The Tales of the Emperasque: Part Four
Continued from The Tales of the Emperasque: Part Three.
Lord Kaldor Draigo was on the verge of losing his temper. He had flown straight to Terra as fast as he could after finding Malcador the Sigillite’s message, and raced to the Imperial Palace the second he had entered the atmosphere. The Palace was in the middle of an uproar, unabated after the transmission the High Lords had made. The Palace authority had not, of course, refused entry to the vessel containing the Lord Grand Master of the Grey Knights, but even his name couldn’t clear the riots brewing in depths of Terra. The full company of the Adeptus Custodes had assembled within the halls of the Palace, and every one of the innumerable adepts, drones, Ecclesiarchs, and pilgrims within the massive structure had been forced out, unless they were one of those lucky few who lived within the massive, country-spanning building itself.
Draigo paced back and forth before the Eternity Gate, his every step watched with raptor-like vigilance by the gold-armored Custodes that guarded it. Under more normal circumstances, he probably would have been just a little intimidated by the pair of Warhounds tracking his every move, but he was far too irate to care.
After nearly an hour of waiting—an HOUR! To fulfill the Terminus Decree—the doors finally swung open, and a Custodian Terminator strode forth. He spoke without preamble. “Lord Draigo. You are expected. I apologize for the wait, but things have become hectic of late.” Without another word, he turned on his heel and walked back into the room, with the slightly shorter Draigo hot on his heels.
“I can not wait any longer,” Draigo said icily. “I must speak with the God-Emperor at once.”
The noise level around him was higher than he ever would have guessed. The thousands of tubes and conduits that lead from the floor to the Golden Throne had been unplugged from the Throne and retracted, spooled back into hidden coils in the floor. Previously, they had ferried the souls of the sacrificed psykers in the tunnels below to the Emperor, so that His life could be sustained. Now, however, the psykers were allowed to live, and the Throne was gradually being disassembled.
“Naturally,” the Custodian replied dryly. “Might I inquire as to the subject?”
Draigo hesitated. “…No. I apologize, Lord Custodian, but I am afraid I must speak to Him and Him alone.”
The Custodian whirled around. “Master Draigo, I can only assume you came here to enact the Terminus Decree. Not even we of the Household Guard were privy to its orders, but I can imagine them. The Emperor Himself informed us, the day after Malcador sealed those orders away, that they told you to come here and await Him. Well, He’s gone.” The light from thousands of luminators glinted off his jet-black helmet lenses. “Deal with it.”
Draigo, for the second time in a week and the third time in his life, felt his jaw drop. He was astonished by the Custodian’s utter disrespect, but also by his knowledge of something that should have been sealed away and forbidden for everyone in the galaxy but him and the Emperor.
“Now, you listen,” he snapped angrily. “I traveled here from Titan because I was assured that the Emperor himself would give me the command of the Decree, and so I shall wait here until he does.”
The Custodian stared impassively at the seething Grey Knight, then shrugged, with every sign of nonchalance. “Fine. Suit yourself. Try anything insipid and we’ll rip you to shreds, anyway.” He gestured vaguely in the direction of the massive banner of Sanguinius, head bowed, that hung behind the Emperor. “There’s probably still a forklift back there for you to sit on if you get bored.”
Draigo tilted his head, stunned. The Custodian was all right with his demand? He seized the opportunity. “Very well, thank you.”
“Whatever you say,” the Custodian said coolly. He turned back to the Throne and walked towards it, as the Eternity Gate slid shut with an echoing CLANG. Draigo looked out over the massive room with awe. He had been here before, naturally, but never when the room was in such a state. The Golden Throne was being slowly disassembled by a cadre of Archmagi of the Mechanicum, with a ring of several hundred techpriests around the base of the colossal structure, each holding an incense stick in one hand, and a tiny sensor package in the other, those with mechadendrites holding more of either.
The Throne was coming apart in the excruciating care of the Mechanicum, carefully detaching individual cords, boxes, and tubes, and very cautiously placing them in tiny, vacuum-rated pouches, to be carted off by servitors. The pouches were stamped with purity seals and lowered into a stasis field by another techpriest.
Beyond them, a group of nearly a thousand Custodes were busily manhandling massive crates into rows, while a colossal cargolifter, driven by another Custodian, lifted them into stacks. Some of them had layers of dust on them that looked as if they had not been disturbed in years, which surprised him greatly. Didn’t sanctionites, Inquisitors, and fresh Custodes come in here all the time?
A telepath with the markings of a Master Astropathica Adept bustled past him with a psyker-stave in his hand, mumbling to himself. “However shall we do this, oh however shall we do this…”
Draigo lifted one armored hand. “You, there, Astropath…where is the Emperor?”
