He was hungry.
Pratis Majoris was a world of ice and snow and was not only a harsh world to live on, its harshness and its unpredictable elements had caused it to be classed as a Death World by the Imperium and as such went largely unnoticed by the great machine that was the Imperium of Man.
Deep under the mountain peaks that had been his prison for over eight thousand years he began to stir. He didn't know where he was or who he was or indeed how he had even got here all he knew was he needed to feed.
The B'arlar had traversed the Ice roads of Pratis Majoris for centuries. The hunt for food would always bring them along these migration routes where the Great Snow Bears and Ice Whales met at the channel of Souls that would lead out into the Frozen Ocean.
The fur of the Bears would keep many warm in the long cold winter nights and the Blubber and meat of the Ice Whales would keep many a tribes peoples bellies warm.
The winter of this world was a harsh and unforgiving mistress and this time of year only the strong ever survived.
Manan'tha, the lead hunter and chief of his tribe caught the scent of the Great Snow Bear they had been hunting for over three weeks. The Snow Wolves had led them to the Valley of The White Peaks. Mountains that jutted into the skies like great kings of old. The snows on these mountains were so deep that they were virtually unassailable and the Chieftain knew better then to trespass on the mountains of the gods.
Superstitions have surrounded this valley for generations. Legend had it that a great dark god fell from the sky and landed with such force on the valley floor that he drove the rock surrounding him upwards and created the White Peaks however disaster and bad luck followed those that had entered this accursed place and no tribe in their right mind came this far off the hunting trails. However, there had been poor hunting and fishing in recent months and it called for desperate measures and Manan'tha was painfully aware that he had to feed his people as that was his duty and he knew that a trip through the valley would bring his hunting party to the bears migration grounds a lot quicker then if they went around.
He had to make a decision and he made it. He spoke in the harsh nasal language of his tribe and let the Snow Wolves lead them on and through to the valley pass. His hunters exchanged nervous glances with each other but their chiefs' temper was just as fearful as any bad spirits and so, making ancient symbols of warding with their hands they followed him in.
He watched the group enter this domain.
There was enough food there to slate his hunger and thirst. He had forgotten how long he had been asleep but the need to feed overpowered all other logical reasoning that he might otherwise have had.
Carefully despite his sheer gigantic bulk he stalked his prey watching them and determining the weakest and strongest members, his brain working out suitable attack points and when best to strike.
He flexed his hands, giant hands that ended in mighty talons and as he carried on stalking his prey a feral grin crossed his face.
He wanted to taste their blood.
The first Manan'tha knew that anything was wrong was when his Snow Wolves started whining and pulling away from their leash. Something had spooked them and the hair on the snow-white fur stood up on end. Snow Wolves were known to be fearless and their savagery on the hunt was legendary but right now they were acting like young cubs presented with the Alpha of their pack and told to submit to his rule.
Manan'tha was beginning to rue his choice of action and realised that perhaps taking the long route round might not have been so bad after all.
The first scream came from the back and the second came from the middle mere moments after the first. Manan'tha was aware of something warm and wet hitting the back of his neck. He pressed his fingers to the spot and then looked at them, his eyes widening as he saw the blood that was there spreading on his fingers.
He raised his axe and roared at his hunters to stand ready, it was a beast of the legends of that much he was certain, the foul creatures that were said to stalk these lands looking for a nice morsel of man to feed on.
His Snow Wolves pulled so hard that they broke their Leash and ran. Manan'tha cursed loudly at the unusual cowardice of his prized Wolves and turned to face their attacker only to see a blur of red and grey flying amongst his hunters. No one had the chance to react quick enough against their supernatural attacker, heads and limbs landed in a gory mess that turned the virgin snow red with their landing and mere feet from where Manan'tha stood, paralyzed with fear.
It seemed to him that the attack lasted for long minutes but in reality it was seconds and as he watched he saw headless bodies fall to the snow, their life flowing in the white and the stench of death was really quite overpowering and that galvanised his terrified limbs into action.
His fear giving way to anger and grief and one almighty warrior rage.
He uttered a war cry and ran at the beast. Praying to the gods he swung his axe at the beast feeling the satisfying thud as his axe connected with the armour. His father had given his axe to him and he always kept its edge clean, it had cleaved many an enemies head from shoulders in his day but now the ancient weapon merely shattered into shards of metal.
He got his first look at the beast.
It was a man but not a man. He must have been at least 10 feet tall, his dark hair stood out the more because it was blood coated and his pale face was not out of place in a place such as this.
His armour was a brutal red with grey trim and his hands, oh his hands were monstrous. This giant uttered a laugh that seemed to come from deep within another part of him and grabbed Manan'tha by his arms.
He was still laughing when he pulled Manan'thas arms from their sockets. Raising the severed limbs to the heaven a name entered his fog-clouded mind and he shouted it to the heavens.
The Diabolus Infernos sailed the stormy seas of the Eye without a care in the world. Its ancient hull rang with the cries of the enslaved and the tortured working in its lower decks.
Once she had been known by another name The Emperor's Fire but that was long gone now. Now she truly was vessel of war and a war that would last forever or until the Corpse Emperor was finally cast out whichever came first.
Her crew had been with her since she cast herself into the Warp but only those of strong enough faith had survived the transition from real space to warp space.
Her battle marked Hull was host to little flying daemons like small fish that fed off the titbits left on a shark when it had finished feeding. The prow lance had long ago been changed into a snarling living demons head that spat demon fire at the enemy.
As she made her way through the Warp chattering entities went to attack the vessel then moved back as they recognised the souls within and let her go on her way.
Dark Apostle Felan smiled to himself as he watched his vessel through the viewing window in his quarters. He felt the fury of the Ships Spirit, ever hungry to attack more of her sister vessels no matter who they belonged to. He could feel the palatable fear of every slave on the ship and it tasted divine.
He ran his hand along her metal skin and could feel her react to his touch. She had looked after him for centuries and he had looked after her. Whenever they had been badly attacked and she had been hurt he had executed the bridge crew and got more. All who guided this mighty carrier of the Urizens warriors knew better then to let her get in any harm through negligence or stupidity.
On this mighty vessel he and his brothers had conquered worlds in the name of the Great Crusade now they conquered those same worlds in the name of gods more worthy of his respect.
For Ten Thousand years they had brought terror and fear to the realms of man. He cast his mind back to the days when things had seemed so much simpler.
He had been ready to become a full Chaplin when Blessed Lorgar had steered his sons in the new direction and brought his holy book for them all to read. When the attack on the Carrion Crow had failed he had been named Dark Acolyte to the Dark Apostle Bar Kran.
He had worshipped the man like a living god and had studied so much under him that the man had become like a father to him. When his Anointed had failed to save his life against the depraved Emperors Children he killed every single one of them and their Coryphaus for failing in their duty to protect the Dark Apostle.
That action alone has stopped his host being dissolved into other Hosts. He had been elevated to become the Dark Apostle of the 47th Host.
He had held that post for five centuries now and he knew that his host would never question him and would follow him no matter where he ordered them to go. Their loyalty to him was sacrament. He was the chosen of Lorgar; he spoke with the authority of the Dark Council. The only others to deserve more loyalty then him was The honoured Master of the Dark Faith, Blessed Erebus the first of them all and Holy Lorgar that went without question.
He glanced at his reflection in the mirror. His dark hair, eyes and pale patrician feature the image of Blessed Holy Lorgar. His entire face was covered in scripture from the mighty Book of Lorgar in fact his entire body was covered in the holy scriptures of the favoured son of chaos that is all except his right arm.
That was covered in deep knife cuts that had scared
Every warrior that he had lost and had died in honour to their Primarch he made a cut in his arm so as to remind himself of how they had died for the Word and he remembered their names.
He had acquired some new warriors from the Master of the Faith when he had aided blessed Kor Phaeron against the accursed Ultramarines. Six of his Anointed had died saving the Master of the Faith and he had rewarded Felan with six of his own Anointed, a rare gift but Mar Felan was not about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
He could feel his vessel move with the grace of a Queen through the seas that she was so much part off he just hoped that something would happen soon to quell the blood lust in her heart.
The priests of the Dark Mechanicum could not always pacify his vessels hungry spirit no matter what they said. He pulled his robe around him and continued to gaze out the window, comforted by the myriad of differences in the Warp.
That was the thing about this place. You might see a planet of blue one minute and the next it might be purple with a leering face in it such was the way of the warp.
He heard his door chime and without breaking his gaze ordered whomever it was to come in.
The Warrior came in and immediately fell to one knee, his head bowed. The ancient Power Armour once gunmetal grey was now brazen red with grey trim and one of the pauldrons was the face of a snarling dragon.
His armour like all other Word Bearer armour was ensconced with the scriptures of Lorgar and like all true sons of Colchis his features were a likeness of their lord and spiritual father.
He rested a hand on the kneeling warriors shoulder "Rise Tor Panarl, what brings you here?" His tone was warm and genuine.
