Hand of Corruption
A Thousand Son Sorcerer
Pride: Devoted. Khaldun’s Path was set long ago. The Imperium died the day that Prospero burned. It was the death of knowledge, of drive, and the beginning of stagnation. +5 will -5 Str
Disgrace: Regret. To be a hair’s breath away from the completion of utopia 10,000 years ago, and to see if fall, that is the disgrace. The people of Prospero still scream. It was their screams I chased to the Vortex. I hear them still. +5 Coruption. +10 (Easier) to intimidate me.
Motivation: Perfection. I do not stand alone in this motivation. My legion is genetically driven to seek more, and increasingly rare, sources of knowledge and power, sources to free us, sources to influence the architecture of fate. Those sources to change us, and perfect us. +5 Will, -3Str, -3 Int
S: 30(50)(9) (Unat S4) (Power Armor)
T: 40 (8) (Unat T4)
Infamy Uses (based on corruption level and Tzeentch alignment): Remove all fatigue, heal d5, add 1 success after test, reroll a test.
Armor: 8 all
EQUIPMENT, ITEMS, CYBERNETICS
Power Armor 1. Powered 2. Auto Senses 3. Sealed Osmotic. Remenent of mutation: WINGS
Talisman of Tzeentch
Refractor field. Blocks hits on 1-30 overloads on 1-10
Good Quality Skeletal Petrification (Iron Jaw, 10 tests)
Astartes Combat knife
Precognition. Bonus to evasion tests.
Mind over Mater. 3 uses. Shoving. Throwing. Moving stuff.
Telekinetic Shield. Grants extra armor that also works against warp weapons.
Thought Sending. Hola playa! Send your thoughts to everyone for like… Kilometers and shit.
Boon of Tzeentch. Do you not have enough power. Here take some of mine… mwahahahaa.
Common Lore War
CL: Screaming Vortex
Forbiden Lore: Astartes
FL: Long War
FL: Horus Heresy
Linguistics: Low gothic
Scholastic Lore: Occult
Talents and Traits
Legion Weapon Training
Heightened Senses: Sight, Hearing
Nerves of Steel
Reisist: Cold, Heat, Poison
Psyker, Bound to Tzeentch, Lv 3
Unat Str4, T4, Willpower2
Space Marine Implants
No blood loss
No pen to perc for being awake for a long time
+20 vs ingested poison
Eat foe to gain knowledge
+30 resist gases and reroll failures. Also works if drowning or asphyxiation
Can enter suspended animation
Roll 2x for poison and toxin, and TOXIC quality
Detect Poisons by taste
+10 to track enemies I have tasted
Reroll T Tests caused by temp extreems
Tim, you asked for a WISH LIST OF ITEMS in order of desire, here they are(approximately). I tried to include items of different rarities.
1. Psy Hood or Crown of Prospero (ToF)
2. Golden Eye of Tzeentch (ToF)
3. Term Armor
4. Prismatic amulet or another good force field (ToF)
5. My Power armor repaired to mostly/full functioning.
6. Tarnor Mimic Mask (ToF)
7. Vortex Pendant (ToF)
8. Deceiving plotting type stuff, but I figure Molly will want all of that and do it better than me
Sometime Earlier (Biography):
I do not write. It is not forbidden, but it is not something that we do.
We do record. We do sing the songs of ancestors. We do remember…
After Yeogeddon, After the treachery there, Bloodhowl led us North Towards the Halo stars, as men call them. But men have not a backbone, no thirst. That is for another time. To us, they are called the spine of the serpent. Legends are made there. Russ may be there. Past the Calixis Sector, we rode our metal beasts to the lands of the enemy.
The Fang sent us leave to pursue our own honors, and Bloodhowl saw first blood there waiting to happen. Silverfang had earned three packs of grey hunters. When I cast the runes upon their leave, I was told to be among them. I had foreseen it, and so it was. We left. Thirty two of us. Ten, and ten, and ten, and one, and one, we were. A brood to cut across space. None would oppose us. I had foreseen.
The vortex screams we were told. But to us it howled, and we howled back. None could oppose us in our fury. I had foreseen. At what men called the Gloaming worlds, a host of victories already lie behind us. I had been picked to tell the stories, and I did. After each slaughter, I retold them one after another, until even my mind strained at the details. We had lost Sven, and Jehrekson, but they slumbered under cold ground now, their threads cut, and we remembered. They were still times worth singing.
Further we went. I told the stories, and I picked our direction, and I cast our runes, and I foresaw. A Spine smaller than the halo stars, a string of bodies, celestial, like vertebrae in the void, lay close. Dozens of foul corrupted bodies lay pinched between plates of ceremite: the enemy no doubt. But they lay dead, and I was atop them. A song worth singing that, and I would after I spilled the blood. My furor was up. The runes were cast, and I foresaw.
Ragged Helix, named finally. The planets beneath our paws were not planets indeed, but pieces of planet, Small, numerous, infinite. Thousands of sorties, easy victories. The pack won, but the cost was not in bodies it seemed, but in our souls. Pendants and bones passed from wolf to wolf in our past, rotted and fell from their bodies as we spent almost two Terran decades at a gait through the helix.