The Astropath spun around and glared at the Grey Knight through sightless eyes. “Have you taken all leave of your senses, Custodian? How could you not know?” Without another word, he spun away and resumed mumbling without missing a syllable.
Draigo started after him, growing more and more irritated by the second. “Wait, I’m not…” he trailed off as the muttering psychic walked away. He stopped and turned around again, fighting a growing feeling of being sandbagged.
“Does nobody here but me think that the Emperor being possessed is a matter of some urgency?” he snarled under his breath.
A pair of Inquisitors, both Ordos Malleus by the look of them, walked up behind the power-armored warrior and came to a halt. “Grand Master Draigo?” the elder one asked.
Draigo spun around. “Yes. Who might you be?”
The Inquisitor smiled. “I am Averus Valentine, of the Ordo Malleus. This is my associate, Jonash Haldebrandt. We would like your assistance.”
Draigo crossed his arms. “And how may I serve you, gentlemen?”
Haldebrandt spoke up. “Grand Master, am I to understand that you have seen the broadcast made by the High Lords?”
“Naturally,” Draigo replied. “What of it?”
“Well, Master, we’ve seen it too. We were wondering what you thought of it,” Valentine said, his face a placid, unassuming mask.
Draigo slowly uncrossed his arms. He gestured with his hands to the corner of the colossal room, and slowly walked off in that direction. Valentine allowed a small smile for his younger colleague and followed.
“I don’t know what you mean, Inquisitor,” Draigo said slowly.
“I imagine you do,” Haldebrandt said mildly. “The Emperor Himself, in His divine glory, consuming a Greater Daemon of Khorne in single combat? For that matter, a Daemon even appearing in this, the most heavily guarded building in all of human space?”
Draigo reached one vaulted wall of the room and continued along it. “It had struck me as odd.”
“Us as well, Master Draigo. Do you think that perhaps, the High Lords might have been lying?” Valentine asked.
“Lying? Probably not,” Draigo hedged. “Obscuring the truth? Probably. Emperor knows, daemons can be willfully summoned. An Inquisitor of all people should know that.”
“Touché, Master Draigo,” Valentine said, a smile tugging at his lips. Haldebrandt just looked miffed. “In fact, that is what we suspect occurred. We think that the Most Divine Emperor summoned a daemon from the Warp and bound himself to its form.”
Draigo sighed. “Under…literally any other circumstance, I imagine I would kill you both for that heresy…but I agree. That seems to be the case.”
Valentine stopped walking, all traces of levity gone from him now. “So…what do we do about it?”
There were only a few hundred Dark Angels present in the Rock when Lion El’Jonson awoke, but all were summoned to the Chapel to hear him speak. Several dozen Initiates and Neophytes were milling around in the vast auditorium, but the older Angels were all silent. When Lion slowly walked on to the stage and turned to address the crowd, the whole room seemed to hold its collective breath.
Lion winced and recoiled slightly as he looked out over the assembled Marines. “Gah…can someone turn those lights down a bit? I haven’t used my eyes in nine thousand years.”
Several Techmarines at the back of the room scrambled to obey. The lights lowered considerably, and Lion sighed. “Thanks, brothers.”
He walked slowly to the front of the stage. “I imagine that you were rather expecting this to be a bit more formal, but frankly, this alone is more than sufficient. We have always been keepers of secrets.” He turned his back to his brothers and slowly paced across the stage.
“I have awoken, by the will of the Emperor. He has risen from His Golden Throne, and visited the Rock personally.” The room erupted in a buzz of incredulous noise. El’Jonson stopped pacing and glared coolly at the rows of Power Armored Astartes, and the buzz died at once. After a moment, he grimaced.
“I suppose I shouldn’t be angry, I imagine I would be skeptical too. Still, I assure you, the God-Emperor of Mankind has arisen.”
A Techmarine stood, head bowed respectfully. “Lord El’Jonson, will He not appear before us here? So that we may resume our Grand Crusade?”
El’Jonson shook his head ruefully. “Oh, there will be a Grand Crusade, make no mistake, but He will not come here. I doubt he would fit in the room.”
The stunned silence couldn’t have been quieter in a vacuum. After very nearly a minute, in which even the Lion himself could barely suppress a laugh, one of the Terminators of First Company spoke up. “Um…Lord El’Jonson, what do you mean, he couldn’t fit in the room?”
“I meant precisely what I said, brother,” El’Jonson said with restrained mirth. “He’s huge. Zyberhuge, one would say.”
“I thought…I mean, isn’t He…He’s a divine man, but still the size of the mortal man he used to be, before He ascended the Throne, right?” the Dark Angel blustered.