The Coryphaus like his master was a native of Colchis but his hair whilst most of it had been shaved a single stripe remained flowing across his scalp and to the back of his head like some old plume of antiquities armies.
His eyes swirled with the barely contained zealotry of a devout follower and his battle prowess left none in any doubt why he was the War Commander and Mar Felan had every faith in the man that had been his battle brother at the siege of Terra.
After he had executed the former Coryphaus he had elevated Tor Panarl without hesitation. He trusted his judgement and he knew how deep his loyalty lay.
"Our Astropathic choir received a message from the Warp My Dark Apostle" Tor Panarl growled but whilst his voice seemed to be a perpetual growl the subtle pitch showed that he was being respectful to his master "It was so powerful Lord that it killed the master of Astropaths and six of his choir"
"Indeed?" The Dark Apostle arched a surprised eyebrow "That powerful? Where did it originate?"
"We believe a world of the Corpse god My Lord Pratis Majoris"
Mar Felan tapped his jaw a little bit. The name of that world seemed strangely familiar to him.
"Was there anything else?" He asked still trying to remember where he has heard the name before.
"Apparently it was just the mention of our Holiest father My Dark Apostle"
"Have the Captain take us to this world My Coryphaus by the time we get there I might have worked out why that world is familiar to me."
The war commander bowed his head low and left to complete his master wish. In the meantime his master prepared himself and hoped the gods would answer his questions, it was going to be a long meditation.
The warrior made his way through the great corridors of the vessel, its vaulted walls covered in scripture from Lorgars Book and the arched ceilings made from the bones of the sacrificed so that whilst their souls served the masters of the warp for all eternity their earthly remains would continue to serve their masters.
Chapter Serfs and lower ratings fell to their knees and kept their heads bowed and eyes cast down as a blessed warrior of Lorgar strode passed them, not worthy of his gaze and their eyes not worthy to look upon such a blessed son. The punishment for looking at him would have been to have their eyes cut out so that they would not commit the same act again.
He entered the Chapel and his breath was stolen away. The Warriors of the Chapter, initiates and fully fledged sons had painstakingly and in great detail adorned the walls with the history of their father from his discovery on long dead Colchis to his discovery of the powers that truly deserved his worship.
He took a deep breath and with a hiss removed his demonic shaped helm and tucked it under his arm. Then with purpose strode to the alter of Chaos Undivided behind which stood a gold effigy of their spiritual father in all his glory as the Demonic Prince of their Order. In his left hand was the eternal flame that was kept lit no matter where they were and in his right hand was the sacred Book of Lorgar, his arms wide to encompass his sons.
He fell to his knee and bowing his head began to whisper the entries that he had been taught before he fell silent and closed his eyes in prayer. It had been four centuries since he had become a son of Lorgar and he had never regretted a day of it.
Jubal Sunscreamer opened his soul to the gods who had taken him to the service of one who had moulded him and made him so much more then the fate that would have befallen him had the carrion lord got his hands on him.
He had been tutored by Blessed Erebus in the use of his powers and had endured all the pain and the soul rebuilding that was needed to become a warrior of Lorgar. He had welcomed his indoctrination into the Word, others had not been strong enough and in fact of his group only five made it.
The Holy Dark Apostle had taken his gift and turned it into a weapon of pure hate for the Emperors forces and he relished every chance he had of using it. When and only when he had been ready was he then transferred into the host of the Master of the Dark Faith himself and there he had carved a name for himself.
It had not been easy, Kor Phaeron was a notoriously hard master to please but he had proved himself with honour time and time again and now for the last twenty years he had been serving a new master.
He recalled the day he had been told of his new appointment.
He had not been with the Masters Host and the Host of the 47th Coterie when they had made planet fall on Dearness Prime. A Hive world that was ripe for the picking and to gain access to a dark prize of the Pleasure God himself. The souls of the Sororitas themselves and it had been successful turning the sisterhood into a sisterhood for the dark prince.
They had been attacked by the hated Ultramarines and the Dark Apostle had lost six of his anointed as they protected the Master of the Faith.
He had been summoned to the Dark Lords chamber and told that he was to transfer to the Diabolus Infernos he was to understand that this was not a punishment, just a change in duty and that he had served the Dark Lord with honour and distinction and it was time that he carved a name for himself within another host.
He had not questioned the order; it was not his place to question the order just do as he was commanded.
He replaced the Sergeant that had died on Dearness Prime and as such his reputation preceded him. Everyone it seemed knew who he was and there were whispers that one day he would command his own vessel and that he was a favoured son of Kor Phaeron himself. Jubal was happy where he was and paid no heed to whispers and rumours they were not part of his understanding.
He had no desire for command just to be a warrior that his master could count on. Yes he had come a long way since Torsons reach.
He was a powerhouse of a warrior. His muscle even after the changes wrought on him by the blessed Primarchs gene seed had been implanted were greater then the average battle brother and he had to have a specially made suit of Terminator Armour made just for his bulk and size.
Right now he prayed that his battle prowess was enough to keep his Lord Dark Apostle in favour and that he and all his battle brothers continued to serve their dark master with fervour, devotion and honour.
He opened his eyes as he became aware of another presence and turned to see the Coryphaus kneel beside him and mutter a prayer to the Holy Primarch and the gods. The War Commander took a look at the helmet that belonged to his sergeant. It was different to the standard helmet of a warrior. The eyes were joined making it look like a visor of some description.
Tor Panarl knew that this would allow the Gods blessed power of his sergeant to be unleashed against the heathens of the Corpse Gods and he had seen it at work often enough to know how deadly and brutal such a power was and not for the first time was glad that their Legion had found him first. He set it down and waited for Jubal to finish his prayers then rose with him.
Once again the Sergeant took in the frescos around him and Tor Panarl allowed himself a rare smile.
"Did the Dark Master not have the same frescos Jubal?"
"They were different in some ways my Coryphaus" Jubal respectfully answered "Battles alongside our blessed father and the war against the accursed inhabitants of Ultramar"
Tor Panarl nodded a little and the two men, bowing again to the icon of their father walked away, the serfs and slaves abasing themselves once more as they walked past.
"I wish my lord that I had known the days when our father walked amongst us" Jubal sighed.
The Coryphaus slapped his hand on his sergeants' pauldron "Your name is known to him Jubal as are us all. Learn from me brother and our master and you will feel as if you have walked with him all your life." Jubal inclined his head a little, pride flowing through him, it was a known fact that Tor Panarl rarely had time for the brothers that had not been part of the ancient brotherhood that had laid siege to the Emperor's palace but he had proved himself and saved the Coryphaus's life on more then one occasion and had earnt his respect.
"Have the Anointed prepared Jubal I want them all ready when we are called to war they are to be at their fittest I will not have it said that my Anointed are lacking in their duties to our master"
"Yes my lord" Jubal bowed his head and went to see to his War Commanders orders. Tor Panarl nodded to himself as he watched the sergeant stride away and continued on his way.
The killer made his way through the mountain pass, the Snow Wolves trotting along by his side. It had been easy to bend their loyalty to him and they had feasted on the steaming carcass's that had been their former masters.
Now they were truly his to command. He stopped as he exited the valley and surveyed the area around him with eyesight that was far more acute then any normal human but then he was far from human.
He perched on a rock ledge and slowly his mind cleared of the fog that had shielded it for so long. The last thing he remembered was falling through the air and landing on this rock. His enhanced genealogy had sent his body into the healing sleep but he supposed with the cold it had merely frozen him into full sleep and now he had come to awakened state with a hunger that he had not felt since his battle with his enemies.
He patted the head of the largest of the Wolves and the creature seemed to be pleased with the attention of its new master.
He would need to hunt again soon not just him but the beast that he shared his body with, that was a hunger that was never sated and when he could find a way off this forsaken rock then he would finally have his revenge, against the one who had left him to die.
He got to his feet and letting the Snow Wolves lead the way he made his way back along the migration trail with murder in his heart.
The Village was nothing special. A few huts scattered around a big hall. The Killer knew what this was, just like the ancient halls on Terra of the Nordfrick peoples lands of ancient times the hall of the chieftain and his family and his warriors.
Set around the river that flowed through it the villagers had a clean and ample water supply. There were the children of the populace playing without a care in the world and like there was time for nothing else except play and fun.
How typical of these humans, had they grown up on Holy Colchis they would have known a different life, a life of piety and prayer and a life of devotion to the gods. He allowed his memories to rush up and envelope him, trying to find comfort in them.
He had been a young boy when Lorgar had shown them the true ways of Colchis, he had fought alongside him and Erebus and Kor Phaeron when the Urizen had stormed the Covenant and killed all the monks within ending the Holy War that had enveloped their world for six long years.
When the Emperor came he had embraced the vision after all this was the god that Lorgar had spoken off. His arrival had vindicated the Urizens words and that was good enough for the inner circle.
