It is the dawn of the 43rd millennium, and there is no end in sight to the suffering that plagues the galaxy.
The Necrontyr rise in yet greater numbers, their enslaved gods cackle at what they have become.
The Eldar still linger, arrogance turning to despair as their fate turns to destruction.
The Great Devourer spreads ever further, a hunger never sated driving it onwards.
The barbaric Orks and their brutal lust for carnage sees them prosper in a galaxy torn to shreds, the eternal Waaagh echoes through the void.
The Naïve Tau and their Greater Good falter as they seek to expand, their dogma crushed by reality. Hope turns to ash in their mouths.
The Imperium fights no longer to crusade but to maintain, it's endless armies of brave mortals and valiant immortals barley enough to hold back the threats that assail them. Their Golden Guardian weeps as they suffer.
The defilers, the dreaded Dark Eldar in their kingdom of decadence cackle ever onwards, their archons and agonies growing in power from the bounty of a universe at war.
The doom forces of dissolution grow mighty, their dark gods fueled by the death, rage, despair, lust and greed of a war-torn galaxy, warbands of Traitor Astartes bring ruin upon the lives of innocents, dark malevolent things with unreal energies caper forth from the eye of terror, endless crusades launch from it's damning maw.
This is a time of madmen and paranoia, where evil is transcendent, as all people hold darkness within their hearts where daemons lurk in waiting. Where the Eldar fade, where the Tyranids hunger, where the Orks cry for war, where the God-Emperor is held prisoner on his own throne, unable to save those who he gave his physical being for.
It is where Dark Gods cackle as they push the dagger deeper into the heart of reality.
It is a place where to fear is to lose to the disparity.
It is a place where Chaos is supreme and Daemons run unopposed- free to slaughter and in turn be banished only to return once more. The undying face no reprisal as their pawns play on a board with no rules, there is no balance in this place, for the Anathema was brought low by a foul champion long ago.
They have won, now all that is left to the fell forces is to slide in the knife.
After all, what have they to fear; they are fear itself.
The past. It's memory long. It's hatred deep. It's patience endless.
The past never truly dies, though sometimes it may be forgotten. It is fixed, though departed. It waits for strings to pass by and those that remain hidden in its flow must be strong enough to grab hold of these strands that lead to the present.
These strings of chance span the vast space of reality, and sometimes they fall into the great tears in time and existence that are opened as the dissolution comes ever closer to its apex. As Immaterium and reality grow ever more interconnected, these strands fall ever further into the realm of inexistence and possibility. They flow long into the untamed realms of Chaos, far beyond the pantheon of the immortal fiends, to realms where no beast dares travel anymore, for long memories buried still linger their warnings of these places.
These are the dead realms, the old warp, the place of possibility and old powers long since faded but still watching, waiting for the time to feed upon the supple ash of daemon flesh and drink deep of their souls.
These are the realms of the Dark Soul. The palace of the warp-bane.
Krauzgracht the Unbroken; Warlord of Chaos, slaughter-fiend of ten thousand worlds and champion of Khorn, it was he who took the heads from ten of the Emperors bastard children- the silver knights who sought to deny chaos its victory; he wore their skulls around his neck even now. He saw the death of loyalist champions- broken under his boots.
He brought ruin upon the Ork Warboss Fanggutta with ease and conquered an entire system in Khorns name. He has seen to it that entire worlds were sacrificed to the red gaze of the Blood-God. He was a monster in the guise of a fallen Astartes, his soul burned with the red light of a Daemon of Khorn. Clad in an ancient plate as much as a part of him as he was of it, his massive terminator armor was wreathed in barbed chains, a cape of flesh from the Exarchs of countless flayed Eldar hung about his torso
A fanged auto cannon leaked with daemonic ichor and a terrible mockery of an imperial thunder hammer was grasped in his other hand, warp energies swirled about his form and the ground at his feet seemed to actively reject his very presence.
His anger was bottomless; he saw life burn before him many times, the sight of fear was old to him, as all before him trembled in the shadow of his might.
The feeling of it was new to him however.
He harkened back to the old days of the crusade, where he shouted the mantra of Space Marines, that they knew no fear.
That was a lie, for now he knew it, and his mind screamed at its existence within him. His corrupted twin hearts raced as if to purge the emotion from his veins. The daemon within his hammer wailed in terror as well, it thrashed within its rune-locked confines, desperate to escape it's vassal.
