Authors: James Swallow
The heresy unfolds
With thanks to Lindsey Priestley, Marc Gascoigne,
Alan Merrett, Steve Horvath, John Cravato, Matt Farrer and
the GW Bromley crew, and especially to Dan, Graham and
Ben for lighting the way.
is a time of legend.
Mighty heroes battle for the right to rule the galaxy.
The vast armies of the Emperor of Earth have conquered the galaxy in a Great Crusade – the myriad alien races have been smashed by the Emperor's elite warriors and wiped from the face of history.
The dawn of a new age of supremacy for humanity beckons.
Gleaming citadels of marble and gold celebrate the many victories of the Emperor. Triumphs are raised on a million worlds to record the epic deeds of his most powerful and deadly warriors.
First and foremost amongst these are the primarchs, superheroic beings who have led the Emperor's armies of
Space Marines in victory after victory. They are unstoppable and magnificent, the pinnacle of the Emperor's genetic experimentation. The Space Marines are the mightiest human warriors the galaxy has ever known, each capable of besting a hundred normal men or more in combat.
Organised into vast armies of tens of thousands called Legions, the Space Marines and their primarch leaders conquer the galaxy in the name of the Emperor.
Chief amongst the primarchs is Horus, called the Glorious, the Brightest Star, favourite of the Emperor, and like a son unto him. He is the Warmaster, the commander-in-chief of the Emperor's military might, subjugator of a thousand, thousand worlds and conqueror of the galaxy. He is a warrior without peer, a diplomat supreme, and his ambition knows no bounds.
The stage has been set.
Horus Warmaster and Commander of the Sons of Horus Legion
Rogal Dorn Primarch of the Imperial Fists
Mortarion Primarch of the Death Guard
The Death Guard
Nathaniel Garro Battle-Captain of the 7th Company
Ignatius Grulgor Commander of the 2nd Company
Calas Typhon First Captain
Ullis Temeter Captain of the 4th Company
Andus Hakur Veteran Sergeant, 7
Meric Voyen Apothecary, 7th Company
Tollen Sender 7th Company
Pyr Rahl 7th Company
Solun Decius 7th Company
Kaleb Arin Housecarl to Captain Garro
Other Space Marines
Saul tarvitz First Captain of the Emperor's Children
Iacton Qruze, 'the Half-heard' Captain, 3rd Company, Sons of Horus
Sigismund First Captain, Imperial Fists
Maloghurst 'the Twisted' Equerry to the Warmaster
Amendera Kendel Oblivion Knight, Storm Dagger Witchseeker Squad
Malcador The Sigillite, Regent of Terra
Kyril Sindermann Primary iterator
Mersadie Oliton Remembrancer, documentarist
Euphrati Keeler 'The New Saint'; remembrancer
Baryk Carya Shipmaster of the frigate
Racel Vought Executive officer of the frigate
Tirin Maas Vox officer of the frigate
'If the sole trait these Astartes share in common with we mere mortal masses is their bond of brotherhood, then one must dare to ask the question – if that were lost to them, what would they become?'
attributed to the remembrancer Ignace Karkasy
"We are the voice and the clarion call; We are tyrant's ruin and rival's fall.'
from the battle mantra of the Dusk Raiders
with men so it is with silk; it is difficult to change their colours once they have been set!
attributed to the ancient Terran warlord Mo Zi
A Fine Sword
In the void, the vessels gathered. Shifting gently in the silent darkness, the crenellated hulls and great ornate shapes appeared as a congregation of Gothic edifices, cathedral-wrought in their complexity, drifting as if torn from the surface of worlds and carved into warships. Great sculpted bows filigreed into arrow points turned, stately and lethal, to face into the dark on a uniform heading. Torches burned on some, in apparent defiance of the airless vacuum. Plasma fires trailed white-orange streams of turbulent gas from chimneys along the kilometres of gunmetal hulls. These beacons were lit only when conflict was in the moment. The flares of wasteful, daring heat they generated were signs to the enemy.
We bring the light of illumination to you.
The craft that rode at the head of the flotilla was cut from steel the shade of a stormy sky, with a prow sheathed in dark ocean green. It moved as a slow dagger might in the hand of a patient killer, inescapable, inexorable. It bore little in the way of ornament. The ship's only decorations were martial in nature, etchings on the plough-blade bow in letters the height of a man, long lines of text that recalled an age of battles fought, worlds visited, opponents lain to wreckage. Her only adornments of any note were two-fold: a golden spread eagle with two heads across the face of the flying bridge and a great icon made of heavy nickel-iron ore, a single stone skull set inside a hollow steel ring in the shape of a star, at the very lip of the spiked blade, watchful and threatening.
More ships fell into line behind her, taking up a formation that mirrored the spear tip battle-patterns of the warriors that were her payload. In echo of the unbreakable resolve of those fighters, the warship proudly bore a name in High Gothic script across her iron hull:
Behind her came more of her kind, ranging in class and size both larger and smaller: the
Indomitable Will, Barbarus's Sting, Lord of Hyrus, Terminus Est, Undying, Spectre of Death
This was the fleet that gathered beyond the umbra of the sun Iota Horologii, in order to bring the Great Crusade and the will of the Emperor of Man to one of the gargantuan cylinder worlds of the jorgall. Carried in their thousands aboard the ships that served their Legion, the instruments of that will were to be the Astartes of the XIV Legion, the Death Guard.
