Marines in the position nearest Ignatius.

Haephestus, one of the squad’s two flamer bearers, turned and tried to spray the oncoming figure with burning liquid promethium. The attacker was too fast for him, and severed the end of the flamer with a single upward stroke from its halberd. With a flourish, spinning the haft around to glint metallically in the light, it then stabbed the halberd straight through Haephestus’ chest, sparks flying from the front where alien metal met plasteel and blood spraying from the back where the weapon had forced its way through the secondary heart and out the Marine’s back.

Ignatius felt a cold anger rising deep in him as he saw this. He had helped train Haephestus from the time he was a scout, only to watch his life taken in a heartbeat by this foul being. He activated the stud on his hammer, the same hammer that he had crafted more than a century and a half ago, and charged at the figures still pouring from the portal; a war cry that chilled the bone tearing itself from somewhere deep and primal within him. There were nearly a dozen of the power-armored figures, and twice that many warriors in a deep blood red that had silver helmets. Most of the warriors had blades attached to their armor in various places.

The first swing of his power weapon tore a head clean off of one body; helmet crushed from the front to where faceplate touched the back. The next swing crushed another’s collarbone and shoulder so thoroughly that the arm appeared to have grown from somewhere in it’s ribcage. Ignatius fought like a man possessed, every swing killing another of the aliens. The ones with the skull-painted masks formed a wide ring around him and waited for the other figures to deal with the Marine. The ones that remained were no match for the enraged Marine. Those that did not die to his power hammer, died to his bolt-pistol. Flying blades cut more than one warrior as exploding bolter rounds blew off an arm or head.

Ignatius flowed from one slender figure to another in a fluid motion he never knew he was capable of, and didn’t even think about until after the fact. Broken and bloody forms fell away from him as fast as they appeared. Ignatius fought as though possessed by the Primarch himself, righteous fury strengthening his blows and causing his enemies to quail in terror before him.

When there were only three fighters remaining that opposed Ignatius, he looked around quickly to find that he was still encircled by ten skull masks. They had not advanced on him or tried to aide their comrades in fighting him. That’s when he heard the loud drone of an alien engine approaching from the West. Ignatius looked that way just in time to see one of the transports that had brought the pirates to the battlefield fly overhead and a black net drop down to ensnare him.

Ignatius had been snatched off his feet, with weapons still in hand, and carried away from the fight. The transport had banked sharply and flown back over the fighting, back in the direction it had come from. Ignatius tried to swing his power hammer, but there seemed to be a dampening field, for the weapon was cold and silent. Bolter rounds did not even pierce the net. As he was lifted off the ground, the net closed in tighter, constricting his arms and forcing them down to his sides. He could do nothing as he watched the battle fade away behind him.

The platoon’s position had been overrun by hundreds of dark figures from all sides and only a few patches of green could still be seen where Salamanders were laying about themselves in an effort to kill as many of the pirates as they could before dying. That was the last sight Ignatius had of living beings before being brought to this place. The skimmer had flown for hours back to its staging area. The net had finally let him go as it neared a solid black structure with razor sharp buttresses coming out of the sides.

He was released without slowing down, so that his body was dashed against a large cliff wall at a high rate of speed, nearly knocking him unconscious even with the added protection of his power armor. Then he fell several stories towards the ground. Instead of hitting the ground, however, a lip opened in the structure, catching him and sending him down a chute to drop into a pitch black box two meters square. Too small for him to even stand up or lay out.

They had kept him there through the ascent into orbit, and then through the journey to this unknown place of darkness. He had finally been released from the crate several days later only to begin his torture. His tormentors had enjoyed every moment of pain he had suffered.
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Part 7

Dragging himself back to the present with a concerted effort, Ignatius steeled himself and straightened his neck to face yet more pain. He could not let them see him weakening. He held no hope of ever returning to his home, but he would be damned if he went down without a fight worthy of the Adeptus Astartes. Nothing they could do to him would force him to give them the satisfaction of seeing him broken. As his auto senses contracted his irises to adjust to the light, he realized that it was not a candle, but the pilot light to a flamer that illuminated the hall.

His captives never used flamers, so that could mean only one thing, Marines. Then the most beautiful sound he had ever heard hit Ignatius’ ears. It was the sound of a human voice coming from the vox emitter in a mask of Terran make, asking if he was able to stand.

He made a valiant attempt to do so, but collapsed to the ground from the lack of blood in his legs. A power-armored gauntlet wrapped around his arm and helped him to rise, then assisted him into the hall. Ignatius could see more battle brothers standing in the hall and thought he recognized one or two by their stance. He dismissed the thought as irrelevant until they were safely out of there. He turned to the squad sergeant to ask which way out and tensed suddenly. Standing at the end of the hall were four shadowy figures with alien weapons leveled at the squad. The Marines in armor stood a chance of surviving, but Ignatius wore nothing at all. If one needle or ricochet hit him, he would be dead before he hit the floor.

The rest of the squad turned at his tensing and saw the threat. They all tried to put themselves between Ignatius and the forms as they opened fire. This only resulted in the first two going down that much faster, the soft joints in their armor at knee and elbow shredded like ribbon by hundreds of needles impacting them in less than a second. The next two returned fire, and one of the figures fell with a fist sized hole blossoming in his chest. Ignatius was forced back into the room by the Marine with the flamer just as the weapon opened fire, bathing the hall in liquid flames. More shots from alien weaponry buzzed out from further down the hall. The firing was intense for several seconds on both sides, but the Marines never stood a chance against the superior rate of fire that this malicious technology brought to bear. It was over in less than a minute, the last of the Marines falling half in and half out of the cell, blood seeping out from numerous rents in his armor.

Ignatius’s bonds had not even been cut away from his arms, so he could not use any of the weaponry so close at hand. Still, he would not give up. He tried to shuffle over to where he could reach the combat knife on the Marine’s belt in order to cut his bonds himself. The eye plate had been shattered by needle rounds from the fight, and the eye had ruptured by the high-speed impact of the glass and metal. Before he could get his legs to cooperate and let him rise, the guards came to stand in the doorway.

“It appears that you had visitors,” called the malicious yet musical voice of his tormentor, an emaciated figure with a slightly hunched back, who had overseen his torture for these long months. “It’s just too bad they didn’t stay for dinner… perhaps they shall.” He said, grinning wickedly after a brief pause, as if stuck by a sudden inspiration, he turned and strolled smoothly out of the room. “I’ll have the cook bring you an extra special meal this evening.”

“Kill me now.” Ignatius choked, half in anger, half in frustration at having freedom so close and then snatched away.

“But we can’t do that,” came the voice as it drifted to him from down the hall. “You are going to be joining us on our next raid. We plan on taking a trip to one of the human infested worlds soon, and you will be right there on the front of a raider, watching it all. If you play nice, we may even let you kill one for sport. One day… you will fight for us.”

With that, the voice laughed a fiendish laugh and faded away down the corridor, leaving the guards to take care of the bodies. Ignatius Hadrian was placed back on his knees with his head on the floor in shame. His thoughts closed in on themselves again and he continued reliving battles of long ago. Once again, he began chanting the Litany of the Damned under his breath. The lights went out as the door closed behind the guards, their footsteps echoing down the hall.

* * *​

INPUT DATE: 3667965M40
From: Inquisitor Calisthos, Ordo Hereticus

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