He ran from a monster greater than he could ever be.
He knew no words to describe it- he's slaughtered Grey-Knights and scoffed at the Damned Legionaries- the burning-bone Angyls of the Corpse-God, his wrath manifest- he would face a full score of those silent wraiths bedecked in fury a thousand times over rather than this singular, frail being.
His fury has long since been replaced by doubt, and then fear, into terror. The sight of seeing his chosen berserkers put low with almost dismissive ease, and then-
He smashed aside another of the decayed stone walls, the ruins yielded to his bulk and almost exploded outwards. For the first time in his countless eons of war did he rage against his twisted body, no longer was it of that of an Astartes but now that of a Daemon infused Warlord, cumbersome and immortal, immune to harm, but just that- cumbersome. He could no longer move in the swift and precise manner of his pawns in pilfered power armor. He had only ever regretted assuming this form in the manner as he could no longer lead the charge into the glory of combat, as to do so would mean for his forces to shuffle as a stately, placid pace behind him as he stomped angrily across the fields of battle.
The stonework of the bridge was pummeled beneath the weight of his boots as he pounded across the span of the thing, his body carrying him ever closer to the point of origin, the place where they had made planet fall on this damned world. The crumbling spires seemed to mock him from behind the mountain that separated these two castles, each one though was shared in the faded working of their halls, ancient bloodstones and desiccated corpses lay everywhere, ancient beyond ancient armor lay scattered about. He was about to dismiss one such of these armors he stepped over until he realized it as Astartes plate.
One of his berserker's, one of his fiends that were supposed to stay and hold open the portal, the chained sorcerer their entrance and exit both.
He halted his desperate retreat for only a moment, as he saw the death of his escape sprawl before him. Bolter wounds perforated the back of his warrior; each one was placed with extreme precision and tact.
He felt his malice spike, but every moment was a new education in Fear, doubt sundered his rage and devoured his contempt. Every action was second-guessed, his thoughts now controlled by the urge to survive- to persist.
He had to get off this damned planet; to fail in doing so would mean- He turned his bulk, eyes searching the tarnished palace halls behind him. He snarled, blood dripped from lidless eyes.
Enough! He was Khornate! He would smash this fear like all other things that challenged him!
He lumbered around the corner, his frame scraping the sides of the narrow passage; he forced his way through the decayed sewer. The eroded face of a cliff greeted his visage, once green grass grew in failing patches as he lumbered down stairs that began to crumble away long before he and his ilk set foot on this lost planet. Further back, amidst ancient ruins he saw what he had prayed to not see.
A loyalist Thunderhawk, clad in the colors of the damned Dark-Angles, children of the Lion assailed his chosen. They were after Calio, no doubt, the traitor among traitors. His Warband of chosen chased the Fallen-fool across the eye of terror after he made off with a prized relic: an Ancient STC that he had pried from the hands of the mechanicus itself, he had followed that exploratory fleet for decades for this opportunity, and that damned Fallen Angle had stolen it!
He may or may have not bartered with the Dark Angles, in return for the location of Calio they would look the other way while they raided a holy world of the Corpse Emperor, full of his Whores in battle plate. He never once expected them to honor such a deal, he himself was plotting to betray them as soon as they found the damned fool Calio, but for them to betray him before he could betray them was unthinkable! It brought rage into his hearts, a paradoxical rage that was soothing to only one who knew the ways of the Blood God.
For the moment he overpowered the fear that raced through his system as he let loose a howling challenge that only a servant of Khorn could possess, his hammer raised high and the arm mounted Auto cannon roared as fiery bolts of Daemonic origin screeched, the tormented shells exploding into warpfire upon impact.
He faced down ten of the Dark Angles, each clad in terminator plate, deep cowls drawn down over their heads. He had caught them by surprise, they did not expect the Warlord himself to face them so soon; but they did not know the fate he had suffered on this world, they did not know that he was the last of his band of thousands.
They did not know fear, like he knew now.
Cursed rounds thundered against their armor, the field of an iron halo broke and the following burst of fire tore into the drawn cowl and pulped the noble features that it hid. He cycled another drum into the feed, by now they had returned fire- stormbolters barking in retaliation, but they knew as well as he that such weapons were ill suited to the task of felling a terminator clad chaos warlord, and he weathered the storm as he would a heavy rain. It was the assault cannon that drew his attentions. The incessant whine of its rotating barrels barley loud enough to announce its presence before the deluge of automatic weapons fire followed.