I see it now as I tell, as I sing. Did we change? Our wards, our talismans rotted away, while we entertained our every thirst on slaughter. We drank to excess, we fought to excess, and we changed. Four avenues of change we undertook. Now I see it. A cursed number. I did not forsee that. I did not cast the runes truely. They lied, and we changed. It was on some blasted rock without a name that a piece of the core of the Firebreather, the tenth great company, was stuck from itself, by itself, from within itself.
We had been chasing prey for sometime as it happened. Our captain claimed to have received a familiar ship signal at the edge of our perception a number of times over the long years. Small, only a cutter, it would have had rows, or a sail, had it been at sea, but it was constantly eluding us. Like a companion, it skipped along between great masses of rock through the helix, always just ahead of us, out of reach, out of our jaws. It lead us from slaughter to slaughter and we were sure that one day it would be slaughtered. It would be ours. The pack said that it smelled like one of ours, like an old ship, captured, or lost, that we must retrieve it. It bothered me. It smelled wrong. It smelled like the wyrd. Like an old enemy. Like the oldest enemy. But the runes told me otherwise. They told me: Forward at the exclusion of all else.
The last time we went forward was on that blasted rock without a name. Forward. The enemy was numerous here. That was unexpected, but they were only men. Men in the thousands, but men. With spears, with blade, with rock, they opposed us. Dirty, primitive. Unnatural eyes that glowed fiercely, as if motivated to die. And they did. But something overtook us then. The four-fold fall pounced on us then. When all fell, there were still more in truth. Us. Each other. Brother, and brother, and brother. Ax head, and fang fell on brother, and those with their senses still there own were the first to fall. So consumed by rage, so lost in the bliss of battle, so without the protection or our now rotted talismans, our blasted totems, we changed. And we fell.
I looked down only now seeing what my runes had cast, the future made now. A pile of bodies. Three dozen. Thirty to be exact. Ten, and ten, and ten, and one, and one, minus Sven and Jehrekson. I was there, but this was not a song worth singing. And the only blood I had spilled had been my pack’s. It was then that I saw YOU, prey in disguise, YOU the predator. YOU Thousand Son. Traitorous spawn most foul. And so I sing to YOU my song, knowing that YOU will be the last to hear it. Knowing that my runes were cast by YOU from afar, knowing that YOU orchestrated this revenge, knowing that YOU have some purpose. But I sing this tale to YOU, nonetheless, because someone must hear it, someone must know.
Much Later (Captured!! Part II read before part I)
He is me, I am reminded. He floats about a bit looking at himself, myriad colors dancing on his skin. Everything is that hue. A distorted reality. He must be careful here, but it is his sanctuary. To retreat is to win in this case, to retreat is to survive. The colors are knives actually. They cut flesh deep, but here above himself, he is invulnerable to their users, their… fleshsmiths. The words dont come easily here.
Soon words may not come at all. He may be lost, and he may slip away. His teather cannot last forever. Even this close, there are limits, and there are predators. Several lie dead near him, between him and himself where he currently sits. Even now they are a bright luminescence, fading, but in their undeath nova white, and their death’s heat burns his soul.
His soul cannot pass the wards to every side; but for a while longer, at least, he has the strength to linger here and ignore their ministrations. Will there be a body to return to when they finish? He will be changed. There is a certain glory in that, he supposes; if not, an irony.
Their names are Vayda and Solomon, but that does not encompass them, it does not compose then, it is not their fundemental quintescence, as he sees it from this perspective. They are vermin, nearly indestinguishable from vermin.
The vermin have spent quite a bit of time on him today, they think he is impossible to break, the hardest. Not true. Even his enhanced physiology would have broken by now. Both hearts would have collapsed, he would have willed his own death, and it would have occured. They are skilled in that way. It annoys him. A minor commendation. They are also pointless in the great schemes of the dark gods, and deserve no respect he reminds himself.
They give no respect either. They are trying something new this time. Wych-blood, neuro inhibitors and warp-reductive compounds. It courses through him. Its presence apparent as black lines of void shooting like bolts through the body on the chair before being absorbed. Then they cut with knives. Red, anger, hate, confusion, fear, they are these things now. They are convinced that the words of their master earlier are false. Certainly his mind cannot be sheilded, veiled, or absent, but it is.
I am. My essence leaks. I am vapid now. Nearly nothing is left. I have lingered to long outside of my body to avoid my fate. I wished to change my fate. But there is almost nothing left. An attenuated rail to life is left for me return now, or I will never return at all.
I return. Pain. Unimaginable pain. My everything…
I awake, only to blackout again.
A simple pain this time? A slap.
“Did you feel that dog?” It is one of the vermin. The male one.
“Quite Solomon. The master would not see us emoting to a prisoner,” The other vermin. The female one.
Done for the day they left, Solomon swearing to bring back more pain upon his return…
Later (Read after Captured Part II)
I collected his bones, not those in his body, but those clutched in his hand. There was no blood upon them: none, not his fellows, not his, and not mine.
Even a mind lacking the sight could see such a thing. I cast them out in a small arc. I cast them into his splattered brain pan, what was left of it. The runes had blood on them now: his. They spoke of safety, and so I stayed among the dead wolves gloating, up until I was collected.
The architect of fate had cast those bone runes for me, just as I had for him, and there was deception in both. There would be no safety for me aboard the black ship that now blotted out the sun. Its size minuscule against it, but not the shadow it cast of so many souls abord in utter agony. Their wails manifest in reality, blackening the sky of the world. The only safety to be had would be crafted by me.
