The latest short story in the series. This one focuses on one of the most famous (or should I say infamous?) characters of the World Eaters. There hasn't been anything so far on the recruitment practices of the Legion, the worlds they used or their native culture, and it is definitely food for thought! So, take it away..
The Gift of the God
By Jamie Morris (AKA Lord_Caldera)
HE CAME SUDDENLY one night: an avatar of my god, though he knew it not. He came at the height of the Festival in a great iron bird which flew on streamers of fire with the noise of a thousand great beasts roaring as one. Huge clouds of smoke billowed from its stubby wings as it lit upon the ground just outside of the contest ring where my brother fought. My clansmen gathered around its immense body with more curiosity than fear, many loosening weapons in their slings. My brother, drenched in gore and sweat, dispatched his last opponent quickly and clambered out of the ring to stand beside me. I was proud of my brother. He was the finest warrior of my village, and I longed for the day when he would be proud of me too – the day that I would enter the ring against him, the day that I would take the head from his shoulders in the name of our god, the day that I would claim my rightful place as His Voice.
But that day was not this day. This day I was young and though I was stronger and faster than most of our clan’s finest warriors, I was not yet a man. The iron bird opened its mouth without warning and breathed a haze of strange-smelling steam over the assembled men and boys. A dull yellowish light seeped out and glinted off the weapons my clansmen were now fingering nervously. When the fog cleared a solitary figure stood bathed in the light. It was impossibly huge for a man, and encased in some strange armour made of a pearly white material I had never seen before. All but the head; the head was that of a man, and was a mass of scars more twisted than those of the village elders. The deep-set eyes which surveyed the crowd were not those of a senile old man, however. They were cold and piercing – predator’s eyes – and I sensed that they unsettled even the hardiest of the men around me. Except for my brother. He pushed his way to the front of the silent crowd and took a welcoming stance, with his feet braced apart and his gleaming axe held before him in a challenge. ‘Identify yourself, stranger, in the name of the Lord of Blood!’ he cried out.
The giant’s steely eyes locked onto him and a smile ghosted around his lips. A low voice grated out his words. ‘Who is this “lord”? I am in haste and would speak with your highest ranking citizen.’ ‘He is the God of Battle, and on this day I am His Voi-’ my brother began before his head exploded with a sharp bang. A full grin pushed its way onto the giant’s face as he watched my brother’s body slump to the ground. He replaced a smoking contraption of metal into a holder on his belt and stared at the blood pooling around my brother’s neck as he spoke to us forcefully. ‘No. Your god is nothing. I am here to give you the Truth. You are now servants of the Emperor of Mankind and will act as such. You will not worship. You will obey. And if any man wishes to challenge this, he will speak now.’ Rage built inside of me at my brother’s death and at the insolence of this man. No one spoke and I realized that my friends and family were weak. I wanted the power that was rightfully mine. I had been my brother’s better and I was this monster’s better. I would claim his armour and his weapons for myself. ‘You still have not identified yourself!’ I shouted. The crowd parted slowly to let me through to the front. I saw many frightened faces and my rage grew at their feebleness.
The giant considered me for a moment before stepping down from the open beak of his mount and meeting me over my brother’s body. This close I could see how truly massive his white and blue-clad form was, towering nearly twice my own height. There was amusement in the face as he replied, ‘I am Astartes of the 12th Legion. I am Captain Goran Perro of the 8th Assault Company of the World Eaters.’ He glanced up to address the rest of the assembled men and boys of my village. ‘I have travelled many leagues to find those worthy of joining me and my battle-brothers, but it seems I have come to this place for naught. I see nothing but dotards and women before me. I am disappointed to find no warriors.’ He turned and began to stride back towards the bird. I seethed at this final slight. Did he not see my potential? I swore to the God that I would see this giant dead, and my pitiful village with him. I bent and hefted my brother’s iron axe. It was the most finely crafted weapon I had ever seen, and had been passed down within my family for generations. I swiftly closed the distance to the giant and roared a battle cry – as he turned I swung the huge axe with all of my might. The blade struck his breastplate and shattered upon the terrible armour. I had but a moment for surprise before he reacted, smacking my head almost casually with his fist and sending me sprawling to the ground. A gravelly laughter filled my ears as I dragged myself to my feet. I felt blood running down my face. It felt good. The giant was still laughing as he slung me over his shoulder and walked back to his bird. I spat broken teeth at my former clan as blood dripped into my eyes and a red haze drifted over the world. ‘You are just the thing I was looking for,’ chuckled the giant. ‘What is your name, boy?’ As the enormous beak shut off the last sight of my family, I choked out the answer to his question:
The short story series will be drawing to a close shortly, as the number of short stories which I have yet to feature dry up. Here is one that was hidden away on a user's blog on The Great Crusade forum. For anyone who has read (or rather listened to) 'Garro: Legion of One' they will be familiar with the concept behind it. It's certainly well written, and worth taking the time to read.
