Thursday, 2 June 2011

World Eaters Short Story Series Pt. 3

Time for a new story in the series. Written by Chris Bowers (aka Cobra6 from TGC forum), this story deals with an issue given only a passing mention in the World Eater background - their own 'night of the long knives' where in a sequence of bloodlettings, the Legion put their psykers to the sword (or chainaxe). I shall say no more . . .

The Last Librarian

By Chris Bowers (aka Cobra6)

AS BARKHE HEARD them approaching down the corridor, it occurred to him to flee. He might even be able to do it. With his powers and his inherent skill-at-arms as an Adeptus Astartes, he could surprise a small group, overcome them quickly and make his way to an escape pod. Surely, the warp powers revealed to him by Erebus and Chief Librarian Arkoethe would help him now, when he needed them most. His mind made a panicked cast about the ether, seeking aid from any being that would hear him. None answered.
He could still flee. He should flee.
No. He was the last of the Librarians of the World Eaters, and he would face death as befit a son of Angron.

HE HAD BEEN there, not half an hour earlier, when the Librarius was destroyed, each hacked down by their brothers in the arena of the warrior lodge. It was known as ‘the Quiet Order’ among more decorous legions, but for the World Eaters the lodge was neither of those things, and was known as ‘the Ludus.’ It was to have been a glorious affair: sixty-four gladiatorial matches beneath the gaze of mighty Angron, as well as the visiting dignitaries – Maloghurst of the Sons of Horus and Erebus of the Word Bearers. Blood had soaked the sand in honour of the triumph at Istvaan III.
Alongside the notorious gladiator Scyrak the Slaughterer, Chief Librarian Arkoethe had faced eight psycho-lobotomized ogryns at the peak of the violence. Arkoethe had planned for it to be a validation of the oft-slandered Librarius, to remind the Red Angel of their effectiveness in battle, and to silence his rival Scyrak.
The Slaughterer had a brutal reputation even among the XII Legion. Years before the great uprising of Horus, Scyrak was rumored to have murdered three Blood Angels on Luther Macintyre. Of late he had become a leading adherent of the growing cult of Karnath within the auspices of the Ludus, and had led the aggressive slander of the legion’s few Librarians. At the opening of the games, Erebus had presented him with a heavy ceremonial black-iron collar, embossed with an angry red skull rune. The Chaplain had placed it around his neck where it had soldered closed of its own accord.
Clad only in loincloths, Scyrak and Arkoethe had made short work of the roaring ogryns. Ropes of gore flew as Skyrak cleaved through muscle, fat, organs, and bone with furious, violent strokes. Arkoethe boiled the creatures from within, and roasted them with crackling bolts of warp energy and fire. As the last ogryn burst into flames and died beneath the power of Arkoethe’s mind, the Slaughterer had turned on the Chief Librarian, his chest heaving and his eyes flecked with hatred.
‘COWARD!’ Scyrak had roared in his voice like grating stone, leveling his chainsword at Arkoethe. ‘See the sorcerer, he has not a drop of blood on him! His cowardice disgraces this Ludus, and our legion!’
‘Face me then, “Slaughterer”,’ had been Akoethe’s smirking reply.
A look laden with import had passed between Scyrak and Angron before he strode toward Arkoethe. The Chief Librarian’s sizzling warp energies were sucked into the glowing black collar around the Slaughterer’s neck like water into a drain. Had it been merely surprise or resigned acceptance that led Arkoethe to stand defenseless as Scyrak had gripped the chainsword in two hands, and driven it clean through his arm and into his ribcage? The Chief Librarian had collapsed in a welter of blood, and Scyrak had looked again to mighty Angron, who held out his arm before the audience, a heaving scrum of baying World Eaters.
Had it all been pre-arranged? At the downward jerk of Angron’s thumb, Scyrak rammed his shrieking chainblade into Arkoethe’s chest cavity, while the other Librarians in the crowd of World Eaters were set upon by their brothers, submerged in a tide of elbows, fists, and feet. They were dragged, safely unconscious, into the sandy ring and murdered.
All except Barkhe.
He was able to summon a gate through the ether and escape to his quarters on the other end of the kilometres-long ship. One frenzied attacker had been dragged through the portal with him; Barkhe had made short work of this would-be assailant, who was left a smoking husk on the deck. Then Barkhe had sat alone. Shocked, dismayed and adrift, he had only been shaken from his fugue state by the inevitable cacophony of his legion-brothers drawing near.

He recognised them as they burst through the bulkhead and began to encircle him: Kosolax and Astyanax; Hans Ko’ren of the Sixteenth ‘Skulltakers’ Company; Captain Hauul; and his old friend, Sergeant Sirhk of the Twenty-fourth. Barkhe looked into his friend’s eyes, looking for some sign of familiarity or sorrow. All he saw in Sirhk’s dilated, bloodshot orbs was merciless bloodlust.
They paused for just a moment – breath ragged, chainblades revving, holding out their Ludus medallions as wards against Barkhe’s psychic might. Then they attacked.
Barkhe blasted a psychic lance through Astyanax, and then ducked a wild swing by Ko’ren, flipping him over his shoulder and into his vacant arming post. He followed his momentum and took a glancing blow from Sirhk, before bringing his elbow up under Sirhk’s chin and snapping his head back. Teeth cracked in a spray of spittle and blood. He wreathed one of his fists in psychic flame and prepared to finish off his former friend, when the arc of a chainsword cleaved through his left leg at the knee. As he collapsed, another blade bit into his shoulder, nearly severing his arm. Falling hard, Barkhe lay twitching and pumping hot blood onto the deck. Kosolax stood over him, lowering his whirring blade to Barkhe’s neck for the coup de grace.
‘Brothers,’ Barkhe implored, spluttering through a mouthful of blood. ‘I have only ever served Angron and Horus! Why are you doing this?’
The wet howl of Kosolax’s chainblade nearly drowned out his answer as it chewed its way through Barkhe’s spine.
‘Blood for the Blood God.’

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