Prior to the Great Crusade
I was more sympathetic than nascent in my abjectness. Through hard study and much tutelage, I could have a measure of power, but I would not join the Pesedjet, nor would I lead a fellowship.
I was adjunct to Ohrmuzd before his demise. It was not a pleasure. It was even less so to have served after his untimely death. I was one of four to bear him to his brother. We did not carry him like the Vikinian Kings of NordekVay, or the Fianna of the Risha Islands of Terra. In the end, we scooped his bloated mass onto a large metal sheet. Boiled pink meat held tenuously together by will alone. Eyestalks and brain matter balanced precariously in the center of the tray as if to protect it. At the time we thought nothing of it. But later, I often asked myself: protect it from what? The damage was already done. There was no denying the mutations sweeping the legion.
What little sleep any of the survivors received was often interrupted by dreams of death. We all awoke wondering who would be next. It was not enough to be a survivor. We had the sight, and so we saw signifcance in the smallest of things. We looked to each other in blame. Survival was a blessing, but association was a curse. I was present when Ohrmuzd died, and that was enough for some. To make matters worse, the numeroulogy was bad. Four of us beared Ohrmuzd, not two, er, in ancient Pinyin; or three, san; but si, four, the same as the word for death.
His brother would become the Chief Librarian. Ahzek Ahriman was son of the techno-barbarian tribes of the Achaemenid Empire, whose kings had allied with the Emperor of Mankind during the Unification Wars. He was the most dynamic, and effectual of us all, prominent of the Pesedjet. A brother of my own, in truth. I was a boy of Achaemenid as well, a boy of the blasted rock, as the other tribes called us. Our land was that of lost relics, a culture stolen by war, everlasting destroyed by the atomic, a land lurking beneath the sands. We left Terra on the same exodus together, inducted into the Astartes Legions next to the God-Emperor of Mankind, until the fateful day we reached Prospero.
It was then that I met my second God. It would not be the last.
But this is not a tale of the Crimson King. It is my tale.
Ahzek was fair, and there were no hidden politics in our legion. Education is the cure for all ills, we discovered. We were educated men, and so politics had no place in our legion. But it was hard for Ahzek to accept those fealings of resentment, of blame, of himself and me, I think. My place in the legion thereafter was both difficult and interesting.
It was therefore an interesting consequence of my assignments within the legion that my power burgeoned. Likened to a leech, my endowments grew: with Ohrmuzd first, Ahzek during the outfall with his brother, and then my later assignments to others of the Pesedjet. It was not until Prospero burnt some time later that my full potential was revealed.
I remember defending the Great Library. I remember howls in the night. I remember the wild abandon and fury of our brethren turned foe. I remember our last stand. I remember the great links of our greatest tome splitting as the Red Cyclops passed his work to Ahzek. He ripped the tome from his chest. Each link the size of an astartes finger. They were rended with abandon, a second thought as one god went to battle another. I however, was felled. As a legion possessed of the sight, we see significance in the smallest of things. One link from one chain to one book. One felling shot. Like an ingot loosed from the forges of Nocturn, the link penetrated my brow and lay me low. In the chaos, I fell, no arms waiting to catch me.
When I awoke, I discovered I too had been conveyed away. My god had not forgotten me. But to this day, I am not sure which one.
When you are in the shade it is easy to forget just how blinding the sun is. The emperor did not always sit upon the golden throne, and it is my supposition that he does not currently want to, but I am blind to the full truth of why he does. I still remember the first stories of my childhood, stories that were fresh at the time because they had just happened. They hadn’t been retold or passed down, because they were history in the making, each member of our tribe knew them, many had fought in them. Death in the Amalayan mountains, Vanyar Murder Tyrant of the Red Basin slain in single combat, a new Warlord to rule them all, a name hidden, a title known, The Emperor.
Mars then Jupiter, onward we went. I remember him. There was absolutely no shade to protect us from his glories then. 2 million newly pressed Adeptus Astartes, and each beheld his glory in full. It was probably planned. Impress the grandchildren with sorceries, so that the parents never forget. A reminder to be given to the not yet found Primarchs that there was one even wiser, and that he had taken half the galaxy by himself, without them, and could do so again. It was a check and balance, I believe now.
So many at that time remember Mars, a soaring cathedral to blot out the sun. A populace that fears nothing, cowed into trading away their most prized possession: Technology.
I remember Metis, Adrastea, Amalthea, and Thebe Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, the moons of Jupiter, the most.
It was there that the true miracles were worked. A carrot was used and not a stick. But that is for another time.
The Edict of Nikkea was a punishment and it was given with purpose. The emperor recruited at least 3 other legions, The Death Guard, The Blood Angels, and The Vylka Fenryka, and his sisters and Custodes to impose the censure.
Magnus sent a punishment of his own to Terra, an accident, one wrought of pure intentions and foresight, and even it was enough to cripple a God. It was then when retaliation came, the Rout, that we knew who the real gods were.
And through our actions we supported the Istavaanians just enough to wipe them out against Dorns dogs, leaving us the only force strong enough to claim the galaxy. Time had proven that force of arms would not be nearly enough, Wisdom and knowledge would be needed, and there is just not anyone else in this damned galaxy, besides us prepared to do that.