No what did these young know of hardships and duty. His actions would be a blessing to them to end their lives so that they go to a place where the true gods exist and not the god that they would be forced to follow if they allowed their pathetic beliefs to come to fruition.
He was aware that the warriors halls would be where the populace would sit with their chief and discuss the coming day only this day their chief would not be coming back he had killed him.
He scanned the area for any threats but what warriors they had would not be able to defeat one such as he.
He saw the warriors milling around the village, arms round women, drinking from their flagons and armed with bows, swords and axes. He supposed they would be effective against rival tribes but they would not be any use against him. Nothing would and he almost felt sorry for them, almost but not quite.
The beast within began to raise its ugly head but he quelled it with a vicious command. He would decide when to let the demon rise and not before. He commanded it not the other way round.
He would wait for nightfall and then he would lay waste to all that was within that human infested fleapit. He would need the sustenance and the strength if he were to find his long lost brothers.
He settled down to watch the village and await the setting sun.
It was going to be the last time any of them saw the sun and he was gracious enough to allow them that luxury.
The warriors of the Host waited as they had been doing for the last two days. They would be in Imperial space in a few more days but they were not waiting for that, they were waiting for their leader and they did so without making a sound.
Tor Panarl stayed at the front but one step lower then the top. His face handsome and cold was set in stone and woes betide any who moved. If it was going to be a few more hours or a few more days then so be it no one would move from their place or step out of line. To do so invited a punishment that they would not like very much.
His Anointed ringed the raised dais, as their standing dictated, the best warriors of the Host and the personal guard of the Dark Apostle. He was lost in his own thoughts, his master had been perplexed when he had brought the message from the Choir and for the briefest of moments he thought he saw true fear in the eyes of the Dark Apostle at the mention of that planet but he had dispelled that thought. The only thing that his master feared was a bad judgement from the dark council that would condemn his soul to an eternity of torment at the hands of the dark gods and that was enough to unnerve even the most stoic of warriors.
Eventually the doors opened and the Icon Bearer Andarl entered leading the honour guard who surrounded the black armoured master of the 47th Host. Every warrior moved to one knee and bowed their heads.
Mar Felan looked resplendent in his black armour with his Accursed Crozius beside in his right hand. At his left side sat the demon sword Ar'can'tha a prize that he had taken when he had killed a warrior of the Alpha Legion and the demon within had acquiesced to his will. His Holy Bolter was carried by a young novitiate his eyes cast down. The Bolter was a work of art the muzzle a serpents head that writhed with arcane power of it own.
Its holy blessed ammunition immolating all who felt its touch and had been a gift from the long dead former Dark Apostle. Mar Felan was indeed a blessed individual for there had been many a time that Dark Acolytes had designs of grandeurs of their own against their masters but Mar Felan was a loyal Acolyte and he had learnt much from his blessed master.
Tor Panarl followed suit and waited as his master ascended to his proper place. Mar Felan nodded once to his Coryphaus and the war commander barked an order that had the Host standing to attention once more.
He turned to face his men as the Icon Bearer took his place to the left of the War Commander and one step lower. To stand on the same level, as the Coryphaus would instigate they were equals, whilst the Icon Bearer held a position of authority they most certainly were not equals.
"My Sons" the Dark Apostle laid the book of Lorgar on his podium and moved round "Stand easy" The host moved as one "now we are to travel to the world of Pratis Majoris and there we are to recover a brother who was lost to us. Do not be fooled into thinking that he will be an easy quarry to catch for he will not and once we have him here we are to transport him to Sicarus itself where he will be – looked after by the Dark Council and our blessed Primarch in his name be"
"In his name be" The Host murmured.
"Nothing is to stand in the way of the safe recovery of the lost brother and if the accursed lackeys of the false god come to stop us then we will deal with them as must always be done, in his name be it"
"In his name be it"
Jubal raised his eyes upwards to see a swirling mass of Cherubim flying round the hall. It struck him that if he had seen them in his human life then he would have thought they were small cute angels of the gods.
However they were far from cute. They moved out the room and returned as his master concluded his talk with a couple of screaming women between them taken from the slave holds and brought here especially for this moment.
"Let the gods dictate to us how this will be" Mar Felan raised his accursed Crozius in the direction of the Cherubim and lowered it.
The Women stopped their screaming, as the cute little child like faces seemed to hypnotise them. They swayed a little in a certain rhythm and the women began to sway at the same time. When they were certain their spell was working their faces altered and gone was the angelic faces in their places were faces of such horror that it would have plagued children's nightmares for all eternity.
Razor sharp teeth emitted from their mouths, delicate fingers turned into razor sharp claws they tore the faces off the women and then all of them set about the bodies showering blood and guts onto the assembled warriors.
"The Gods will bless this holy mission brothers, lets not disappoint them"
The roar of affirmation from the host was loud enough to drown out the sucking of bone marrow from the demonic cherubim.
The war commander dismissed the host save his four captains and their sergeants when the door was closed the Dark Apostle bid them all to follow him.
Jubal fell into line behind the Icon Bearer and wondered why his master wanted him and the other sergeants as well as his captains.
Silence sat around the Dark Apostles stratagem as they waited for their master to speak. He sat himself in his throne of skull, made from the remains of a Tyranid that he had personally killed on Dagmar Six four centuries ago.
He set his Crozius on his knee and looked at his Captains. Aside from Tor Panarl there was Garakan the captain of the Possessed. He had been with the Host since its inception and when it came to infiltration there was none better. His features like all Word Bearers pale and noble but a criss cross of scars that lined his face showed his centuries of warfare and he wore his marks like badges of honour. He was not as heavily built as his brother captains but his strength was his spirit and there was none more devout to the teachings of Lorgar within his inner circle.
Beside him stood Captain Rar Kane captain of the assault squad. His face set in stone and he never smiled not even in the camaraderie of his squad. He was a well built man that had the utter devotion his assault squad and who's cries to the great gods always brought him great victories and honour to not only his squad but to the Dark Apostle himself.
Then there was Captain Sadrocos, a giant of a man with hands like shovels and who took the lives of his foes with his bare hands. The Commander of the Berserkers he had the utmost loyalty of his squad and those that failed him were more then happy to send their skull to the skull throne. His dark eyes were always brimming with self restrained fury and his body seemed to quiver with it two giant tusks came from either side of his jaw and Mar Felan was in doubt how much blood he had shed in the name of the dark gods.
Finally there was Elarka Marchan the Captain of the Tactical Squad. A noble handsome man who was not as big as Sadrocos but bigger then Garakan. He had been at the Siege of Terra and he had witnessed the Warmonger and his cadre assault the walls with honour. His left hand ended in a large lobster claw a gift from the gods when his own hand was lost to a Thousand Sons automaton son.
He cast his eyes over his sergeants. All standing just to the left of their Captains. Sergeant Harkan was Marchans trusted right hand man and the two shared a brotherhood that went back to the training halls of Colchis. He was a giant of a man and a single horn sprouted from the middle of his forehead like the unicorns of myth.
Sergeant Jassia was Sadrocos's right hand man and like his master his sheer force of will tempered his self-contained fury. When the time was right he would unleash the berserker in him and lay waste to all his enemies. He had come from the demon world Galtos and had beaten all his rivals to become a Word Bearer, that had been some thousand years ago and he had been Sadrocos's favoured warrior since the battle of Henthax where they fought the Angels Sanguine and had taken the head of their captain as a prize. The skull of which he had personally gifted to the Blood God.
Then there was Sergeant Jarka recently elevated to the spot of favoured by Garakan when he took the head of the Ultramarines Chaplin Arcaseus in a battle on Fords Creek. His demon was happy to share the body of the sergeant as long as he was given plenty of blood in the battles that they encountered.
Finally there was Jubal. He was relatively young in the service next to these men but he had risen to prominence in the Anointed and Tor Panarl trusted his sergeant. He was a favoured of the highest echelons in the Word Bearers and the Primarch himself knew him and that in itself was an honour.
His battle strategy was similar to that of Kor Phaerons Coryphaus but then again that was to be expected and he had a knack of seeing things that occasionally Tor Panarl missed and whilst he never embarrassed his captain he would discreetly point it out in private.
He believed that when the time came for his Coryphaus joined the Gods and their blessed Primarch then Jubal would be the next one in line.
Next to Jubal were the Icon Bearer and commander of the Honour Guard. Andarl had been the Icon Bearer for over six thousand years when the previous Icon Bearer tried to usurp the power of Mar Felans master. A tall proud well built man who's eyes sparkled with the knowledge of the epistles of Lorgar it was known that he was ambitious but not to the point of recklessness and besides Mar Felan did not mind competition in the ranks, it kept the strong and weeded the weak.
"We are to get Balthazar," he said quite suddenly and all his captains and two of his sergeants' faces darkened at the mention of the name.
Jubal looked around him taking in the darkened expressions and bowed his head respectfully "Forgive me Lord, who is Balthazar?"