Kaleb Arin moved through the corridors of the
in a swift dance of motion, holding his heavy cloth-wrapped burden to his chest. Years of indentured service had bred in him a way of walking and behaving that rendered him virtually hidden in plain sight around the towering forms of the Astartes. He was adept at remaining beneath their notice. To this day, even with so many years of duty glittering in the dull rivets fixed to his collarbone, Kaleb had not lost the keen awe at being among them that had filled him from the moment he had bent his knee to the XIV Legion. The lines on his pale face and the grey-white of his hair showed his age, but still he carried himself with the vitality of a man much younger. The strength of his conviction – and of other, more privately held ones – had carried him on in willing, unflinching servitude.
There were few men in the galaxy, he reflected, who could be as content as he was. The truth that never left him was as clear to him now as it had been decades ago, when he had stood beneath a weeping sky of toxic storm clouds and accepted his own limitations, his own failures. Those who continued to strive for what they could never reach, those who punished themselves for falling short of the dizzy heights they would never reach, they were the souls who had no peace in their lives. Kaleb was not like them. Kaleb understood his place in the scheme of things. He knew where he was supposed to be and what it was he was supposed to be doing. His place was here, now, not to question, not to strive, only to
Still, he felt pride at that. What men, he wondered, could hope to walk where he walked, among demigods cut from the flesh of the Emperor Himself? The housecarl never ceased to marvel at them. He kept to the edges of the corridors, skirting the broad warriors as they went about their preparations for the engagement.
The Astartes were statues come to life, great myths in stone that had stepped off their plinths to stride about him. They walked in their marble-coloured armour with green trim and gold flashing, some in the newer, smoother models of the wargear, others in the older iterations that were adorned with spiked studs and heavy-browed helms. These were impossible men, the living hands of the Imperium going to their deeds with shock and awe trailing around them like a cloak. They would never understand the manner in which mortal men looked upon them.
In his indenture, Kaleb knew that some among the Legion considered him with disrespect, as an irritant at best, worth no more than a drooling servitor at worst. This he accepted as his lot, with the same stoic character and dogged acceptance that was the way of the Death Guard. He would never fool himself into thinking that he was one of them – that chance had been offered to Kaleb and he had fallen short in the face of it – but he knew in his heart that he lived by the same code they did, and that his meagre, human frame would die for those ideals if it would serve the Imperium. Kaleb Arin, failed aspirant, housecarl and captain's equerry, was as satisfied with his life as any man could hope to be.
His load was awkward in its wrapping and he shifted it, cradling the object in a diagonal embrace across his chest. Not once had he dared to let it touch the deck or pass too close to an obstacle. It filled him with honour just to hold it, even through a thick cowl of forest green velvet. He found his way forward and up via the twisting and circuitous corridors, over the access ways that crossed the reeking, thunderous industry of the gun decks. He emerged on the upper tiers where the common naval crew were not allowed to venture, into the portions of the ship that were allotted exclusively to the Astartes. Should she wish to, even
captain would need to seek the permission of the ranking Death Guard to walk these halls.
Kaleb felt a ripple of satisfaction, and unconsciously ran a hand over his robes and the skull-shaped clasp at his collar. The device was as big as his palm and made from some kind of pewter. The mechanisms within it were as good as a certified passage paper to the machine-eyes and remote scrying systems on the ship. It was, after a fashion, his badge of office. Kaleb imagined that the sigil was as old as the warship, perhaps even as old as the Legion itself. It had been used by hundreds of serfs, who had died in service to the same role he now fulfilled, and he imagined it would outlast him as well.
Or perhaps not. The old ways were fading, and there were few among the senior battle-brothers of the Death Guard who deigned to keep the careworn traditions of the Legion alive. Times, and the Astartes, were changing. Kaleb had seen things alter, thanks to the juvenat treatments that had extended his life and given him a fragment of the longevity of his masters.
Forever close to the Astartes, but still held at a distance from them, he had seen the slow shifting of mood. It had begun in the months following the Emperor's decision to retire from the Great Crusade, from the time that he had bestowed the honour of Warmaster upon the noble primarch Horas. It continued still, all around him in silent motion, shifting slow and cold like glacial ice, and in his darker moments, Kaleb found himself wondering where the new and emerging way of things would take him and his beloved Legion.
The housecarl's face soured and he shook off the sudden attack of melancholy with a grimace. This was not the time to dwell on ephemeral futures and anxious worries of what might come to pass. It was the eve of a battle that would once again enforce humanity's right to stride the stars unfettered and unafraid.
As he approached the armoury chamber, he glanced out of a reinforced porthole and saw stars. Kaleb wondered which one was the jorgall colony world, and if the xenos had any inkling of the storm about to break upon them.
Nathaniel Garro raised Libertas to his eye line and sighted along the length of the blade. The heavy, dense metal of the sword shimmered in the chamber's blue light, a wave of rainbow reflections racing away from him along the edge as he tilted it down. There were no imperfections visible in the crystalline matrix of the monosteel. Garro didn't look back at his housecarl, where the man waited in a half bow. This is good work.' He gestured for the man to stand. 'I'm pleased.'
Kaleb gathered the velvet cloth in his hands. 'It's my understanding that the servitor who attended your weapon was a machine-smith or a blade maker in its previous life. Some elements of its original artistry must remain.'
'Just so.' Garro gave Libertas a few practice swings, moving swiftly and easily in the confines of his Mark IV power armour. He let the smallest hint of a smile creep out across his gaunt face. The nicks that the blade had suffered during the Legion's pacification of the Carinea moons had troubled him, the result of a single mis-blow on his part that cut through an iron pillar instead of flesh. It was good to have his favourite weapon in his hands once more. The substantial mass of the broadsword completed him, and the idea of venturing into combat without it had troubled Garro on some level. He would not allow himself to voice words like 'luck' and 'fate' except in mocking humour, and yet without Libertas in his scabbard he had to confess he felt somehow... less protected.