The Rehati had been vociferated well in advance of the writ of war ordering us to Kamenka Troika. And at the time of Magnus’ demands for his Pesedjet to meet, Ahriman, and I as his adjunct after his brother’s death, were busy persecuting the Compliance of Forty-Seven Ten, and the Perfect City of Monarchia, with the Word Bearers. I will never forget those times, filled with unbelievable feats of achievement. Kor Phaeron was a mule, as was Erebus; but for every Kor Phaeron, there was a Jarulek, or an Argel Tal. They were heroes, derided by legions such as the III, VI, or XII… perhaps even more so than our Legion. It was my pleasure to serve with them as part of Ahriman’s secondment to the XVII. It was his duty as master of the first of the Occidental orders of Angels, that is, the Cosmic spheres, or the Fellowship, as we knew it colloquially.
And so we absconded Forty-Seven Ten, with our lives intact, to meet with Magnus at Kemenka Troika by the Corpse God’s, although he was not dead at the time, order. The legio Astorum was in ascendance, as I remember ,their star on the rise again, and they were set to arrive at the behest of the Adeptus Mechanicus of Mars, which lay claim to the world’s system. Two years of fighting the Green Skins would result in the loss of the 5th Fellowship, and, so as you can see, the details I am about to reveal of the Pesedjet hold even more significance, since they are the last words of some from that important time in history. I am proud to call those men, some fallen now, friends.
This is how I remember it.
It was not often that adjuncts, or lesser attendants, of the chapter were allowed to witness the Pesedjet in full attendance. This, however, primarily a strategy meeting was one of those times.
The beautiful are often the first to speak. This I have found to be the case more often than not. It might be a confidence borne of others doting, or it could be conceit I had a thesis that it was a habit, a reinforcement brought on from success. There is little doubt that the beautiful are often successful. Hathor Maat stepped into the Pavilion last, but offered words before his other brothers. I loved him first among all the others of my legion, save perhaps the late Orhzmud, so when he spoke, I listened and smiled. His very features were different each time we saw him. Subtle sculpting of his own features permitted by his particular skills of physiokinesis, allowed him the freedom to manipulate his own visage as he saw fit. Such was the skill of the Pavoni.
“They are immune to attacks of the heart and lungs it seems, if those terms even apply to them. All of our attempts to seize them in their chests matter not. The beasts physiology allows them to fight on for minutes without breath or circulation” Maat said after the wards had been finalized by Magnus. None would hear us now.
Phosis T’kar, without any of the handsome features of Maat, but with all the presence of the kind soul of a father inhabiting him, offered the next comments.
“We needn’t kill them with a thought in order to triumph in this war. The defense of the Raptora and the nigh limitless ammunition of the Legio, as our allies, will be enough. Let us forget the strange inherent defenses of the green skins and direct our thoughts instead to the real reason we are here: the study of the lost civilizations of this forsaken world.”
I am ashamed, almost, to admit that I do not remember, in detail, what the next speaker had to offer. In contrast to my earlier words, Kai’amet, the Magister Templus of the 5th, was certainly a falling star. He spoke first of a lack of brotherhood with the Legio as the casue of our failure to win thus far, then at length about details concerning how best to engage our next query, when to retreat, and on every other thing it seemed. He was always long winded, and that I have decided, in retrospect, is why I remember so little about him, and why the universe saw fit to wipe him from history. He would die some days later to a particularly brutal warlord of the Yellow Moons tribe before I brought the Monstrosity down with bolt shell and spite. I might add, in particular cruelty to his memory, that my kill of the freak was a direct result of my ignoring the tactics expounded by Kai’amet.
It was Magnus, himself, who, after Kai’amet finished, offered a question, bringing me out of my reverie. The entirety of the Pesedjet was on edge now. For the Crimson King to offer inquiry so soon in a meeting of the Cosmic Spheres was rare, but not unheard of. He usually did so when the Magister Templi had reached an impasse, or were digressing too far from the point.
“Khaldun Kek, what say you of brotherhood and trust?”
I was not only off-footed by this question, but at a loss completely as to the reason for the question. But I trusted in his words, since Magnus would often approach topics from seemingly odd angles in order to achieve truly profound solutions or insights.
“Magus?” I used his official title within the Pesedjet, and not his name, as was proper in the situation.
“You must have heard the question. Answer it.”
“If I must answer, I would answer thusly, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
“…But those words are not mine, rather something I read while under fire from the Dakka guns of the Greenskins at the Dhaliahanna Valley a fortnight ago. They were contained on a plaque I had almost ground beneath my boot in the firefight while I sought cover behind an alter”
He nodded as though appreciating the wisdom. We all did.
“Remember your answer. You will be called upon to answer such a question again someday.”
The words still ring true to me. It is only now I see why he asked me such a question. It was often said that he alone, of all beings to inhabit this universe, could see glimpses of the future, centuries before they happened.
The only recourse I have as a being of reason who has seen what I have seen, is to accept that the universe has no wisdom inherent in its design, none whatsoever, only Chaos. Magnus it seems, saw that truth before me. It would still be one hundred years before he was forced to share it with us.
“Ohrmuzd, Hathor. The Old Francois of Terra would have referred to me as a ‘cadger’. In gothic, its closest translation is ‘sponge’. They would have been correct, I have learned much just by being here. "
“It has been a thousand years since Fenris, and our hated foe, burned. It has been three thousand years since Terra, and our former liege burned. In that time I had been anything but idle. The events of my life had bent me over inside, and I have stayed that way. If you take a piece of metal and bend it back, then forth, it will break. I am not willing to risk that. I have prosecuted Imperial Truth for several hundred long years. For thirty times as long I had been here, and everyday with few exceptions I am called by some force to see you.”