Andarl's lip curled in a sneer at the unprecedented break in protocol but a sharp look from the War Commander made his face straighten once more. It was obvious that Jubal was in favour and he stored that nugget of information.
"You are young Jubal and you will not know the name" Mar Felan rose from his seat "Balthazar was once a great warrior. One of the first to be Possessed and one of the favoured of our blessed Primarch."
"Glory to his name" The warriors murmured.
"Indeed." The Dark Apostle moved round to the front of the table and stood before his warriors. "He had been amongst the chosen men who had accompanied our beloved father when he broke the heretics on Colchis and had served as one of his inner circle although he was not as favoured as the Black Cardinal himself or Holy Erebus he was still one of the favoured and had command of the 8th Company.
He would also follow Lorgars word to the letter and never doubt his master. When the Lodges came into our Legion he was the first to sign up and became our Lodge master and during the siege of Terra his devout piety brought him the greatest reward. He became one of the first possessed." The Dark Apostle drew in a heavy breath for a moment then continued "When we were driven from Terra and into the Warp he started mutterings that perhaps our Lord was weak and was not as he thought the favoured son of Chaos, talk which was deemed heretic and blasphemous but he had the blessings of the gods so many could not move against him without fear of reprisals from the gods plus his host was one of the most feared. Made up entirely of possessed warriors including their Dark Apostle.
He was sent further afield where it was deemed that his ravings could not harm our Lord but that was not far enough and shortly before Lorgars Ascension he tried to move against our father and usurp his power.
He failed but I was sent along with our host to teach him a lesson and we hounded them to the world of Pratis Majoris where we battled them in space. His vessel Demonicus Ascendant was destroyed and all among them and we believed that he had died with it but it seems that he has survived and if this is the case then we are ordered to bring him back to Sicarus dead or alive."
"Surely Lord," Garakan spoke "It would be better to kill him, such a man would not have lost his thirst for power and if he is still alive then he would be attempting to do what he failed to do and that would make him more dangerous"
"That is true Kalneth" Mar Felan nodded "but I know him, I know him better then any man here and he needs to accumulate his power before he will attack and that is why I want 6 men of your companies only. The strongest in faith and devotion only those that cannot be corrupted by such power and who's loyalty to our father is not in doubt."
"As you will it My Lord" Garakan bowed his head
"Chose your men and have them ready for when we reach this world. I want this dealt with before the Dead Emperors Lap dogs get to hear about it."
His captains left except his Coryphaus and Jubal who remained at the request of the Dark Apostle.
"Jubal I have seen your power many times I want you to spend your time in prayer and pray to the gods that they will make it strong enough to defeat this heretic"
"As you wish my lord"
The Dark Apostle turned to his Coryphaus and told him to have a battle plan drawn up and ready and to use the old texts on the world as reference. When they left him he turned to the window and watched the warp rush by.
He closed his eyes and steadied his beating hearts. It had been a long time since he last heard the name of Balthazar and he had hoped never to hear it again.
The moon had risen over the village over an hour ago and in that hour the warriors had nervously watched the hills that the hunters had taken two days ago. They should have returned by now but of yet there was no sign of them, nor would there be but they weren't to know that.
Their minds had told them that their Chieftain may have gone to the halls of the gods at the claws of the mad snow beasts or ice monsters that lurked in the never ending white tundra.
The watching killer waited for the moon to dress itself in cloud so that he would not be seen until it was to late for them to do anything about it and then when he was ready he struck.
The screams turned from shock to horror as the great beast within him was released and none escaped his blood driven wrath. Men tried to protect the women folk but were beheaded in one stroke as the whirr of red and grey moved through their village like some great demonic tornado.
The snow wolves, bent to his will attacked the children and carted off the youngest for a good meal he finished them off. He toyed with them and played with them he was enjoying this battle against the cattle of the carrion god.
When he fond women trying to protect their young he made as if to spare them then at the last minute disembowelled them with a vicious swipe of his talons. He was unstoppable; a force of the nightmares made real and his armour was drenched in gore and viscera from those he slew.
When the slaughter was over he stopped and admired his handiwork, forcing the demon down within him. The fresh virgin snow was now stained red and the river itself was swallowing the blood that fed into it. He switched to his demon sight and saw only the wolves feeding on the carcasses of the young. Good once they had the taste of blood they would want it more and he would give them it for there were no better hunters then wolves in his opinion and their loyalty was assured as they saw him as the alpha.
He made his way into the great hall and smiled as he saw the ruined bodies that lay within. It had not taken him long to slay these pathetic servants of the dead god and it had felt good. He sat at the throne of the Hall and felt it creak under his immense bulk but it held.
Reaching out he grabbed the hind leg of the roasting stag and ripped it clean off then stuffed it into his mouth. The meat and juice dribbled down his chin. He had fed the demon and now he fed himself. Not that he needed such food but it felt good to the pallet.
As he ate his memories reasserted themselves and he recalled with the clarity of one who had had his mind hidden from him for long periods of time.
He remembered why he was here.
He had dared to voice the opinion that the Urizen was weak, he had dared to blame the Urizen, the Prophet of Colchis of complacency in swaying the Warmaster and for acting too soon in his quest for immortality.
For were they not immortal already?
The word had been that the Emperor had desired divinity for himself but in truth all the Primarchs wanted it those that sided with the Warmaster and those who professed otherwise.
He tore another chunk of meat and savoured the taste and then reaching over he grabbed a tankard that looked pathetic in his giant hands but washed his meat down with ale.
His enhanced taste buds savoured the flavour. For humans this was not a bad brew, once long ago he had partaken of the meade of the Space Wolves and this was a poor second but not bad.
He returned to his broodings.
He should have been the Black Cardinal for was he not one of the first to be given the gods boon, the gift of possession that would see the Sons of Lorgar victorious. His rivalry with Kor Phaeron went back to their childhoods on Colchis. Neither man had liked each other and he liked even less the idea that the subtle and power driven mind of the former First Captain was considered to be among the Primarchs closest friends. He had little time for the First Chaplin but when it came to politics and guile there were none better then Erebus.
When news reached him of Lorgars ascension he was enraged. The man had not delivered his promises, he had allowed the loyalists to win and Horus did not sit on the throne of Mankind.
He had been sent to the furthest reaches of the eye, away from the world that was now the new home of the Word Bearers. But he was not ready to be dismissed so easily. He had taken it upon himself to become the new Urizen and to dismiss Lorgar as nothing more then a failed Warrior who should bow down to him.
As his memory put everything back into place he tore at the carcass once more, every rip of his teeth showed his blackened mood.
They had sent the 47th Host after him and his brothers. In his eyes there was no other betrayal greater then that. That the Urizen would dare send his own battle brothers to bring him to heel.
The battle had lasted for weeks. A space battle that saw several of the ships of the 47th lost but when his beloved Demonicus Ascendant was boarded and his brothers slaughtered by the 47th it had been the straw that broke the camels back.
He allowed the demon that possessed him, Her'cal'na to rise up and take many brothers to the warp but it was not to be. He was confronted by the 47th Dark Acolyte Mar Felan and to his eternal horror the warrior ignored the ties that bind them both and struck him with fist, head and finally bolter and ordered his men off the ship. Shortly after fire from the loyalist Word Bearers the Demonicus Ascendant was destroyed.
His battle brothers' all dead, his loyal crew all-dead and he had survived. It was not luck that had allowed his enhanced body to survive what his brothers had not. It was divine will that had brought him back to this place.
The gods were not yet finished with him and that was all he needed to know and he hoped that Mar Felan was still alive. He would teach him what it meant to fight the chosen of the gods and what it meant to be a brother betrayed.
He had expected his battle brothers to not agree with his actions they were but sheep to Lorgars word but he had expected better from his own kin, his own genetic brother.
The fires of revenge burned deep within him and as he ate more of the Stag he began to plot his revenge.
The Demonicus Infernos entered the warp with a roar and a scream, the rip in real space shuddering as the great strike cruiser made its entrance once more into the realms of men.
Her bow seemed to stretch forever until real space settled around her and she began to adjust to the difference between the Imperium and Empyrean. Mar Felan stared at the world before him.
It was beautiful in its own way and it had changed since he last saw it. When he had seen it last there were patches of green to show landmasses but all he saw were white land and he assumed that something had happened to the world in the last eight thousand years to turn it from what he had known to what he saw now.
Still that was the way of worlds, not every planet ended up how it started when it had been given life and he was not to wonder why.
He had received a transmission from Sicarus before they had entered the Imperium and the message had been quite clear. Deal with this heretic or suffer the fate that would have been his.
He had spent the last few days in his rooms reading the portents, the sacrifices and the musings of the gods and so far they seemed to be saying victory but they were not telling him who to.
Some parts of him supposed that the gods in their wisdom would sit this one out and watch the outcome with the glee and expectations of men at a gladiatorial fight. Whoever won this fight would have the favour of the gods and he was determined that it would be him. Not as long as he was able to fight with the fervour of an orator of Lorgar he would not allow this heretic to win.