Armor Piercing rounds found their range- tearing up the cliff face behind him and tearing a deep gouge across his right pauldron. He redirected his auto cannons twin barrels towards the source of such a maelstrom of punishment even as his armor was cratered by bolt shots and armor piercing assault cannon rounds. His return volley struck true.
To his disgust he saw he had only managed to 'wound' the assault cannon-bearing loyalist, his arm had been torn off- quite a feat, he would admit from such an angle, but an auto cannon was anything but discerning in what wounds it dealt. He racked another drum as he began his advance down, where he would meet his foes and if fortune would have him- a means of escape, be it their thunder hawk or a desecrated portal, he no longer cared. He chanced another quick glance back the way he came.
The Dark angels had adapted, but it was no surprise, even as he ejected the last few rounds from his auto cannon into the newly erected storm-shield phalanx, the last burst of from his now useless cannon plinked off the energized slabs of adamantium, and so he shook the daemon infused weapon free from his arm, the chitin black fangs that held it to his form chattering as he knocked them away, letting the weapon fall to the dead earth. Now limbered and free, he took his hammer in a double fisted grip, relishing the way the haft pulsed underneath his gauntlets, the promises of daemonic power coursing through his system if he were to let go of his mortal frame, and as always, he ignored these entrapments.
He let himself be lost in the lust of battle, fear forgotten for the time being as he threw himself into the midst of the Dark Angles, his hammer howled with him, daemonic maws warping into existence as he brought it down on the first storm-shield, the maws gripped and tore at the plate, sundering it as it smashed through the protective field, the shield itself, and into the Dark Angel beneath. Such was the result of his first strike, his weapon tore free as he thundered past, his heavily armored frame knocking aside those who stood shoulder to shoulder with their now fallen brother, a grisly rent in his chest plate- he swung around even as the first regained his bearings and drew a power maul, energy rippled across the striking flat- he tore it to shreds with his second strike, the weapon smashed to bits as his hammer made contact with the hand that gripped it and followed up into a rising strike that caught the Dark Angel just under the jaw- his face was pulverized and ripped free.
Two! From behind, an axe rose to strike him down, but Krauzgracht was the quicker, he spun and drove the butt of his hammer into the helm of the sergeant- the talons ripped through the visor and into the brain.
Three! From the left this time, a stormbolter aimed for his head, he loosened the grip on his hammer as he swung, the momentum now putting his grip at the base and extending its range, the flat of his weapon pulverized the terminator on contact, crumpling the loyalists armor just under the arm that held the stormbolter, and turning his insides into a red mist.
Four! A bellow of rage from one wielding a thunder hammer, energy discharges erupting from its head- this will be tricky. He let the momentum from his last kill flow into his swing- he tore his hammer through the body of the stormbolter bearing Angel, his armor giving him the strength to do so, and spun as it tore free. His strike was brutal and fast, it had to be- just as the Angel raised his thunder hammer, Krauzgracht brought his own- still ripe with the blood of the freshly slain up from under and into the terminators guard, the hammer striking true and smashing through the legs of the terminator in a single swing. He did not get the chance to feel pain as the backswing from Krauzgracht splintered his helm and skull. The Chaos Warlord howled in savage delight, blood erupting from the pulped remains and misting in the air. He could smell the blood so clearly now, and the pulsing rage in the back of his head started to beat a steady trip hammer rhythm, he eyed the next contender with a hungry, feral intensity-
And then the Captain stepped forward.
He was dressed in Errant mark powered armor, the Eighth mark. This was artificer armor, the embroidery of the mantle, the calligraphy inscriptions so lovingly attended to in gold and silver. His trained eyes could spot that with ease, and he held with him an ancient blade, nothing else. He was not surprised, if anything, the Sons of the Lion needed only a blade to best whatever foe faced them. Anything else would just get in the way.
The Dark angel captain tilted up his winged helm, and raised his blade to him; Krauzgracht the Unbroken grinned, and met his challenge.