“The Valley of Kings is busy today. Not just here, but every mortuary temple. Something is afoot, as they say. Some of us have begun forming cabals again. Magnus, beyond comprehension, appears to also be beyond caring, at least as far as the cabals are concerned. This world is blasted, but you must know that. Everything I have seen, have tasted, have felt, tells me that consciousness fades across the great ocean, and is preserved, in a sense, so I suspect some part of you can hear me. That is why I come. The oroboros of our pauldrons symbolize it: eternity, infinity, continuity, transcendence, actualization. You would appreciate it, The red sun of the pre-heresy is gone; the sun has set on the universe now, and you are dead. Fitting.”
“I have lingered long enough”
The plaques of remembrance needed cleaning. Buried deep, they were filthy, and despite the fact that everything on this rock blared with an unnatural light, they still looked dull, rotten, worn, and aged. Beyond the edge of my perception there was a darkness of shadowy, ragged crests of the great ocean as they beat against the veil. Sudden impressions of headlong motion overtook me and I began shaking. My eyes were failing me. A horizonless field of black blossomed all around.
I felt my way from the pyramid and into pandemonium.
“Are you still with me brothers? Surely if you were not, this storm would have awakened you from your slumber. This,” and I spoke through gritted teeth now, gripping stones, that I could no longer see, for support, "Is the work of sorcery. "
“It is magnificent. It must be Magnus himself, or the corpse god reborn,” I laughed with abandon into a gale with no origin, or terminal.
Lit by etheric spore, the ground began to cry in anguish. The bedrock burst into a tongue and writhed until buds of flesh produced quills. They danced in testimony to their birth.
And just as soon, they burnt away.
“Revealed and then suppressed; no, severed, withered, banished. It is a rite of banishment, or protection.”
I was not alone now. The few of us that remained, just thousands, emerged from all around. In a split second, I saw our history play out before me. The might of the empyrean, waxing and waning, the cults vying for dominance aspirants becoming Magi, all tests; but none like this, at least not since Prospero.
All glanced to the last remaining peice of Tizca: its great Pyramid. It was silent.
But the Colossi of Memno-el-Salamat was not, and that meant neither was Ahriman.
“Contemplation of this ordeal bleeds away, fellows. Now is a time of action. I will live it with you, side-by-side.” Of course, neither Ohrmuzd, or Hathor would respond, but I spoke to them nonetheless.
“I feel my immortal essence bleeding away likewise. Once fully empowered that cabal will eradicate this planet. Death at last I wonder? That is what the currents of time tell, even as they take flight from this place. That is what I see. The warp flees before us, Its creatures’ tails between their legs. But you must remain, you must witness the end of me. I stayed with the both of you, stay with me! "
It began. I was witness, we all were. humbled before knowledge that could kill the essence behind reality.
“On Terra, Ohrmuzd, remember now, when we were children we would take fruit and bake them until their innards spilled forth with a sweet sustenance. That is what is happening even now. Bolts of lightening spring forth from the clouds and bake your brothers around you. The horror, but I will not turn from it. You will see my end, and it is soon coming. I will not run as do those around me, or conjure. For what use will it be in the face of this primal power, unleashed by our Chief magister and his cabal? No, I will watch, and I will tell you of it."
I pushed forward towards the calamity as it ravaged the city. Its center growing, fragmenting. The cloud was a fractal structure, such that if you took any one part, and viewed it at a smaller scale, the pattern would repeat. And it grew.
“A bright burning eye has appeared, Magnus no doubt. But, he is too late,” And tellingly, the eye was washed away in the storm, spitting rain falling beneath it like tears: A thousand drops worth.
“ I will be with you soon, and we will join in death to be unlike anything we were in life. A trinity. A past, a present and a future, three by three, the sacred number nine. Nigh unstoppable The afterlife will wake.”
A stake of hermetical might took me then.
“ Drifting, falling, weightless, I am being called home…”
In the days after, we came together. The courtyard is nameless, expensively appointed, a cluster of sleek pavilions separated by small formal gardens. I remember the place from the rounds I made my first year here. I stand with Magnus at my far right. We are the righteous, come here to reorganize our legion in the face of the act. White boulders, green bamboo, black gravel raked smooth into waves not dissimilar to those I had felt just weeks ago. No gardener had ever tended to them.
Judgement had been pronounced and despite the cabal’s might, all had prostrated themselves in forgiveness to our genesire; all, save Ahriman. Those of power had been saved, augmented even; those lacking, bordered the courtyard even now, automatons of metal, souls fused inside for eternity, never to suffer again.
How am I here? Was I saved, was it either, or both, of you, I wonder?
I will bide my time now. I am still close to him, our father, and I have not been banished. My promotion in our ranks, and thus, my every action is still sanctioned. I will complete what was started by your brother Ohrmuzd, and I will succeed. I have been given purpose, and have been forced to change. We often look back, we often remember our brothers as heroes, even I am guilty of it. But they are dead, and I yet live. So, who is the hero, I ask? It falls to me to save our legion. The tome is not complete, and the Rubric failed. It rendered down the fat, and what was left was further sundered by Magnus but I will reunite. And if I must bend backwards to do it, I just hope that I do not snap before my work is done.