Jubal cast his eye over his squad. Six of the finest men in the Anointed and Tor Panarl had been pleased with the choice his sergeant had made. Six men, staunch of faith and never wavering in their duties to the Creed of the Holy Father and the Gods.
The Coryphaus had taken Jubal to one side and told him to watch the Icon Bearer, he was ambitious and it was no secret that Jubal was a favoured of Sicarus. He warned him to keep to his duty and that duty was to keep the Dark Apostle alive, everyone knew the penalty for those who failed to keep the spirit of the host from harm.
The War Commander had chosen the place to land, a large valley that gave access to all areas of the planet and he had briefed them on what he knew.
The world was populated by humans who had long since reverted to the old ways, forgotten by the Imperium many records keepers he was almost certain that none of the Carrion Lords lap dogs had been alerted to such a presence as the one that Balthazar had given off and if they were to arrive then they would be dealt with.
Their duties were two fold. One to obviously deal with the heretic and the most important one keep the Dark Apostle safe, follow is guidance and his rules but allow no harm to befall him.
It wasn't just the War Commanders neck on the line and that of his warriors but each and every Captain such was the way that failure of that magnitude was repaid. They would work together until such a time that the War Commander deemed it nessercary for them to go the way of his attack preference.
It was called the Trident. A variation of the spear tips but with the powers at their control then they were more formidable then any spear tip. Get in there and do not give the enemy time to regroup it had worked for him countless times and it would work again.
Jubal was confident in his Captains prowess but something inside told him that this would be a test for him too. A test to see if his loyalty to the 47th Host was complete. He had seen the envious looks the other Anointed had given the men he had chosen. A mix of Envy and pride. Pride that their brothers were chosen to do this and envy that it was not they.
It had been the same across the Host and as such it would make the unchosen all the more determined to be chosen next time this sort of battle was persecuted.
Jubal had the feeling that he was going to meet his destiny here. For five hundred years he had proved his loyalty to the Word of Lorgar but this would be the ultimate test, where he made his name in this Host and where he would learn his fate, to be the second to the Coryphaus and his favoured Sergeant or if he would fall to nothing.
He had harboured some doubts over the centuries the events on Torsons Reach still fresh in his mind as if it were only yesterday. He almost wished he had managed to save his brother and his sister for they would be worthy warriors in the ranks of the true Astartes but it had been the Gods that had decided and they had chosen him.
He had been paying their generosity and patronage back ever since and as grateful and proud as he was to the true gods he was also well aware of how fickle they could be.
They would sometimes show their hands and stick by it and other times they would show a hand raise the ante and then change their hands when they felt like it. It was a fool who ever underestimated the Dark Gods and as pious a Word Bearer as he was he was no fool.
He had been raised in a pious home, albeit to a god that would have destroyed his soul to feed his own fading powers or a slave to an Inquisitor. He was well aware of the duties of those bound to the priesthood he had seen his father do it all his life.
Since his glorious awakening to the true gods he had seen how wrong his father had been. How deluded all sheep of the corpse god were but his father had told him once after attending some accident at one of the fishing towns that even the Emperor was fickle with his affections.
That was the way of Gods, they choose their rising stars and they put the lights out of those who they no longer wanted. They chose the strongest over the weakest and Jubal was certain that no matter what his blood-strewn fortunes would be he would never be weak. He would rather die then ever come under that banner.
He knew what the Icon Bearers feelings were towards him. He considered him a whelp unsuitable to wear the armour of a Warrior of Lorgar let alone stand in the same presence as the inner circle of the Host. He was not one of the Ancient brotherhood and he was not a native or bloodline of Colchis.
The Blood Angels had founded his home world and to the Icon Bearer that was as much a blasphemy as his own existence. Jubal was well aware that the politics of Chaos went that way and the Dark Apostle encouraged the rivalry as long as it did not usurp his power.
This sort of thing gave him the chance to see whom he could trust and who would turn against their brothers if the move was right and the rewards great enough. He had seen it done many a time and assassination of a Captain was not unheard off if his Coterie believed him lacking in faith.
Jubal did not want to be the Icon Bearer but he knew he had as much right to wear the armour of Lorgar as much as the Icon Bearer and he was not about to allow the sneering and mutterings of an ambitious warrior put him off.
His duty was clear and to his mind that was all that concerned him anything else he would deal with when it was required.
The chosen men snapped to attention as the Dark Apostle came in with the Coryphaus and Icon Bearer and fell to one knee before him.
"Let us Pray Brothers" The Dark Apostle nodded at the Novitiate who handed him an ebony bowl filled with blood. "To our Primarch the favoured son of the Gods and our mighty father in spirit an blood we swear this oath on the blood of those honoured to die in his name to grant us the courage, honour and skill to defeat the foe that would dare to challenge the authority of the one true son of chaos. In his name be it"
"In his name be it" They intoned
"We ask the powers of the gods of chaos undivided to ensure that we are victorious and we are the rightful victors of this battle and bring more souls to the true gods of the universe in their names be it"
"In their names be it"
He walked along each of the Warriors dipping his fingers in the blood of the sacrifices made that morning and drew the mark of Chaos amongst each of them, intoning words from the epistles of Lorgar as he did so. When he was finished he handed the bowl back to the novitiate and offered the youth a meaningful look.
"Look upon these warriors Novitiate for one day if found worthy you will be amongst them" He did not require an answer and the youth bowed his head, spared a brief look at the warriors then took his leave, his head still bowed until he was out of sight.
"The gods know your names let us bring this wayward son back to the fold" The Dark Apostle boarded his Stormbird and the warriors filled to their transports, within a few moments they were once again in the space of the enemy.
Balthazar made his way through the settlements of the peoples of this land of snow and ice killing as he went sating the thirst that was ever present in him. By the time he had come upon his umpteenth settlement the warriors of the village abased themselves before him and swore fealty to him.
It had stayed his hand.
From what he could ascertain there were no communications networks here that he was used to but he supposed that he had been remiss and one or two had escaped to bring news of the great god that strode amongst them and his keen mind began to turn it to his advantage.
Yes he would rule this world and use the warriors as his own coterie. Of course they were not like his brothers whose bond he could rely on but he could do something with them turn them into a force of war for he would need them.
By the end of the second day all the surrounding tribes had come to his banner and to show them who was in charge he killed their leaders to show them who was the greatest warrior.
He set trials and watched as the strongest slew the weakest. He made the children watch as their fathers either died or survived and he whispered to them to see how weak their guiding light was, to stick with him and he would be the father they needed.
He moulded the young women into a warrior breed and was pleased and surprised to learn that they were quite vicious, more so then the men of their respective tribes. He had women fight before on his homeworld and in the Imperial Army. He made them his honour guard and it did not take too much of a push to turn them to his gods.
He stood watching the skies his snow wolves milling about and keeping the wolves of the other tribes in line. They had not changed in the weeks that he had been here and he had prayed to the gods to give him some sign that he would be in their favour.
His gaze pierced the blackened covering and then he smiled. There a bright flash of light it was gone in moments but he knew what it was. As he continued to watch the skies he saw little flashes of light erupt and he straighten himself.
They had come and they would not find him wanting. He would make them see that their blind obedience to a weak warrior was their downfall and they would follow him. With his new warriors as his vanguard and rejoining his brothers he would make the Word Bearers anew and mould them in his image.
Lorgar would not survive this time.
The remains of the hunting party were clear to see and one of the Possessed crouched beside the pile of human viscera. The warrior turned to his captain "My Lord they have lain here at least a week maybe a bit more."
"What killed them?" Garakan asked.
The brother was silent for a moment then stood up "something more powerful then this world has to offer I suspect"
Garakan waited for his master to approach and relayed what his brother had told him. Mar Felan glanced at the remains then looked around him. There were no clear tracks but then snow seemed to fall forever in this place.
He took stock of his surrounding and pointed north "It is my assumption that the peoples that live here must have trails to follow the food sources they need." His voice sounded deeper then normal the thrill of the hunt taking over and pushing adrenalin into his veins. He had been off the field of battle too long and this was what he needed.
Tor Panarl moved to Garakans side "Take your possessed" He pointed to the mountains around them "find any other signs of death. Your noses are better then even ours brother"
"As you command my lord" With a sharp command the possessed moved off towards the mountains their armour stark against the brilliance of the snow.
The rest moved the way the Dark Apostle directed. The Anointed keeping close to the war leader and constantly scanning their surroundings.
Jubal walked alongside his Coryphaus and heard his vox chime on the private channel.
"Did you do as the Dark Apostle asked Jubal?"
"Yes my lord. I spent a night and day in prayer"
"Did you receive any word?"
Jubal was silent for a moment "No Lord but I suspect I will find out when the time comes"
"Save it until the last moment Jubal. I am aware of how powerful it is but I am also aware of how draining it can be. Use it only if the Dark Apostle is in direct danger. Is that clearly understood?"