Last of the Loyal
By Leon Carter
The grille of his helmet rasped heavily, each breath a knife thrust into his lungs. Blood dribbled in his mouth. He tried to move, but his broken body denied him. The bone shield protecting his chest cavity had been punctured, shards of it deeply rupturing his primary heart. His left knee was broken to splinters, while his shoulder dislocated.
Alarm signs flickering on the display of his left helmet visor, the one that remained intact, interrupted sporadically by surges of static, showed him that his power armour was in no better condition either. Life support was failing, leaving many of his wounds unclotted. Painful warmth washed over the many gashes and fissures torn into his ravaged and battered plate as his blood escaped through them unrestrained. His right pauldron had exploded to shreds, along with most of his upper arm, hit by a bolter round.
Garthe grunted in annoyance at his own momentary inability, another bolt of pain striking his lungs.
The stench of death around him was suffocating. He sank into the middle of a pile of cut down bodies, about two dozens, all clad in full plate of power armour, Astartes just like him, glued together by drying puddles of blood. Heads savagely cleaved in two, mutilated limbs scattered about, torsos mangled and disembowelled, flesh and ceramite ripped open by chainsword teeth. The battle had been fierce, leaving only a gory mess.
The contrast between Garthe's own cracked, dented, crudely maintained battlegear of white and dark blue and the elegant regale of the slain warriors, shimmering in violets and gold outlines couldn't be more evident.
A blood-soaked chainsword lay a few centimetres away from Garthe's crippled hand. His retribution given form, it was that very weapon that had cut a way through the ranks of the now fallen, slaughtering and butchering them.
His right eye exposed behind the shattered visor, Garthe cast his glance high up to the sky. The azure field spread through his vision sparkled with the clarity of refined crystal. Peaceful and tranquil, remembrancers called such sights, but he felt differently. Inside him, the static view only ignited rage. He refused to lie down, motionlessly and die here. He had a vengeance to deliver.
Dull thumps of footsteps found their way to his ears. All too familiar. The unmistakable, whining noise of power armour servos.
Garthe gritted his teeth as he made another attempt at forcing his arms to move and reach for his chainsword, but again, his body defied his will. The steps drew closer. If his enemies wanted to visit death upon him, there was no stopping them.
A face appeared above him. A face of an old man, an Astartes, whose presence had not been diminished by the long centuries he had undoubtedly witnessed. His scarred, stiffened features carried with them a streak of nobility, hard-learned wisdom glimmered in his eyes. For a moment, even Garthe paused in his breath at the sight of him.
'It took a while to find you, lad,' the old warrior said. There was no hostility to his voice. 'Garthe The Bloody Vengeance.'
'Who... are you...?' Garthe forced a question through the blood and drool gurgling in his throat. As much as he could move his eyes, he tried to get a measure of the older Astartes and identify him by the pattern and insignia of his armour. He was unable to decide for sure.
'A faithful soldier who was betrayed by his legion. Him and all he swore an oath to uphold. Just like you.'
The word lingered in Garthe's mind, arousing waves of boiling rage. Rage formed from hurt, helplessness and refusal.
'You are one remarkable and stubborn lad, you know that?' the old man nodded appreciatively. 'Completely alone, without a legion, without a primarch, you wander from planet to planet, leaving only heaps of dismembered traitors in your wake.'
Garthe grunted. He would have smiled, had his lungs not been in constant pain. He took pride in the havoc he had wrought among the ranks of his chosen enemies.