To witness this clash was a privilege unworthy to those who survived his charge, Krauzgracht told himself as the arm that once bore his Auto cannon was torn away from him by the sparking sword, and his Daemon hammer cunningly parried aside from his remaining hand. Now weaponless, and without a means to guard against the ancient blade the captain wielded with such disgusting ease, Krauzgracht did what came naturally.
With a savage roar he leaped forwards, and although the Captain countered by driving his blade through the chaos warlords chest, Krauzgracht was filled with the rage of Khorn and he was beyond mortal wounds.
He tore the helmet from the Captains head, his armored fist crushing the winged helmet, the sudden severance from its neural interface briefly stunning the Captain, but not stunning him so much as he forgot to tear his blade free from the chest of the savage warlord. He yanked it free and stumbled back. He let instinct override and brought his blade up in an effort to parry an unseen blow- the flat of the blade deflecting the path of the chaos warlords fist just enough that it missed his exposed head by mere inches, while the impact was not lethal the result was- the blade, now weak in the captains grip and its grip slick with blood- was knocked away. Krauzgracht roared in triumph, and fell upon the captain, kicking one foot out and knocking him to the ground.
He raised his fist to bring it down upon the exposed skull of the snarling Dark Angel- who had fought with much skill and savagery- for a loyalist dog. He was to give him a warriors death from a champion of Khorn, but then he was reminded why the Dark Angles were the chapter truly devoid of Honor.
The treacherous chainfist cut through his back and severed his spine in one savage motion. His kill denied, he fell to a knee, the treacherous Terminator brought his chainfist down on his back once again, sending him sprawling into the small clearing at the center of this would-be arena, his bulk crushed what seemed to be a pile of ash and bone.
Captain Azgia stood; his vision coming back into focus as his enhanced physiology repaired what wounds it could, for he had many.
Not as many as many as most of his brothers, but enough that he could not feel most of his battered body. He was sure his armor would need many days with the techmarines before it could see war once again.
Five brothers dead at the hands of Krauzgracht, on this day, how many had he slain in total? Five hundred? Maybe more? It was of no matter though. Krauzgracht had been delivered what one such as him deserved, death and dishonor at the hands of the Dark Angles. They had pursued their true quarry, the Fallen Angel Calio to this damned world, and had yet to find him. They knew he could not escape, and it would be mere hours before they bound him in chains and left him to the tender mercies of Asmodiah.
All the better, Azgia now told himself, spitting a gobbet of congealed blood and retrieving his blade, quickly running a skilled eye along its surface to ensure it had sustained no fouling.
This place felt… Wrong.
Not merely wrong in the way that came from being nearly beyond the light of the Atranomicon, but at the fundamental level he knew it to be damned in more ways then he could imagine.
They saved what they could of their brothers Gene-Seed, the brother apothecary had lost an arm to the cursed Krauzgrachts' cannon, yet he still lived.
The Emperors grace lies in small mercies.
And the Emperors benediction lies within his Space Marines.
The foul Krauzgracht still drew breath; albeit barley- his body was ruined by brother Galin's chainfist. His back was a ruined mess of flesh and metal, yet the Warlord still clung to life, cursing and spitting foul things at him and his Brothers, mainly about their lack of expansive genitals. Not for long, though. Azgia would see to that. He wordlessly planted his boot on the gorgot of the Warlord, his relic sabre raised to deliver an executioners blow.
It was then that Krauzgracht laughed.
"You think yourself victorious? Don't you, Dark Angel." The half growl half snarl of the Warlord was toxic to his ears, yet he listened for some reason. "You think I would attack you alone? I am Korhnate yes, but I am no fool! My Warband is dead, Loyalist, destroyed at the hands of a beast that saw me flee for the first time in my long millennia, I was but a child before it's might,"
Azgia had heard the confession of many traitors before he laid them low, he knew the names of many warlords and champions, and each boasted himself to be unbeatable, and he killed them all. Yet Krauzgracht was one he never thought to do the same, Krauzgracht never boasted his victories; he merely launched himself into battle and took their skulls before moving onto his next quarry, a brutal and efficient hunter. Yet here he was, dying, and he did not curse his killer? He even admitted to weakness, to fear of all things.
This is what made Azgia realize the folly that was his for trespassing on this planet, for there was no other word for this action.