"You are a warrior trained and you need not rely on your gift all the time"
"Yes Lord" Jubal glanced around him "Lord if I may be so bold. The Dark Apostle seems to be taking this undertaking too personally. Will it not affect his judgement?"
Tor Panarl was silent and Jubal was wondering if again he had over stepped the mark.
"Did you have any siblings in your life before this Jubal?"
"Had they survived and had we not come to your world to liberate you from the hands of the unworthy do you believe that if your kin made mistakes you would take it personally?"
"If it stained my honour I suppose I would Lord"
Tor Panarl seemed satisfied with that answer "It is not enough that Balthazar betrayed his oaths to our mighty Lord his actions caused those of his brotherhood to question if we truly were sons of Lorgar to have been swayed by the words of a skilled Orator as he. Had he tempered his power lust he might even have become the greatest Dark Apostle greater even then dare I say it holy Erebus"
That surprised Jubal he didn't think there was any more powerful then the First Chaplin and he knew that it was blasphemous to even suggest it so now he understood why the conversation was kept private. Even the Coryphaus had enemies.
"So this is a matter of honour to complete what he thought he had completed all those years ago?" Jubal reasoned.
"Not just that Jubal." The Coryphaus heaved a sigh "Balthazar is his blood kin, his genetic brother. If he does not complete this mission how our masters on Sicarus want it doing then he will suffer the punishment of his brother and by that end so will we all."
Jubal swallowed a little but kept his silence and now he understood. This mission could have been done with the Coryphaus and there was no need for the Dark Apostle to have come with them but this, this was personal in more ways then one.
He scanned the valley walls and stopped thinking he sensed something. His enhanced vision picked out a figure moving along the walls then saw the red of the armour and realised that he had seen one of the Possessed swinging themselves across the valley. The way they moved was grace in itself their bodies were joined with varying daemons of the warp and he was amazed at how they moved. They could move silently even though they were encased with the blessed armour of the Word Bearers. In their possessed forms any wounds they suffered healed miraculously they truly were immortal. In his centuries of life whilst still young compared to his betters he had seen the effect that possession had on the warriors that allowed it.
They seemed to be at a war within themselves the demon always vying for control and the man asserting his control. Those that had failed and given completely to the demon were sent to battle as the raging monsters they had become and were given great precedence.
He still admired them, it took a great willpower to control the denizens of the warp and he had to admit that they were better warriors then any gave them credit for. They operated on a pack mentality and Garakan was the alpha, the choice of kill would be his first by rite of honour and prestige. Jubal knew that it was a fool who underestimated the Captain of the possessed. It was a mistake he would never make of that he was certain.
The Dark Apostle removed his helm and looked around him. It had started snowing and it was a thick flurry any tracks would be covered but he supposed that the inhabitants of this world had adapted to it.
He didn't have a lot of time for humans seeing them nothing more then pawns to be used and thrown away at whim but he had a sneaky admiration for the ones that had to endure worlds as hostile as this. It was worlds like this long forgotten by the Imperium that he preferred to recruit from.
Those in this type of environment were more savage and easily manipulated into the ways of the true gods and when this undertaking was over he would consider taking young warriors from here to swell his novitiates.
He turned as Rar Kane came towards him and the Coryphaus. His sergeant Lor Mants was with him. He had not been present at the initial meeting but the rites of the assault squad usually meant that the sergeant was needed there to oversee them.
"Brother?" The Dark Apostle waited as the Captain bowed and the Sergeant stood a respectful distance
"Permission to scout the air Lord. If we get high enough we may be able to shed some light on the direction"
The Dark Apostle turned to his Coryphaus "Well?"
"If I were a native of this world I would head west, that was were the landmasses I saw in the old maps seemed to be and it would suggest that settlements are there. However if the assault squad were to fly ahead they could forewarn us of any attack. Balthazar was not known for being sloppy my lord"
He nodded and gave his permission to the assault squad "Stay in vox contact at all times Kane"
The captain nodded and bowing his head returned to his squad, shortly after the smell of Promethean hit their noses and the roar of jump packs punctured the flurried air. The flames from the jump packs looked like columns of fire as they rose into the skies and then vanished from view.
The rest of the warriors followed their leaders and kept their own vigils on the rocks that surrounded them alert and keen eyed for any attack. On a world like this it was a fool who took it for granted that no attack could possibly harm them.
Kalneth Garakan resumed his human form and strode along the ruins of the village. The bodies lay frozen at their points of death as if they were defying the gods to explain why this had happened to them.
Their faces a death mask of pure terror. He waited for his men to resume their human forms and then told them to search the remnants from top to bottom. It was his sergeant that found the mess in the hall.
The smell of death was heavy in the air and the corpses here were decomposing rapidly and the stench whilst no bother to him was virulent enough. He kicked the rotting arm away from him and stopped by the stripped carcass of the stag.
He voxed his captain who joined him directly and both men sniffed the air. There had been a powerful beast here his scent was still heavy in the air.
The captain said nothing and returned outside to the frozen tableau of slaughter that met his eyes. He tuned his vox bead to that of the Coryphaus and let him know what they had found.
"Remain where you are and secure the sight," Tor Panarls voice growled.
"Yes Lord" Garakan acknowledged, "Jarka get the men organised I want this area secured for when the Dark Apostle arrives"
He was proud of all his coterie when it came to choosing the novitiates who would enter his command he put them all through tests that would drive any normal man or space marine insane. He wanted only those that could control the beast they were honoured to join souls with.
He had lost a few youngsters to the complete possession and he had sent them to battle against many misguided marines to have a death worthy of the chosen of the gods and they were honoured as such in his halls.
He had heard of Balthazar, one of the legends even if he had fallen from grace but he enforced strict regimes of prayer and purging to ensure that none of his warriors ever disgraced him in that way.
He turned as the Assault Squad came into land and inclined his head a little as Kane strode towards him.
Of all the captains these two were the closest. In the days of the Great Crusade they had spilt their blood for the Emperor and each other. It was not unusual for their squads to merge if it needed to be done and that made the Coryphaus happy. He never needed to hold their hands or tell them what to do they just did it.
"Well met brother" Kane took in the scene around him and before Garakan could tell him the orders he had his men aiding the possessed in securing the area. "He has been here then?"
"So it would seem brother" Garakan agreed "They never stood a chance"
"All dead then?"
"Zacrel found the children all killed by beasts of some description the adults were killed by the accursed"
"Has the Coryphaus been informed?"
"He has and orders are to secure the area until they get here."
Kane switched to private as the two captains observed the securing of the settlement "What do you make of the Coryphaus sergeant?" he asked.
"How do you mean?"
"Exactly what I asked Kalneth what do you make of him?"
Garakan was silent for a moment then nodded to himself "I think his loyalty is not in question and he has no aspirations for leadership just to do as the gods will"
"I heard that he returns to Torsons Reach once a year on the anniversary of his awakening to smash the world of the carrion god once and for all but I wonder if we can trust him"
Garakan nodded "His loyalty is to the Dark Apostle and the Coryphaus we can trust him this however will be his proving ground"
Kane agreed any that showed that amount of piety and loyalty was one who could be trusted. "Should we bring him in to the inner circle?"
"The Sergeants will decide that he ahs been here for twenty years and he has served with the greatest of hosts but he keeps himself to himself. Lets see how he does here and then decide."
They stopped their conversation as San Jarka announced the arrival of the rest of the battle brothers and brought them to a smart attention as their fellow captains joined them.
Mar Felan took in the scene around him "he was here" it was not a question it required no answer.
The time was coming.
It was the same story for the next few days. Every settlement they came across had the same signs of death and destruction but eventually they found what they came for. Covered by the rising hills and mountains it was Fran Harlan of the assault squad who had first spotted the fires.
They watched the comings and goings their enhanced eyesight picking out more then any normal humans could.
The warriors were daubed in sigils of the blood god. The older men whom Mar Felan assumed was the seers of the villages bore the markings of the changer of ways. The women sported the adornments of the Dark Prince and there were warriors who sported the sigils of the grandfather of plague himself.
The hall that dominated the village had been extended and to the Coryphaus's expert eye had already seen that the doors to the hall had been made bigger. Two warriors in the livery of the blood god stood guard with what looked like white wolves but bigger then any wolf he had seen and he had seen plenty, greater even the wolves of Fenris.
They were powerhouses of beasts and they had blood dripping from their maws where they had fed recently.
Mar Felan sensed the energies floating around the populace and the beasts. The wolves were swollen with the power of the blood god and he now what had killed the children of the villages they had come across.
He moved down and wandered off. Tor Panarl nodded at Jubal and his sergeant and one other moved off with the Dark Apostle and stood a short distance scanning the areas and keeping their charge safe.
The Dark Apostle drove his Crozius into the snow and knelt before it he prayed the gods were with him and h is warriors and he prayed to the great Primarch for the guidance and strength to redeem his heritage in the eyes of the favoured son.
