Prologue: The lost Wanderers
“They Say that not all of those who wander, are lost. They say many foolish things, the race of Men, but sometimes, a tiny fragment of reason and wisdom escape the filter of their superstitious minds and blend with the otherwise infantile stream of senseless words that pour out their mouths. And of all the fewfold of cases when the aforementioned has happened, this has to be one of the wisest sayings of all. Some of those who wander in places unfamiliar and dwell in space where they should not, can, by instinct, intellect, courage and force of will, traverse the dangers of the unknown and return to wherever they belong with their sanity still intact, if so weakened.
What this saying does not tell - maybe because it is too apparent, maybe because mankind is so horrified of negatives – is that most of those who wander never find their way back, and are left to prowl in foreign peril, as their minds grow tattered and their flesh adorns with scars. Those who never return to proudly tell their heroic tale of survival are always forgotten. Those who get lost are effortlessly chased away from history books and folklore, and banished forever, only to be briefly mentioned in the vast, unwritten annals of time. I am such a lost wanderer, and so are my brethren.
For eons, we have dwelt in the twisted wastelands of the Warp. We have been close to drowning in the endless ocean of Chaos that engulfed us. Dumbstruck with terror but empowered by unyielding will and hope, we have gazed into the very heart and soul of corruption and decadence, of twisted mutation and submissive devotion to our ruinous instincts. There are no words to describe, or numbers to count the atrocities, perversities and absurdities that we have encountered, neither so for the endless tide of vile creatures that we have battled. Whatever can be imagined or is unimaginable in the minds of men have I been a witness to, I have seen it, fought it and slain it. For hundreds upon hundreds of years, my brothers and I have beheld our own slaughter of the Ruinous Power’s infinite legions for the sake of our own survival, and we could but helplessly watch in the greatest of terror while our fellow brethren drifted into madness as the wide-awake nightmare that surrounded us kept whipping at their sanity, and as the mental blades of torment kept rending deeper and deeper into their consciousness.
Once, we were proud warriors - we were gears that ticked and twirled in the colossal Imperial war machine. We filled but a small fraction of the massive ranks of the Adeptus Astartes, and belonged to the house of Russ, the Space Wolves. With unyielding pride and faith we carried the marks of the Wolf and the Eagle, and we swore our oaths to the Emperor, to the Primarch and to our hallowed Master Grimnar. But ages have passed since then, and we no longer pledge allegiance to any external rulers. We are no longer slaves to the leaders of Men, for we have no trust in those who betrayed us. We do no longer submit ourselves to the ones who accused us of heresy, who called us treacherous because we dared to question the Imperial dogma and the superiority of humankind. But let it just be clear: we neither serve the ruinous powers of Chaos, or anything else of its despicable ilk. No, to those who indict us of such, there is only one thing to be said: from the moment we were turned down by our own brothers, we have been masters and slaves to none but ourselves.
There is a wolf inside of every man - a vicious, ruthless predator; a wicked beast of tooth and claw; a gluttonous carnivore who without mercy strike down and devour all those that blocks the path of his own survival. And just like the wolf, human beings may be deadly and cruel on their own, but it is when they hunt in packs that they truly incarnate their ferocious potential, as they loose all traces of compassion.
But unlike the wolves, humans carry the seed of hypocrisy within them, for even though they know that their inner beast is what propels their conquest and victory, they remain willfully ignorant of it. They frown and gaze downwards upon it when they see their own inner savagery displayed in the more primitive of species, but pretend to be proponents of peace, justice, enlightenment and unity when they in reality are merely driven forward by their mindless lust for power.
Over the centuries spent in the twisted wastelands of insanity, this whole idea has dawned before us. And as we have seen the most unreal of horrors, as we have dwelt among the blackest of fears, as the scars on our bodies and minds have befallen more and more severe, the wolves inside us have grown forth. We knew it, and our hatred for it was abysmal, put for every day that passed and for every horror slain, we became more like beasts and less like men. None may know what we eventually would have ended up as, if we had not experienced what may have been our only chance of escape from this hellish land of torture.