There are bound to be Mehenjo-Daro on the dock. Defiant to the last, it is hard to reason how they have managed to stand against the might of the Raptor and Thunderbolt. Not a techno-barbarian tribe, and not a nation state, they have a power all their own. With cybernetics, and bio-alchemy, they are a gestalt mix of technology seen no where else in the Eurasian mass. It has been with their Men of Iron, and their Machine Gods, that they have claimed a divine destiny to rule Terra. Fearful of their famed might, Khaldun remains in his father’s shadow, confident in him, and ready to follow his lead.
Some years ago, Amun declined invitation to the Raptor and Thunderbolt. “Not the way of the Gods,” was all he told his family. “There is a silent honor in what we are. That is enough for me. That satisfaction is what gives me power. Our new Emperor will win this war with or without me as his Thunder Warrior, fear not,” was all the more that he told Khaldun.
Together they fix charges to two boats, including a cruiser, which runs on prometheum, by the smell of it, and should make a very satisfying detonation should they live to see it.
Of their remaining charges, two go on the ends of the boardwalk, which they hope to make collapse. The rest they intend to put on the support pillars for the ceiling. That part was Khaldun’s idea, to his fathers suprise. He figures if they do enough damage, Coopersmith, the Mehenjo-Daro Magistrate in this region, South East of the Ganges basin, might mobilize his troops to seek out the perpetrator of the attack. If They are careful enough, the Mehenjo-Daro will spend an inordinate amount of time and effort to track them down, if they can even identify their attackers, allowing their allies from the east to make their attack in suprise.
Khaldun still can’t see any cameras, but they could be almost microscopic in size, so he’s just going to have to trust in his skills. Still submerged near the dock, his father nods and moves to hold his adolescent head above the water. It is common for young children to train in their father’s profession in The Achaemenid culture, and Khaldun is no different. Success or failure is borne at a young age, it is said. He slips his mortal coil and is birthed anew: a snake having shed its skin. To the trained, it is immediately obvious; Amun’s son is definitely trained. Fresh logs have been used to construct the dock. Life, fleeting but present, lingers within the banyan timber. Black specks drown the light in two spots along the dock. There they are.
He returns, and together two bodies lift out of the water in the shadow of a crane. Their first two stops are at the cameras Khaldun found. They make quick work of them, and then head along a cracked and crumbling wall stopping to place the remaining charges on a monumental stack of crates, their only haywire bomb amid them. The device weighs ten pounds, and is about the size of the stummers they wear. It’s uncomplicated. All Naqada forces are notorious for their impatience with fussy equipment, and Khaldun knows his father has the required expertise to use it. There is a selector switch for manual, delayed manual, or timed detonation. Khaldun calms hismeslf as Amun picks delayed manual, and clips the small detonator button to his wrist band. After switching off the safety device and arming it, he slides the activated weapon between two crates.
“Imobile, you must remain, Intruder. Except for your metacarpi. Raise them.” proclaims a robotic voice. Khaldun lifts his hands slowly, but dumps all of his etheric energy into his system. He is sure his father is doing the same.
Khaldun blinks twice, The monstrosity before them is easily 3 meters tall and wide, and its got a hand cannon leveled at Khaldun.
“You!” Amun hisses in recognition.
“Me?” replies Coppersmith. “My databanks contain no account of your facial structure.”
Coppersmith’s eyes narrow under his black cloak. He mutters something that sounds like a furnace heating up, and Khaldun knows he’s calling for backup. That is bad. It means he intends to take his prey alive. There are stories in Achaemenid about those captured by the Mehenjo-Daro; better to die here, he decides.
Before either warrior or child can act, A door slams open and three armed troops rush into the dock, followed by a techno-assasin, by the look of the hovering device that has replaced its legs. Coppersmith glances in their direction for a fraction of a second, and Khaldun and his father throw themselves to the side.
Coppersmith fires. The deafening shots blow apart the crates that hid Khaldun heartbeats ago. Khaldun rolls, digs his hands into the thigh pouches of the synthskin, finds his focus, and comes up shooting, not guns, but an onslought of force.
The tech assasin, and troops, scatter for cover as Khaldun ducks behind the next set of crates, prepared for a reprisal.
A lone troop pops up, his gun a piece of Terran history itself. Either a fussion, or fission, head rifle. He holds it in a strange sideways grip necessary to reach the archeotech’s firing lever. He shoots once and hollers as the device rebels. It thumps in defiance, spilling foillage-green steam all over his wrist, melting skin and bone on contact, before releasing a burning ball of plasma far wide and to the right. Amun puts a bullet into him, and he falls still screaming in agonized disbelief from his self-inflicted wound. Both Coppersmith and the tech-assasin stay under cover. Khaldun knows they are waiting for a shot of opportunity.
Khaldun sees motion out of the corner of his eye and jumps over a crate as the guard who’d been sneaking up on him cuts loose with his las on full auto. Khaldun slips and slides over more crates as the wood melts with each shot of his foe’s ammo. He hits the cement floor of the dock and rolls, staying flat, where the troops wouldn’t expect to see him. He places both hands flat on the floor, and intones as he was taught. Several deep crimson gouts of blood skip like stones on the floor to smash into a trooper’s feet and ankles. He screams and falls.
Khaldun ducks back under cover as Coppersmith cuts loose with that hand cannon again. Splinters rain down upon him. Some of those heavy shells pass right through crates to hit distant walls and come close to Amun in their passing.