"You will die today, Dark Angel, but not at my hand, you will die as Calio did, and as all my Warriors." He thought Krauzgracht dead as his head slumped to the side, but it was only when he followed his gaze did he speak again. "Already your doom comes, your souls are now forfeit. To both your Corpse god and my Dark Gods." Krauzgracht died then, laughing. His body heaved one last time before the ancient Astartes of the World Eaters fell silent and cold.
"Calio Is dead? The traitor speaks lies. As they all do." Around him, his brothers gathered, but Azgia stayed silent, his mind pondered the last words of Krauzgracht.
"No," Azgia spoke at last, his sword's glow faded as he thumbed the power rune and returned the blade to his side where it maglocked. "This traitor had no reason to lie, mad as he may be." The Captain swept his gaze across the ruined landscape. Dark clouds hung overheard. The decayed ruins of what must have once been a grand courtyard lay in pieces; a graveyard lay just beyond the hill. Beside the body of Krauzgracht lay a small fire pit it would seem, a twisted blade plunged into the ground. It was old.
"Regardless, even if he still lived, what way would he flee? This planet is lost, this system damned and this world is dead. We need only shatter this planet and be done with it. I say we linger here no longer."
The ramp to the Thunderhawk dropped by his command, and together he and his brothers embarked upon the mighty war machine. Heedless of the fact that as they boarded, one of the brothers of Azgia paused and grasped the twisted sword of the fire pit and pulled it out of it's home. Studying the strange blade the Marine saw fit to claim it for himself; he would forge it in the fires of the Rock later, and make it a blade worthy of an Astartes to commemorate the deaths of Krauzgracht and Calio.
The rush, the sweet taste of life fading from the things eyes as it was drowned in the sea inside itself.
It ran metal hands across the smooth surface of the armor, tracing one finger around the gaping wound that leaked black blood; the blade slid free, another gout splashed across the mantle and onto the floor.
It had been so long…
It was nearly drunk with mad greed and lust; the room behind it was a mess with corpses, countless giant, armored corpses, each of them dead by blade, each of them drained of life and flame. All too soon the body was cold and empty, life that once filled it sucked dry. Already the hunger gnawed at its mind, the black skulking jaws whispered into its subconscious, fueling the desires that seemed now only to exist so as to drive what little remained of the shells' own awareness.
Thirty—no, fifty- of the red giants things had attacked it this time, far less than before, back in the Catacombs and the ruins of Anor Londo. It had been surprised at first; it had been eons since the last living in this land had died to feed its hunger. It couldn't even remember the last time it had fed; only that it had been long, long ago.
Immortality was such a tiresome thing…
It briefly wondered if the half-breed felt the same, perhaps it should have asked her before it spilled her bowels across the stone and devoured her sweet, succulent soul.
It caressed the snarling helm, cool to the touch and flecked with its owner's vita. It should have given thanks to these interlopers; really, it had been so long since the scent of blood roused it's dead heart to the familiar beat of slaughter.
Laughing would be appropriate right now, but it was too hungry. It could vaguely make out sharp thunderous cracking sounds in the distance, it gave it reason to pause. It had hunted those that made such noise before. It rose from its position of straddling the armored being.
More of them.
More souls to feed upon.
A blade returned to its sheath, and deceptively soft metal steps echoed down the ruined hallway, craters and gauges in the wall marking this place as one of combat turned to death.
The Thunderhawk was not as cramped as Azgia thought it should have been. But he expected as much, Krauzgracht did not leave much to be retrieved of their fallen battle brothers. Their bodies had crumpled under the might of his Daemonic thunder hammer. Brothers had fallen, but they died doing what was asked of them. The chapter could not ask for much more than that.
His eyes traces across what brothers remain, Tempos, Cruion, Thanus, Gavius… "Brother, What is that?" He snapped, his attention drawn to the long metal spike that Brother Gavius grasped. "It is a blade My Lord. It is a blade unlike any I have seen." He responded, his voice taciturn and cool.
"It came from the planet?" Azgia asked.
"Indeed, from a pit of flame."
"It is tainted metal." Azgia concluded. "It must be disposed of."
His law was word and Brother Gavius silently hissed at the decision, his eyes tracing the edge of the blade one last time. "Very well, I shall break it myself." He sighed. "But first I shall remember its make and construct, I wish to forge such a blade myself." He met his Captains gaze, asking this of him. Azgia nodded curtly, agreeing to the compromise.
That was the mistake that damned them. For if they knew the Object they ferried, they would not be so keen as to bring it to the worlds beyond.