“Ah, I see what you meant. No, he isn’t, not any more,” Lion said frankly. “He’s…changed. He summoned a daemon and took control of its body. His mind travels in its body now. He also allowed the beast to psychically consume his old body, as well, so he has retained all of his old abilities, while acquiring the beast’s.”
The room erupted in confused yelling, prayer, and questions. After nearly a minute, Lion raised his hands for silence. “Brothers, I know you’re skeptical, but I assure you, it’s the truth.”
“But then won’t the Astronomican become invisible?” one of the Deathwing Lieutenants asked in horror.
“No, no, Brother-Lieutenant,” Lion hasted to assure them. “He kept the beacon lit even while battling Horus, and while nearly dead on the Throne. He can guide its light even easier now, since he isn’t bound to a failing Throne.”
The Lieutenant hesitantly spoke up. “So…where is he now?”
Lion nodded. “A very reasonable question. I have no idea. He’ll contact us when the need arises, though, I’m sure.
“In the meantime,” the Primarch said, raising his gaze to take in the entire room, “we must prepare. Six of our Companies are in the field on assignment or recruiting, so we should make ready what forces remain here. He may return at any time.” The assembled Marines rose to their feet, sensing the dismissal in the phrase. They saluted their Primarch as one, and made for the doors of the great hall, still muttering to themselves.
Lion sighed. Azrael, the Chapter Master, remained in his seat, in the middle of the front row. When the other Angels were gone, he spoke up. “Lord El’Jonson, will you be joining us in the field when called?”
El’Jonson looked away for a few seconds. “If my strength returns fully, yes, I will. Until then…I am in need of recuperation.”
“I understand, my Lord,” Azrael said, masking his disappointment. He stood and saluted as well, then walked out with the others. Lion stood staring at the empty room for several seconds before letting out the sigh he had been holding.
“It would have been easier to lie,” he said under his breath.
The Daemon Prince Fulgrim lashed around his many arms in a blinding rage. “Who DARES to steal my toy from me? My own BROTHER was MINE! He was MINE! MINE, to do with as I SAW FIT!” He tilted back his head and let out a scream of frustration and disappointment.
All about him, his lesser daemonettes shook and waved, trying to distract him from his anger, but he lashed out, whipping his scimitars at the nearest ones. The daemon-blades swept them aside, and they shrieked and bolted. “OUT! OUT! OUT!”
They fled with indecent haste, as Fulgrim slumped to the floor. “He was mine…” he whispered, “…and he will be AGAIN!” He suddenly sprung up, and strode to the balcony of his private quarters. He stared out over the twisted ground of the Daemonworld he commanded, at the legions of tiny warp sprites and daemons that cavorted on his endless lawns, and at the Emperor’s Children and Noise Marines that guarded his walls.
He tilted his warped head back and roared, the sound of his voice cutting through the noise. “Arise, my children! Arise, legions of Slaanesh! WE MARCH TO WAR!”
“Just shoot it, ya gitz!” Warboss Vogurk Hedbreakuh yelled at the squad of boyz behind him. They started milling around in confusion, and he raised his Power Klaw to the sky. “Iz da biggest and da’ strongest, so do as I says! Shoot that Squiggoth or I’ll feed ya to it!”
Now, THAT they understood. The boyz raised their shootas and opened up on the rampaging squiggoth that had just rammed the Gargant at the back of their base. It ran forward, charging in a blind panic, caroming off of a park wartrukk and stampeding through a pack of gretchins, knocking them aside.
Hedbreakuh snarled and raised his own Kustom Shoota. “I’ll do it myself!” he roared, charging forward. “WAAAAAGH—OW!”
He suddenly veered off and slammed into the ground, green ichor leaking from his shoulder. “Who’s the bright git who just shot me?!” he roared at the pack of boyz who had been following him. They looked at each other uncertainly.
“Uh, it wasn’t any of us, boss,” the Nob leading them hedged. Hedbreakuh snarled.
“Well, it was one of you bloody gitz, and when I figure out which of youz it was, I—”
He didn’t have time to finish the threat, as the Gargant abruptly exploded, casting chunks of metal the size of wartracks high into the air, and the Orks in the camp scampered around to avoid being crushed.
The Big Mek stared. “ME BLOODY GARGANT! It’z done exploded!”
Hiding in a pile of rubble at the back of the camp, Jaghatai grinned cruelly. “Ohhh, yeeeaaah…I can see why Konrad preferred to fight this way…” he whispered to himself. “But…now, I need a ride…”
The Emperor’s imminent arrival on Cadia—as announced by a member of the Ordo Telepathica—was greeted with an odd mixture of joy, terror, and apprehension. Joy, for what loyal son of the Imperium wouldn’t be happy to hear that their Emperor had returned to them? Terror, for those of the Cadians who had turned to Chaos for personal greed were now afraid for their souls. Apprehension, because the leaders of the Cadian Task Force were all too familiar with how the previous visit to Cadia had turned out.