For while the bestial change that was brought onto us was gazed upon with horror amongst ourselves, it was of much delight to the more vile of beings. No-one lesser than Khorne himself, the Blood God, the Lord of Slaughter and Master of Battle, the most bloodthirsty and violent of deities, saw something that he greatly sought after in the furious and battle-hardened monstrosities we had became. Never was the iron-fisted grip of terror stricter than when he revealed himself to us, and never were our glimmer of hope brighter than when he left with his promise.
He appeared before us in a mind-shattering display of violent extravaganza – out of nothing erupted a massive explosion of scorching white and orange, and as the thick veil of smoke it had left behind was lifted, we were to behold one of the most petrifying and awesome sights in the known universe. Before us lay a wide-stretching lake of boiling blood, and from it arose a towering mountain of skulls from all those that had slew and been slain in his name. Atop of it rested a mighty throne of unpolished, blood-stained brass, and on it sat the Blood God himself; a gigantic, muscular, bull-headed humanoid, four potent horns twisting out of his skull, his crimson skin adorned with uncountable scars and bruises. He wore a daemonically majestic suit of armour, made from of bone and brass and the blackest of metals, forged in the heat of battle. His voice was a ferocious, low-pitched, blackened growl, and he bellowed to us with such vigor that no mind was left unshaken.
His message was not one of mercy or goodwill, but purely of exploitation. The quest he proposed were by no means a simple one; We were told that while Khorne’s greater daemons, the Bloodthirsters, often are summoned forth by his followers, there is to be summoned - once in every thousand years – a daemon of far greater power than any other creature in the known universe. This Millennial Daemon is a living embodiment of Khorne himself, and its strength and toughness is said to be a thousandfold that of even the mightiest of its kind. For one full year, the Millennial Daemon shall reign in terror, and it shall destroy all that it comes across, leaving only ruins and ashes in its wake. Then, when the full year has come to pass, the daemonic devastation shall uphold when the creature itself explodes into an array of devouring flames, as it will dematerialize and once again return to the Warp for another thousand years. We had utterly lost all track of time over the centuries spent in the warp, but evidently, a millennium had passed since this foul being last roamed the galaxy, and the time had now came to refresh the eternal cycle.
What Khorne asked of us, was to do whatever required to summon his embodiment forth. He spoke of a distant world in the Segmentum Obscurus called Mathalûs IV, a blackened wasteland world on which there were a massive and sinister Khornate shrine, built hundreds of thousands of years ago, eons before the dawn of Mankind. At the center of the shrine, on the blood-stained altar of death, one is to spread the charred remains of the last millennial embodiment, and bathe the unholy grounds in the blood of a thousand creatures. When this was completed, Khorne would be released from his immaterial banishment, and so with the most fatal and destructive of outcomes.
Accepting his proposal would allow our plausible escape from the wide-awake nightmare that engulfed us, as all other possibilities seemed infinitely decimal. The catch, however, was that until the task was fulfilled, we were to be submitted to Khorne; we were to bear his mark and shed blood in his name, we were to show no mercy and never repress our unquenchable bloodlust. But when completed, we were released from his dominion and free to roam and act as we pleased. Tormented and desperate for escape as we were, there were little rebuttal of whether the right choice was to accept it or not. As I walked forth towards the beast on the throne, I could feel my heart paces accelerating, and the monstrous anxiety I carried within swelling, despite knowing, almost joyfully, that the deal I were to accept would only be second to salvation. When I opened my mouth to utter the words of acknowledgement, I could spot a sort of wicked grin on his mouth, revealing an abyss of a maw, crammed with hundreds of canines and needles. Khorne emitted a ferocious grunt as a seal of approval, and in that very moment, it felt like a mighty load was lifted off our shoulders, only to be replaced by an unholy curse that blackened out hearts.
The Blood God’s jaws opened once more to discharge his last few words before out parting. “Now, go, my champions. As I have released you from your prison, you shall release me from mine,” he barked, and there were a grain of contentment in his manner of speech, even if so minuscule. His voice then broke out in a mighty, snarling, ear-shattering roar, as his blood-spattered throne monument once again immolated, and exploded into and all-engulfing inferno. The last part of the event that had managed to plant itself in my memory was my stunned vision fading into white, as if blinded, and then slowly becoming abyssal black.”
- From the memoirs of Ulvgrim Foulblood, 637 M41