-/Flames of Contempt/-
The thunderhawk touched down with all the grace a several ton warship could manage. It was testament to the skill of the pilot that the impact of the landing gears upon the deck plating was only slightly jarring. The docking clamps engaged normally, and without the need of the ministrations of a Techpriest.
The ramp lowered, and Azgia was the first off, the steps of his power-armored boots echoing in the cavernous hanger bay of the strike cruiser. Rife with devotionals and purity seals, the entire ship was more akin to a shrine to the Machine-god. The silent red-robed figures haunted almost every corner, snaking mechendrites plugged into ports and cogitator terminals. Azgia never liked the scions of the Machine God, never trusted them. Their ilk was of a different creed and calling.
He didn't ruminate over the scions-of-mars for much longer, the dead were led off next, marines carrying their lost brothers upon a slab of metal. They would be interred in the Flames Reclusium, their armor blessed and removed so that another may wear it one day. Five empty suits of armor would decorate the armory, previous names etched upon their sacred surface, waiting for the next marine to carry those names into battle with him when the time came.
Five brothers, veterans of the deathwing. Lost. Now they were but names.
Azgia still could hardly believe they had lost that many.
Azgia looked back at him, that long, slender spike of old iron from the cursed planet was clutched in one hand. It looked puny when wielded by the hulking terminator.
Azgia stilled his tongue before he could speak, he knew he had agreed to let his Brother memorize its shape and temper, though he could not understand why he would want to forge a blade of its kind- it looked more for stabbing and ceremony then actual combat use. "Brother." He relented, and spoke.
"Yes, my lord?" Gavius broke off from his route that would undoubtedly take him to the forge. "What is it that you need?"
"That blade," Azgia gestured. "Have the brother librarian scour it for warp taint, then you may forge something of its shape in blessed adamantium." It was a simple precaution, and he could see no harm in doing so, though he still couldn't shake the feeling that it should not have been taken. The feeling that he should not have let that damned skewer be carried aboard the Flame of Contempt. "Of course, Captain Azgia." Gavius was amicable enough, if anything Azgia could assume that was his plan all along. He felt guilty for assuming otherwise.
He would have reprimanded Gavius for glancing at the spike of metal, should have, even. Gavius was a veteran, a long serving one with many marks of honor in his duty to the emperor and the chapter. Pursuing any course of recrimination against him would sit ill with the rest of his squad. He was still young, and his captaincy was fresh. He only had several decades as a member of the deathwing, and there were those who spoke behind his back of more worthy leaders then he.
He couldn't afford to look weak, but standing against the Honorable Gavius over something so minor as this would not bode well for the future.
He dismissed Gavius to his duties. Azgia took his leave the hanger immediately, though, instead of making for the reclusium to oversee the interment of his fallen brothers, he made for the bridge.
-/Flames of Contempt/-
Codicer Sevian felt the things approach before Gavius had even turned the corner that lead to his chambers. It was a cold emptiness not unlike the aura of a blank or pariah. It was restrained. That was what caught his attention, that, and the core that he sensed at the center: A roiling core of warp power surrounded by a hateful emptiness.
He rose as the doors swung open and Gavius entered without preamble. Out of respect he kept his preternatural senses from leeching the thoughts from his brothers conscious, but it did not take warp sight to understand that he saw fit to make a blade like it.
"Gavius." The Librarian nodded, removing his helm. His expression was tinged with doubt. His brother picked up on it almost at once. "Something troubles you Sevian?" Gavius asked, also removing his helm in the librarians' presence. Absently he regarded the room's interior, scrolls and tomes lined the shelves that made up the chambers walls, votive candles and lumen globes were scattered about. A brass relief of an Aquila swung from the ceiling on chains.
"That sliver you carry," Sevian asked. "Where did you get it?" Gavius shrugged off the whip sharp mannerisms of the Librarian; he was usually aloof in nature and did not take kindly to interruptions of whatever tome he was delving into. "From the planet below-" The blade was plucked from his grasp by the psychic pull of the Librarian, it levitated gently in the air before them, twisting and turning with invisible pulses of power. "You took an artifact from a warp tainted planet?" The accusation was clear enough.
"The planet was not tainted as we first suspected, my lord." Gavius fell back to the old honorific; Sevian was clearly agitated by this development. "There were no visible signs of corruption aside from the presence of the traitors."