Still, Khaldun can’t let the Mehenjo-Daro’s think they’re winning, for thoughts often turn into reality.
“Two of yours dead. Why continue defiance? The Emperor will acheive victory in his war of unification, you must see that. What’re the chances with you so close to Everestaria, the mountain? Too close to his Palace to survive for long. Surrender in peace and add your might to ending old night, or I guarantee I crush one of you next?”
“I play the odds with every decision,” calls Coppersmith. “Our gods still rest, but when they wake, we will finish what we started in your so called Golden Age of Man. Twenty Thousand Years is a small time to wait.”
“Son, they are beyond reason. This is not a fight words can win.” Says Amun.
A whine of machinery makes Khaldun look up. The crane’s heavy hook races across the dock toward him. It’ll smash through the crates and Khaldun too if he doesn’t get out of the way. Khaldun knows that Coppersmith and his tech-assasin await their chance to take him down as soon as he’s exposed. With just a second left, Khaldun consults the fates in order to divine his best chance to live, then acts.
When the hook crashes into the crates, he jumps up and stretches his hand out to grab the braided steel cable in passing. The momentum nearly jerks his arm from its socket, but he yanks himself up to a precarious perch on the hook that only a child could fit. In the space of a heartbeat he pushes himself with all his might. One, two, three, and then eventually four bolts of concussive force spring from his outstretched hand moving to automatically seek out his targets. The first passes the tech-assasin, who ducks and rolls; the second flies at Coppersmith, who twists behind a pillar; the third strikes the guard inside the crane control booth causing him to fall forward on the controls.
The fourth kills Amun.
His forehead and his brain matter exit the back of his skull. He slumps down, a smile on his face as he looks proudly up at his son. His lips moving to say:
I love y…
as pushes a small switch at his wrist.
Khaldun nearly loses his grip on the thick, oily cable in disbelief at his mistake. As he struggles to recover and adjust, the crane accelerates on its rails and heads for the far wall with a tiny round window. Khaldun twists and spins around the cable, projecting kine shield, after kine shield, in order to keep anyone from getting a good shot at him.
The crane crashes into the blocks at the end of its rails with an impact hard enough to shake the entire building. The hook swings upward in an arc. Khaldun reprojects his shields into one focused spot before him, letting the hook carry him into the window. He lets go of the cable, and jumps from the hook as hard as he can. He crashes through the window as shock runs all the way up his arms and shoulders. Khaldun cries freely now, but manages to tuck and roll into a small plaza. Workers gape at his dramatic exit from the building, and some shriek in fear.
Khaldun strugles to his feet, barely hearing the detonations of all the charges he left behind through his anguish. Except the Haywire bomb, when it detonates, he is thankful in his vengence.
Khaldun Kek died that day. He was the first of his tribe to volunteer for the Emperor’s “Second Phase”, and was reborn in it, no longer a boy or a man, but something more.
And although two million other’s were reborn similarly those next several decades, only the several thousand of his legion became truely something else. With the blueprint of Magnus’ excellence burned into his genes, he became immortal. A divine essence burned at his core, one that drew more deeply from the Sea of Souls than he ever had before. What he was now could never die, only change.
Is my life my own? Leave it to the other seventeen legions to stupefy themselves over the mundane implications of Horus’ betrayal: regions of occupied space, governance, tithes, loyalties. I, and many of my kind, are far more interested in the spiritual, or metaphysical, implications of that period of history.
Knowledge of what “is” appears to have waxed and waned in our galaxy’s history. Many fragmented documents hint at creators, lost gods, devourers of stars, fey creatures of illumination, indulgence, and more. But never before the heresy was so much revealed. Ask any of the Astra Telepathica; ask any wytch of a ghost world; ask any near the Cadian System or the Calixis Sector. As they drift in sleep, do they feel the passing of whales in the ocean? Do they feel primordials of such power that they seem to encompass the warp, rather than being encompassed by it? They will answer yes if pressed; most will answer no, if not. To dwell on such matters is to invite insanity inside.
Is my life my own? No. Not yet, at least. I will not ignore the truth like Ahriman, claiming to already be free from it. I will not embrace it too readily, like my lord Magnus. I would like, truth be told, to sever the strings that cause the puppet, that is me, to dance at another’s accord. Others speak too freely, too foolishly of such things as gods in the warp, of specifics that, as they stand, defy understanding. Tztch, T’Chan, Thurugora, Tzeen, Tzeentch. Nurrle, Nurgle, Nrlg. Slaan, Slensh, Slaanesh. Koran, Khorne.
Gods? Or artificial dichotomies of the human mind, set in eternal opposition to each other in an attempt to order chaos?
One god, two, Four, Eight?
We feel their presence, certainly in places where the veil is thin, intrude. But how many are there? Is it one with different personalities, different affectations? Perhaps different parts of the same body, that appear, like a man, walking through a door: sometimes a hand comes first, sometimes a foot, or a knee.
I can read others’ minds, I can affect others’ minds. I can affect, when pressed, hundreds of minds concurrently. If they were weak, and if I were stronger, it would not be unfeasible to imagine reading, and controlling, thousands of minds. I have felt the presence of the god, or gods, of the warp, and I can only imagine a universe fully in sight of, and fully in control of, such beings.