Jubal kept his gaze front and centre when an over powering emotion forced him to his knees dropping his sacred bolter to the floor.
Mar Felan turned angrily at the disruption then rose to his feet as the Sergeant fell to the ground muttering in the ancient tongue of Colchis. He rushed over and removed the helm of the Anointed and cradled his head in his hands.
"Calm yourself Jubal" he whispered "Let the words come, let them come brother"
All around the warriors of Lorgar watched, still as statues as the youngest warrior in their ancient ranks began to tremble.
"Hear the words of the favoured son of Colchis" His voice was not his own and as soon as he uttered the words all the warriors fell to one knee "the strength of my sons is the trust in their brother warriors and the blessings of the gods allow none to fall under his sway for even if one falls then it is all lost. Balthazar must die"
Mar Felan felt the sergeants body stop shaking and lowered his head to the ground gently. The grin on his face was savage and fervour lit his eyes their beloved father had spoken. He had spoken through a favoured son and he was with them they would not fail him. They could not fail him and they would die before they failed him.
"War council" he quietly ordered "but we attack at night." He returned his attention to the sergeant who was stating to come out of his trance like state and helped him sit up "thank you Jubal."
The Dark Apostle did not answer him and instead got to his feet and returned to his Crozius. As Jubal got to his feet he became acutely aware that everyone was looking at him in awe except the Icon Bearer who was looking at him with undisguised envy and hate.
He retrieved his helmet and trued to assess what he had felt. The emotion was more powerful then anything he had ever known before. It was the power of a god of war and the gentle caress of a loving father all in one. He felt somewhat drained but his strength would soon return to him but at the back of his mind a warning voice spoke to him and his gaze turned to the Icon Bearer once more.Beware this man Jubal he will betray all if he believes that the time is right for him
He didn't know whom the voice belonged to but he was canny enough to know when to listen to it.
The sun began its watery decline from the heavens to the other side of the world where it would rise again for a new but cold day, the sun never slept and neither did the warriors waiting to go to war.
Torches were being lit around the camp as darkness began its long slithery reach and the sounds of singing could be heard, praising the gods for delivering them a great god who would ensure their enemies would either comply to his will or die in the name of their new gods.
Rar Kane crouched down on the lip of the ice mountain ridge then lay fully prone and watched the goings on below. He had been charged with covering the assault from here and his squad would move in for an air assault at the Coryphaus's command.
His sergeant was a little way along to come in at an adjacent angle and a little higher up then he. He activated his vox feed and spoke to his sergeant.
"Any signs of look outs Lor?"
The sergeant was silent for a moment, his enhanced vision seeking out any guards around the area they were in but all he saw were the heat signatures of the animals indigenous to this world.
"No brother captain there are no look outs, however that is not to say there are none in the village's entirety just none here."
Rar nodded to himself "Keep watch all of you when the Coryphaus commands it then we attack and the glory of the kills to the gods we shall bring"
He received acknowledgements and settled into his position again. Rar was a warrior of renown and history. He had worked his way up from brother to sergeant, veteran sergeant then finally captain when his last captain had died at the hands of a Son of Guilliman on Corden Three. Rar had made the inferior son of the accursed Ultramarines pay with his life and had taken the squad in to attack the governors' palace. By making a direct assault on the palace he had given his Coryphaus time to implement the master stroke and the blessed warrior Jar Kran the great dreadnaught himself bombarded the accursed palace along side the Leigo Mortis titan infernos wraith and it had been glorious when they had blighted that world out of existence taking the long buried artefacts of the changer of ways with them. His men had cheered and he had been promoted but Rar Kane never smiled. He saw no reason to smile war was a blessed crusade and what he had been born to, not jokes or merriment. When the crusade against the corpse god was over and mankind was in the hands of the blessed powers then maybe he would smile but until then, when victory was theirs he never would.
Elarka Marchan raised his fist and the tactical squad fell quietly to one knee as they made their way through the frozen forest stealthy and as quiet as the snowfall. Their blessed power armour despite its bulk and size worked just as well in stealth as it did in full frontal attack.
Just ahead of them a group of men bedecked in the sigils of blessed Khorne patrolled the edge of the forest. He looked at his sergeant and pointed to the left, Harkan nodded and with two of his men moved almost like ghosts to where his captain had decreed.
The Coryphaus had told them to take any sentries out silently and with no giving away of positions. He did not intend to disgrace his Coryphaus the war commander had been most specific about his orders. Get into their allotted positions but do nothing unless they had to and taking out the sentries was considered a do something.
Marchan had seen the way the long war had turned brother against brother. He had fought alongside the sons of Magnus as a brother in arms against the heretics of the false god vows of brotherhood made in the crucible of war and then it was all over.
He had met the same man that he had fought alongside on Terra, Tutep a sergeant who's spirit was all that remained of him, locked inside the suit of power armour that was now his body and his prison.
He lost his hand to the man he had fought beside but he had killed the warrior and removed its head releasing its soul to the gods and he thought he had heard a laugh of relief. Shortly after his hand re-grew but it did not form another hand it formed a great lobsters claw. He wondered if this was his reward for releasing his old brother in arms he didn't care it gave him an edge in battle that he welcomed.
He moved silently and in unison with his brothers they dragged the sentries into the forest, silent as the grave and disposed of them then returned to their allotted positions.
Sadrocos covered the rear of the village and the fury within him was threatening to boil over and make him loose control. He quelled it with a vicious surge of emotion. His sergeant had already taken out the sentries.
He glanced at his sergeant and saw that he was also barely containing the rage that would come to them all soon enough.
He supposed that one day he would sink further then he was able to come out off in his quest for the blood gods favour and when that day came he would go like a true warrior screaming the gods name.
He knew there were a couple in his party who were on the verge of the eternal rage that was why he had brought them along. If they were to die here then they would die in battle and not wrecking havoc along the corridors of their blessed strike cruiser.
'Not long now' he thought as the sunset and he readied himself for the Coryphaus's word.
Garakan waited alongside the Anointed. He spared a glance at the sergeant of the Anointed and felt his estimation of him raise a little. He had spoken with the voice of the Urizen himself, the great Primarch had reached across the vast expanses of the warp to bring them his favour.
He watched the Icon Bearer as he readied himself to go into the battle but he had noticed that the warrior was not a happy man. He supposed he couldn't blame him, the Icon Bearer was a great honour and responsibility to any that carried the banner of their host but with the voice of the Primarch coming through a relative pup in their host he had been elevated to the ranks of hero.
Pel Andarl was not a many that you crossed. The captain of the possessed turned his attention back to the village, each brother doing as the Coryphaus had directed and were all careful to avoid getting in the way of the wind so as not to alert the snow wolves of their presence.
His own sergeant sniffed the air around him, the populace had stopped singing were now waiting and like his sergeant he could smell the impending arrival of power and he, like his squad could feel the beast within begin to rise. He told it to wait be patient and then it would kill.
It didn't like the idea much but the promise of slaughter kept it in check long enough to remain hidden from view.
Balthazar came from the hall to the cheers and adoration of his people. He raised his hands and greeted his warriors. His snow wolves trotting at his heels with their heads held high.
He looked around him at the sea of faces that now looked to him as children to a father. He raised his hands and silence fell. His voice was deep and boomed to every corner of his village and to the ears of the hidden sons of Lorgar.
"Ten thousand years ago by your calendar I was a warrior of the war god Lorgar and he promised to lead us into a new age, an age where the devout and pious would be rewarded and the heretic would suffer.
We worshipped the Emperor as our god, our own personal god who had delivered my long gone world of Colchis from the horrors of the Holy Crusade that had freed us from the greedy heretics who held her in their iron grip.
Lorgar was the one that brought the Emperor to our world and we the proud sons of Colchis took to the stars to spread the gods new realm to bring mankind back to the ways of the divine being. We conquered worlds and we built temples in his honour, we erected great monuments in his name and we were his most devout sons."
The populace cheered and raised their arms to the heavens in praise. Balthazar let them then raised his hand for silence once more.
"The Emperor did not want to have us worship him and he chastised us, compared our great Legion to the likes of one who did not share our Primarchs vision and our Primarch found gods worthy of our devotion. I was happy to follow my master as he urged the Warmaster to take the throne of mankind for himself but the Warmaster was weak in the end he let the Emperor kill him and we were undone.
All that Lorgar promised came to nothing and I – I who had been granted the boon of the gods was exiled to the furthest reaches of the Eye where I could not challenge the failed son of Chaos.
Not only did the failed god send his warriors, my own Legion after me but also he sent my own blood brother after me, my own kin who was too in the sway of the defeated failure to listen to my words. He struck me down and here I have lain whilst my brothers have died in the stars I have laid but I am not idle.
I will unite my brothers and I will take you all to the stars we will unseat the usurper and I will take my place as the head of my legion. I will kill those who defy my will and I will take the throne of man to where it truly belongs! To the real gods!"