"The powers of chaos are subtle and often times invisible to those without the curse of witch sight. What you might think to be a chapel may secretly be a hive of warpspawn." He spoke as if schooling a dull child. Gavius bristled silently at the hidden barb.
"I will be taking possession of this object, it reeks of ill-powers." Clipped and curt, Sevian dismissed the Terminator from his sanctum, Gavius obeyed without question, yet he was still glowering at the loss of his prize.
The rites of Exterminautus were lengthy, and given to long bouts of silent waiting as ancient astropathic channels were opened, and clearances gained. Only the Inquisition could commence the death rites of an entire world without preamble, as their power was second only to the emperor. Any other organization that wished to commit to holy Exterminautus was forced to go through the proper channels of authority to gain both the weapons and writ of consent that would enable one to consign a planet to the cold and unforgiving void.
The Dark Angels were different.
Azgia ran his gauntleted hand over the runes that made up the cogitator panel, on its screen was a simple list of options concerning the firing sequences of the Strike Cruisers orbital bombardment systems. Only one gun was currently loaded, and its payload was no simple macro shell, nor were any of the lance batteries primed for precision strikes against surface installations.
Just one, simple, cannon.
The Life Eater Virus, banned from use by the imperium through the holy writ of the Inquisition for reasons unknown. Subsequently, very few canisters of the lethal toxin remained in the Imperium. The Dark Angels held a disturbingly large stockpile of the compound, and a smidgeon of that contagion was given to Azgia for the purpose of this mission. The volatile chemical was already sealed in the primed macro battery, the warhead was set to release an aerosol spray of the repugnant stuff as it fell to the planet below, allowing for maximum dispersal. Once the virus had reduced all organic matter into biological slurry, the warhead would detonate from wherever the parachute had let it fall, and the explosion would ignite the atmosphere, and reduce this tainted world into a lifeless rock. Not even bacterial life would survive.
"This is the power that Inquisitors wield." He breathed. "To hold the fate of systems in the palm of their hand…"
"My lord?" A serf approached, head bowed in respect, and robes spotless. "The Priests await your command. The Honorable Chaplain does as well."
Reminded of his duties, Azgia deftly swiped his hand across the Cogitator screen, and tapped the 'Fire' option. A slight rumble from outside the ship to his left was all he needed to hear to know that the warhead was already on its parabolic course into the damned worlds' atmosphere. "Tell the techpriests that we can be off as soon as they beseech the machine spirits." He glanced to the Serf, who bowed lower. "I go to attend my fallen brothers."
Dust in the sky, an orange haze streaking along behind a fallen star.
Dead eyes stare upwards, eyes that have seen far more than any sane being should, but it made no claims to sanity, it hadn't for many long eons.
The dust floated, drifting along like a rusty cloud.
It paid no heed to the fields that fell fallow in overgrown pastures beyond as the orange haze fell across the land, seeming to devour shattered towns below the grand fallen spires of Anor Londo.
It sat, and waited.
Something had stolen from its fire.
Something had taken its keep. Its trinket reminder of days long past. A worn boot kicked at the bones of a crushed fire pit. The red hulking behemoth had been heavy, but it had rolled it aside eventually.
It had not been pleased to discover what was missing.
It glanced away, seeing the roiling orange spill out over the crags of the distant asylum. Pouring into the gap between it and the blighted mountains. It wondered if the Asylum had already been swallowed.
It could tell that this world was dying. The silence that had haunted it was gone, now there was only a trill sound of decay. It was no stranger to decay but this was total annihilation. A decomposing of all that these feted realms had stood for.
As the orange death crept up the sides of the Bonfire sanctuary, it wondered what oblivion would taste like. It didn't stop thinking this, even as its atrophied frame began to sag, muscle stripped from bones, and eyes turning to slurry.
Sevian found he could not besmirch Brother Gavius for his kleptomaniacal tendencies, as he too was finding himself increasingly intrigued by the twisted blade. It was currently held atop a pedestal, handle gripped by a two pronged vice. Sevian held his hands palms down over the blade, as if he were a preacher baptizing a newborn child.
Psychic energy played off his fingers, caressing the blade, each tendril scuttling about its surface, trying to pick apart its secrets. He had felt the ship shudder twice in the past hour.