I have also felt their anger, their disappointment. That means they can fail. My goal, as I will state it here, is to defy it, or them. Ultimately I mean. In the end, that is. I must never think such things again, never where they can hear me, and I must always disguise my own thoughts, even to myself! I must take this part of me that is fully aware, here, and now, and seal it away beyond their sight. I must work towards my goal in secret. I must, furthermore, spend every effort to defy time and space, and the predictions that causality makes. I must not allow a single strand of fate to show my future victory, or the god, or gods, of the warp will see the threat I represent, and pluck me from the fabric of the present and future.
This will not be a pleasant Journey. In taking this journey, I will be lonely. I will even be hopelessly a victim of the unknown. For what awaits me once I have severed my strings? Will I lie still, never to move in any meaningful way again? Will I transcend, only to become one of them, or should I say part of it? Is that my goal then? I must trust that the answer is also no. I must become something greater.
What led me here? What forced this revelation upon me? This place is quiet. This place is severed. It is the ancient web that runs between the stars. I have followed Ahriman here in quiet, as he followed the Inquisitor, as the inquisitor followed those Eldar ruses in checkered black and white. Neither of those outsiders can see that they are tracked, that these gentle creatures are also killers, and that this web is their trap. The Library is beyond those they wish to keep from it, even me. But this trip has given me a new hope, a chance at true life, a chance to be honest with myself, and to think forbidden thoughts. It is so quiet here. The blood of the primordial Annihilator seems so far away in this capillary. I am free from their schemes for a short time at least, if I live. I do not expect to live.
As if on cue, bright beams of orange light blossom into life around me. I had taken precautions, steps, but most of them were etheric in nature, and thus useless here where the warp is dead to me. The hunters have come to take my pelt.
But I am not untrained.
My attackers may have spent their lives in preparation to defend their sanctum. Their defeat will not be easy.
Twin blades materialize centimeters from my face, some sort of transport technology. The attacker is more surprised than I am, and I can only assume that he was unsure of my exact location. He lies silent beneath me now, his neck snapped. Their constitution is certainly lacking.
Kill before I am killed. The first of the next three comes at me as equally unsure as my last kill. Flickering lights dancing across his wiry frame to disorient less capable foes. How many races does that work against I wonder? His power lance is less deadly without the suit’s effect, and a sidestep-thrust is all it takes. Likely few have ever made it this far into the web. Certainly coming this far was beyond me alone. I am quite literally riding the coat tails of Ahriman and his centuries of planning. The second and third arrive seconds later. Instantly they are on the roof of the capillary, defying whatever laws of gravity hold me in check. Three hot lances burst my thigh. As I look at it, I am reminded of a dessert that the Honorosia 103rd liked to eat during the early years of the Crusade. A strawberry soufflé, I believe it was called. The top cooked until it overflows: hot pink liquid pastry spilling between the crust’s cracks to ooze down the ramekin holding it. And my leg gives way.
Going to a knee has saved my life. A sucker device is produced by my foe, and he stabs it forward into the space my Head occupied a moment before. One hundred monofiliments vomit from the mouth of it, looping back into the gun’s barrel. They twist, turn and retract, dejected at the absence of a kill. It takes every pain suppressor left in my suit, and all of my will, not to fall down in tears, my arteries pumping vital fluid into a too symmetric circle about me. Instead I draw my knife, not my original, not mono-edged, not ten thousand years old. It is an antique, nonetheless, but one that I found on Monarchia with the Word Bearers.
It is bronze in color, but adamant in strength. The city’s former mayor had nearly slain Argel Tal, bless him, with a poisoned ring barb. He extended hand to the Word Bearer to seal the surrender of his ward. Argel Tal and squad had been the first to reach the mansion, and so he had seen it as his honor to shake on the agreement. I was weak in power then, weaker than most of my legion even, but I had a small glimpse that would have changed the fate of the compliance. I drew my bolter and shot the man’s hand clean off. We found the dagger in his collection later. I will never forget that even the mighty Arhriman complimented my foreknowledge afterwards.
“The tides of fate have seen fit to crest within you this day. You must not forget how you feel, or what you have done, master it and you may join the Athanean Cult.”
I never did master the art to any great degree…
I stab the weapon up in an attempt to disarm the Eldar harlequin, literally. Instead, I miss and impale the butt of the stock. The coils are kept there, and the spring that houses the compartment unwinds rapidly. The spools of death fall uselessly around us, but the spring itself shoots back erupting an eye, and in a stroke of luck, the jester dies.
I grab a length of the now unspooled monofiliment and toss it up and into the other’s way. He instinctively grabs for the artifact’s components, obviously rare and prized. Then I shove his comrade’s body on top of the other end of the wire to provide resistance. I crawl two meters back, avoiding his electric pole ax, and let him do the rest. He continues forward, unaware that I have laid my own trap. His next swing severs his own arm; his next step, his left ankle. His scream of agony seals his fate, as he twists in disbelief. The now taunt monofiliments have turned him into a puzzle set and each piece slides apart. Only then do the wires slacken.
I retreat the way I entered, leaving Ahriman to the fates.
I learn sometime later that he too escaped, but as I predicted, he was denied his prize.
The Black Library will remain sealed.
And I will keep living. With my secret, I might add. I have many goals, the destruction of the wolves that burned my world, the death of an empire that destroyed all that was good about itself, the salvation of my brothers, but none so dear to my heart as the salvation of my eternal soul. There are many that stand to gain from my success, but none so much as myself.