The populace cheered him once more and they shouted his name into the sky. Balthazar basked in their adoration and raised his arms shouting his own name to the sky. Warning the gods that their favoured warrior had returned.
Mar Felan clutched his Crozius and a snarl erupted from his throat. He would not suffer to hear any more of this blaspheming he knew now what had to be done, he could not take any from here they had been corrupted by the mad ratings of a heretic and they would all have to die.
"Now my Coryphaus" he seethed "and let none live"
Tor Panarl gave the signal and all hell broke loose.
The skies were filled with fire from the bolters that came from the assault squad and the roar of their jump packs sounding like thunder to their superstitious and primitive ears.
Kane and his brothers dropped in low and fired their bolters into the crowd then moved away again like avenging birds of prey.
The berserkers roared from the trees behind the village hacking and chopping where they moved their yells to Khorne joining the cries and screams around them but if the warriors thought this was going to be easy they were wrong.
Balthazar commanded his warriors of the changer to unleash their magic's and this they did with devastating and murderous resolve.
He had learnt that the seers of the villages wielded powers to do with their environment and as the berserkers cut into the men and women around them their arcane abilities brought them low as the trees behind them up rooted themselves and pushed their branches through the ceramite armour of the attackers.
Jubal and his warriors turned their bolters on the magic users and cut them down with Lorgars name on their lips and as the seers fell dead so too their magic died.
The possessed came loping out of the shadows and took down the women who served as Balthazar's honour guard.
Balthazar grinned a feral grin and allowed the beast within to exit into his body. If they wanted to see the true master of the possessed then he would show them and with a roar he bounded into the fray and attacked the possessed of the 47th.
Mar Felan pointed his Crozius at the warriors that came screaming Khorne and warp magic flowed through his symbol of office striking those who rushed at him and immolating them the epistles of Lorgar running from his mouth stirring his warriors on.
The tactical squad threw their grenades at the hall and shot the bounding snow wolves with precise disciplined fire despite the blood of the tribes and those of their fallen warriors they still moved forward for Word Bearers never retreated.
The explosions of the grenades made the tribesmen and women fall back unsure as to what magic this was that was being used against them.
The anointed along with the Icon Bearer and the Coryphaus tore into them showing them who were the real sons of the gods. Their bolter shells tore through the flesh and erupted through the bodies like they were paper spraying meat blood and bone all over the place.
Balthazar roared in anger the head of one of the Possessed hanging from his taloned hands. The villagers were all dead there was none to come to him. He hurled the severed head at the warriors and roared his challenge.
Mar Felan stepped forward and the anointed surrounded him his Coryphaus by his side and the Icon Bearer the other side. The Dark Apostle removed his helm and handed it to the Icon Bearer allowing Balthazar to see his face.
Balthazar straightened himself and allowed the beast to withdraw and stepped over the wounded body of Garakan. The intent obvious in his eyes. This was what he had waited for his years of incarceration had brought him to this .The Icon Bearer stood forward but the Coryphaus growled at him like an alpha telling a lesser pack member to get back in his place. Silence descended and the warriors waited for their masters' words.
Balthazar cocked his head and laughed a deep booming laugh "Is this all Lorgar can send after me a small host, am I not worth his arrogant attention"
Mar Felan had thought that coming face to face with the man that was not only a former powerful member of Lorgars inner circle but his own kin would chill him but also it did not. Instead he was well aware of what he had to do and he felt no fear he had every confidence that his brothers behind him would not fail him.
"Weapons cannot harm me little brother" Balthazar laughed and like all possessed his wounds healed before their eyes but still Mar Felan stood his ground.
"You are to come with me Balthazar our masters will see to your care" He evenly spoke, his voice calm like the ocean.
"What makes you think I will come with you kin does Lorgar think I will forgive my brother his disrespect to the first born?" Balthazar taunted "Come let us settle this like the brothers of Colchis would settle their differences if you defeat me I will go and face whatever judgement is awaiting me and if I defeat you I will take your host as mine"
Mar Felan met his brothers' gaze and a crooked smile crossed his mouth "deal"
Tor Panarl was uneasy about this; very uneasy about this he did not like the idea that his master would face this monster of a warrior. He activated his vox feed and Jubal saw the light in his visor.
"The moment that whoreson tries to strike down the Dark Apostle you know what to do, do not fail me sergeant"
"As you order my Lord"
Jubal closed his vox feed and watched as the two men met in the middle of the village.
Balthazar and Mar Felan circled each other like animals sizing their quarry and probing for weakness. Balthazar had madness on his side and that would make him unpredictable but Mar Felan had his faith and his conviction on his side and he knew that he was right.
What he had not told his warriors was that he had agreed with Sicarus that if he fell in battle they would not be punished and that they would be allowed to continue to serve the Great Father as the host they were.
It had been agreed on the condition that if it were to happen then his brother was dead. Holy Erebus had been most specific on that point and Mar Felan had agreed. To save his host this man would have to die, there was no bringing him back for his skill as an impassioned speaker and orator would cause more then a few problems in the great brotherhood that was the Word Bearers and right now the last thing they needed was this kind of trouble.
He moved aside as his brother launched at him and brought his knee up catching him in the midriff and sent him sprawling and continued his walking. The litanies of hate coming from his mouth as his brother got to his feet a wry smile across his face.
"You have learnt brother" Balthazar complimented.
"In fires the true faith is forged and will continue to be forged under the guidance of the one true son of chaos" Mar Felan quoted as his brother came at him again and he brought his Accursed Crozius down on the head of his brother "There are no true beauties then the gifts of the gods and all the unbelievers will be swept away in the storm of righteous crusade" He brought his fist round and slammed it into Balthazar's face "seven hundred and thirty third epistles of Lorgar" He bellowed.
Balthazar staggered a little and swung his own fist at his brother sending him flying through the air and crashing into a tree. In a blow that would have broken a normal mans back it merely dazed the Dark Apostle.
"There will come a usurper who will lead Colchis into the great darkness under the guise of liberation, who will betray all with false promises and condemn us to thousands of years of hatred and war" He countered and reaching his brother in a few strides picked him up and threw him back into the centre of the village "the first vision of the Covenant the third year after Lorgars arrival. I too know my quotations brother"
blow after blow rained down on the Dark Apostle but for every blow he received he gave back and finally his strength fading he fell to his knees as his brother approached.
"You gave it your best shot Mar" He sincerely said "but you cannot harm me nothing in your host can harm me"
He raised his brothers' bolter and went to put it to his head when a searing bolt of pure solar power struck him.
He stared at the smoking hole in his chest but the attacker did not give him time to heal Jubal unleashed another powerful blast that tore his arm off then his leg and stood over his Dark Apostle as Balthazar fell to the floor.
He closed his power off and helped the Dark Apostle to his feet.
"My thanks brother" The Dark Apostle breathed reaching for his Crozius.
"My honour my Lord" Jubal bowed his head,
Tor Panarl joined his masters' side "Do we take him back?"
"He is to be taken back" Mar Felan breathed wiping the blood from his nose "He is Sicarus's problem and they will deal with him and I suspect it will not be pretty"
Tor Panarl ordered the unconscious possessed to be taken back to the ship and held in the darkest brig they had. The wounded were to be taken to the infirmary and the dead too where their gene seeds would be harvested and their souls commended to the gods.
Tor Panarl clapped his sergeant on the pauldron "Good job Jubal"
Jubal bowed his head and helped his brothers.
The deepest dungeons of Sicarus were both known and feared for it was here that the Dark Council placed their most dangerous prisoners, former brothers who had gone against the word of Lorgar, brothers who had tired of the long war and betrayed the Word Bearers to the Emperors men and maddened brothers who had tried to assassinate their betters.
Balthazar came round to see Erebus and Kor Phaeron standing before him and he sneered. Both men the highest ranked men after the Primarch turned to face each other and Erebus bowed his head a little letting the Black Cardinal speak.
"Welcome home Balthazar" Kor Phaeron spoke his voice as cold as his heart.
"You can kill me Phaeron I will endure" Balthazar vowed
"I am giving you want you want brother" The Black Cardinal smiled but it never touched his eyes "A meeting with Lorgar"
Balthazar frowned and then his eyes widened in terror as the doors to his cell opened and a great demonic prince entered the room. His charisma never diminished from his days as a Primarch. The room changed into a palatable ocean of power and belief no longer a mere fraction of what he had commanded on Colchis now it was all encompassing.
Fire flowing from his hair and his power greater then it ever had been. Kor Phaeron and Erebus left the cell and walked away as Balthazar screamed for mercy and a quick death.
"Oh no Balthazar" Lorgar grinned an evil and predatory grin "Mercy is one thing you will not receive"
His screams echoed long into the night and long after his body was dead. Lorgar was loving to his sons but those that betrayed him had their soul tormented far worse the his First Apostle ever could and this was his chance to teach the heretic a lesson, one that he would have an eternity of pain to contemplate.