The first was the signal that announced the death of a world, the second, was the engines spooling up and preparing to carry them away from the planet and into warpspace once the priests had beseeched the machine spirits of the warp drive properly, and the Gellar fields were made doubly secure.
Azgia had came by just minutes ago, inviting Sevian to attend the service that would honor the fallen brothers, but the librarian had paid no heed to hearing him, instead focusing his mental efforts on unraveling the mysterious of this damned strip of metal.
As if it were alive.
An iron skin dancing with a formless fluidity that did not twist nor bend but seemed to shift and expand—growing in ones mind but inert in their eyes. The entirety of this blade seemed wrong, seemed tormented, but not in ways likened to the corrupted charms of Chaos.
This was something wholly different and all the more terrible for it. The unblemished surface was of an unknown metal: strong and resilient to the touch of his hands and machines. The blade itself though was of little martial use.
If anything it was purely ceremonial, perhaps needed for some sort of wicked pagan ritual? If such were the case, then the chapters Chaplin's would see to its disposal. But for now, it pulsed, harmlessly, the seemingly endless core of power leached into the aura of blank nothingness that surrounded it.
But it was in there, hidden. Occluded by the smothering Empty.
A flicker, a recurrence.
As if finding a long lost memory tucked away deep within the confines of eternity, endlessly searching until the remembrancer at long last lives.
The Librarian focused his mental strength his eyes clenched in concentration as he drew the spark he felt from the metal thing, it struggled, and it resisted his commands. "Damn you, spiteful thing, what does it take?" Again he imagined closing a fist around the soul-spark he saw within the ornate ceremonial knife, and he pulled, unceasing even when he felt as if his astral projection would burn its false self on the impossibly hot ember.
And it was then that the blade burst from it's confines, it's metal edges cutting deep into the plate decking, ethereal flames seemed to dance wildly around the sword, two twins whips of fire circled the hilt, burning softly as an unseen energy buffeted the Librarian, it repulsed him but at the same time did not dissuade him from further action. Already the Librarian had taken swift steps back as the blade impaled itself in the deck.
The psychic warrior did not know what to make of this development, as he drew forth a energy sheathed force sword holding it in a guard position he stared at the twisted blade that now seemed to come life,
It was then that several different things occurred, the first would be the psychic hammer blow the librarian staggered back from, followed by the navigators upon the ship screaming in agony and Astropaths clawing at where eyes had once been, curses tumbled from their lips as they spat forth forbidden knowledge that granted them the Emperors mercy in the form of a bolt pistol to the temple, only seven of the original thirty remained. The last anomaly would be the most alarming, for several seconds the Gellar fields failed.
Panic erupted across the ship as alarms blared, warning of Daemon incursions.
They never came. The Daemons. The Cruiser continued onwards, it's prow cutting through raw warp stuff. The Scions of Mars on board of the Strike Cruiser confirmed that their Geller Fields had failed, the cogitators that were slaved to them were silent and dead, their machine spirits cold, yet still no warp anomalies intruded upon the Strike Cruiser.
If the Astropaths, those that remained would dare to see with their warpsight they would see the mad cackling Daemons that plagued the warp all around their sanctuary-ship, silent and cursing. Circling like stalking predators surrounding a cornered bull, hunger held at bay by caution. The feast on board was sweet and tender, but the mortals… They held in their possession that. …Thing.
The Librarian stood before the relic, the twisted blade, and the twin flames danced slowly around the dull metal. His mind ached; the throbbing power this relic gave off was like no other. Every living thing gave off a psychic presence in the warp. Human minds, quick bright bursting glorious sparks that faded as quickly as they began, the Tau: muddied and dull embers, Daemons: insidious and corrupting shadows, the Tyranids: theirs was the absence of presence save for the dominating hive mind, the Eldar, subtle, bright flames that that danced along the strings of the Warp, Necrons, empty carcasses filled with the baleful hate of dread C'tan. The Astartes, such as he, brilliant golden conflagrations that forced back the shadows.
This had a spark, but just the echo of one. It reached outwards and bypassed all barriers; his own psychic defenses were not breached, but bypassed as if they were simply not there to begin with. The pain it imposed on his mind was immense, a carnivorous destroying pressure that nearly brought him to his knees and as he moved for the exit so far away it seemed.
So great was the pain in his mind, that he did not foresee the blade that struck him low.