'You remember the ways of past ages. The valor of those times. That is why this shameful treason hurts you so,' the other Astartes continued, and looked the wounded, crippled warrior in the eye. Within that gaze, everything was told that ever could pass between two warriors of honour and that no words could possibly convey. Garthe nodded, even the small gesture painful and difficult to perform.
'The Emperor needs his loyal sons, Garthe Erklan. Will you answer his call?' the old man asked and dipped a finger of his gauntlet into the blood seeping from Garthe's chest wound.
'I... will,' Garthe sighed heavily.
'Will you swear to me, Iacton Qruze, last of the Luna Wolves, to serve Him, beloved by all, to protect the Imperium of Man from the threats it faces, and bring down His wrath at the traitor and the betrayer?' he intoned as he wrote the words on Garthe's marred plate with blood.
'I... Garthe Erklan... last of the World Eaters... swear it.'
'Then it is done,' said Iacton and waved with his hand. An Astartes, his power armour distinctively white, arrived after another series of thumping steps, only visible from the corner of Garthe's eye. 'Apothecary Callon, do what you can for the lad here and prepare him for transfer.'
'Yes, sir,' Callon said firmly and crouching down, immediately set to his work.
Garthe felt faint stinges through the layers of pain already enveloping his body as the Apothecary injected him with sedatives, and slowly drifted into unconsciousness. But he would not die. His rightful vengeance would be carried out and his honour purged of the blemish it had suffered by the betrayal.
A new story in this series, this is called 'The Red Angel' and it is written by Owen Chow (aka ORKY ARD BOYZ from the TGC forum). This one deals right with the progenitor himself, and the separation of the Legion from the Emperor. I think you will agree it makes exciting reading! So, without further ado...
The Red Angel
By Owen Chow (aka Orky Ard Boyz)
ARIGGATA. ITS SKIES were dusty red, streaked black by aircraft contrails and smudged with smoke. Surrounding the basalt citadel had once been a calm and featureless plain, a sea of dirt. Now it boiled, soil erupting as munitions pounded around the fortress walls. Grit showered the warriors waiting in their trenches, pattering like rain from blue and white armour. Hronde’s helmet autosenses couldn’t entirely filter out the thunder of bombardment. He focused on his battle brothers instead. They were tensed, unreadable behind their war helms. The vox buzzed with static and Horkal’s growl broke the silence. ‘How much longer?’ Hronde replied: ‘As long as their defences stand.’ He noticed Horkal was pacing. ‘You are of the Legiones Astartes. Control yourself,” he snapped. The bigger man grunted. ‘Nnngh. The primarch doesn’t order us to control ourselves.’ The primarch. Hronde ‘s heart had leapt like all of his brothers’ when the Emperor, beloved by all, announced their lord returned. The legion was whole. Complete. The doubts began when the killings started. Their... commander was a beast. He was not like the charismatic Horus or the stoic Guilliman, each a living embodiment of the Imperium; gene-crafted to be vivid and majestic leaders, scholars and warriors. Angron was different. Angron had returned damaged, broken somehow. Howling and screaming, lashing out at all who came close. Livid yellow eyes glaring in the darkness, lips peeled over his teeth, cursing the Emperor. Horkal’s voice broke his reverie. ‘I can’t stand this bastard silence,’ he snarled before wrenching his helmet clear, revelling in the devastation. Hronde did the same and volume assaulted his ears, drowning out thought with the continuous boom of detonations. The ground shook. Blurred by the heat haze, the fortress shimmered like a mirage. Everywhere there was the bitter tang of melted rock and smoke. Then his squad dropped to their knees, dipping their heads, still as statues. Hronde turned and came face to face with a demigod. Angron wore a breastplate of brazen scales upon which the chained Imperial Aquila clanked as he moved. Dragging at his shoulders, a chainmail cape rippled in the firelight. Hronde could bear no more than a glimpse. Mind emptied, he felt light, almost giddy. The strength drained from his limbs. His knees tried to bend as if of their own volition. The scene seemed so right, to be the natural order of things: the king standing majestically and his devoted subjects bent at the knee in adoration. There was only one problem: he could not kneel. He had forgotten how. A voice like the rumbling of an earthquake spoke its first words but Hronde could not decipher them. Then he realised that the primarch was laughing. ‘You do not bow, little brother.’ It was true. He wondered why. Hronde suddenly noticed the massive chainaxe gripped in the primarch’s fists. Shark-like eyes rooted him to the spot, and knew the brutal intellect behind them knew only one reaction to uncertainty. To weakness. Even knowing this he could not move. ‘Why?’ Angron demanded. The chainaxe gunned into life, and Hronde was so close that he could feel whip of each jagged tooth slicing the air. The shark eyes narrowed. Lips drew back over teeth. Hronde stood very still, raising his head to look his liege-lord in the eyes, fists clenched. He measured the tone of his voice. ‘Sire, would you have your warriors grovel at your feet? Saluting their own deaths, begging for their lives?’ The demigod stared back with his predatory glare. ‘Salute in the hot dust... hnnn... standing proud, ready to die.’ Angron’s features twisted into what could have been a smile. His barked with his harsh De’shean accent, savaging the Imperium’s Low Gothic with deliberate pleasure. ‘Like my brothers and sisters, brave Cragore facing down the beasts, never smiling. Grim Cragore.’ His eyes began to wander, and his voice lost its edge, his words trailing to nothing. Then his attention snapped back to Hronde. ‘So what are you, weakling?’ ‘Your warri-‘ ‘Another warrior! Another grave-grubber with scholar oaths, playing at valour.’ Horkal began to speak from where he knelt nearby, to defend Hronde. Angron ignored him, eyes fixed upon the still-standing legionnaire in front of him. Hronde’s hearts were pounding, the stink of hyper-adrenaline filling his nostrils. ‘I serve my liege and by extension, the Emperor, belov-‘ ‘The Emperor and his weakling crusade,’ Angron blurted. ‘No valour, no! Butchering paperskins with his fire-from-above.’ A particularly loud explosion punctuated his words. Hronde’s mind raced. His will fought against his instinct. Years of training yearned to correct these heretical words, but the very thought of Angron locked the snarl behind his teeth and loosened his fists. He could never raise a hand against his primarch any more than he could against himself. It was said the Legiones Astartes were gene-coded with loyalty to their blood sires; he wondered if the primarchs were ingrained with the same level of loyalty to the Emperor. Could they be fallible? Abruptly the bombardment ceased, leaving an empty silence. The primarch whirled. ‘World Eaters!’ Angron roared the name like a curse. ‘Another world, another twist of the triumph rope. For glory, little brothers!’ He was answered by a cacophony of voices as his warriors surged from the trenches. One war cry was notable by its absence, or maybe it didn’t matter anymore. For the Emperor... Hronde drew his blade and was lost among the legion’s charge. Uneasy thoughts nagged at the edges of his mind as Angron threw himself into the battle without any thought of danger. It was all he lived for. There was a screaming reactor in place of his heart that boiled white hot rage into his fists and gritted his teeth in a mockery of courage. But what was death when there was nothing left to live for? Brooding alone, the primarch knew no true equal. Even his brother demigods judged him, as he shut himself away between wars. He was damaged. Broken. Fallible. Everything depended upon Angron. The Legion, their loyalty, everything. Charging forward, roaring his nonsensical invective, every inch a warrior and defining the very values of selfless sacrifice and defiance, Angron was the most majestic sight he had ever seen. The monster and the hero. The future was filled with boundless possibilities while he stood at their head. As the legion charged, the ruddy dust upon their armour plate caught the light. Hronde wondered, was it an omen of things to come? The Legion was coloured red. World Eater red.
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.’
This blog was created as a resource for fans of Pre-Heresy World Eaters, and also to chart my progress as I built the force and mused on different ideas for it!
At present the blog is inhabiting limbo, the place between projects ongoing and ones which have been shelved. My interest in Pre-heresy (and 40k in general) is being propped up by the Black Library books and the wonderful community that has grown around discussing it, and absolutely no progress has been made on the modelling, painting and game playing side of things for at least 6 months!
That being said, the chaps over at the Great Crusade forum (go take a look!) are organising an event for March 2013 which I am planning on attending. Will the 13th legion then be collecting skulls via boarding torpedoes in space, or even at the 6mm scale? Quite possibly!
In the meantime, please let me know any thoughts and comments with an aim to make this blog a better resource for World Eater players!