Lord Castellan Creed stood on the landing pad of Kasr Vortiga and chewed his cigar. Externally, he was placid, but internally, his gut was churning. Colour Sergeant Kell, as always, was standing beside him, and, as always, noticed his Lord’s unease. “Anything I can do for you, sir?” he asked politely.
Creed shook his head slowly. “No, Sergeant, I’ll be all right.”
“Not what I asked, sir,” Kell pointed out. Creed was silent for a moment.
“No, Kell, I don’t need anything, but I am wondering where the hell Deathwolf and Blenkach got off to,” he said. He glanced over his shoulder, where Clenden and Mardeus stood at attention, Mardeus nursing his head.
“I’m sure they’ll turn up,” Kell said diffidently, “they always do.” Creed snorted. “True enough.”
“The Emperor will arrive in about two minutes,” Mardeus spoke up suddenly. Creed nodded curtly.
“Acknowledged. How’s your head this time?” he asked.
“Better,” the telepath said. “It’s far less painful when I know he’s passing by. Maybe I won’t go into a coma, this time,” he added drily.
“Right. That would be preferable,” Creed chuckled. Senior Princeps Pace, leader of the Titan legion Legio Vixut II, stationed on Cadia until the Black Crusade was deemed no longer a threat, walked up to him and nodded respectfully.
“Lord Castellan,” the impossibly pale man said, clearly as nervous as Creed was.
“Princeps,” Creed nodded in reply. Before he could add anything to the conversation, however, the air gained a familiar purple tint. All those in attendance stood to parade-ground attention, as the air rushed back, nearly blowing Pace’s uniform hat off, and the Emperor appeared in the middle of the parade ground.
“GENTLEMEN, IT IS GOOD TO BE BACK,” the Emperor began without preamble. The various military personnel dropped to one knee in reverence.
“Most divine, you honor us with your holy presence,” Mardeus spoke for them all.
“YES…WELL. I’M GLAD YOU COULD ASSEMBLE ON SUCH SHORT NOTICE,” the Emperor said, changing the subject. As if they would have done anything other than show up when He commanded, Creed thought to himself.
“In fact, my Lord God, the Astartes and Commissariat representatives could not be here,” he said aloud.
The Emperor shifted his gigantic bulk in surprise. “OH? AND WHERE MIGHT THEY BE, LORD CASTELLAN?” he asked. Creed felt sweat appear under his collar.
“Forgive me, my Lord God, but I have no idea. They were supposed to be here.” Just in time, the Lord Commissar and Astartes appeared in the door to the open parade ground, with Blenkach panting in the Marine’s long footsteps.
They both skidded to a halt when they saw that the gigantic Emperor was present, with both men doing their best to reach the others and take their places in line. Before they could get even half-way, however, the Emperor’s psychic voice spoke. “SO GLAD YOU COULD JOIN US, GENTLEMEN.”
“A thousand pardons, my Lord God,” the Commissar managed. “We were in the command center. It seems that a massive Warp Rift has opened to the north."
“OH? WELL, NO HARM DONE THEN,” the Emperor thought/spoke, to Blenkach’s immense relief. “PERHAPS I’LL SEE TO IT PERSONALLY WHEN I’M DONE HERE. IN THE MEANTIME,” he said, turning his beady gaze on Deathwolf, “I UNDERSTAND THAT HERE, OF ALL PLACES, IS WHERE LEMAN RUSS WAS LAST SPOTTED?”
Deathwolf’s heart leapt. “Ah…no, my Lord God,” he said cautiously, as he and Blenkach took their places in line with the others. “It is suspected that the lost Thirteenth Great Company was part of the fighting to the north a few weeks ago, and there was a rumor that Lord Russ was involved, but it was only a rumor.”
“NEVERTHELESS,” the Emperor roared reprovingly, “THERE ARE IMPERIAL TROOPS UP THERE, AND THEY NEED TO BE SUPPORTED. MOBILIZE WHAT ASTARTES THERE ARE PRESENT HERE ON CADIA, AND PREPARE THEM FOR MARCHING TO THE SITE OF THAT WARP RIFT. I’LL BE ALONG PRESENTLY.”
Two hundred miles north of the Kasr, a tear in reality stood open. The cackling hordes of Chaos spilled forth, eager to shed the blood of the four Space Marines and single Dreadnought that reached the rift in time. An apothecary, two techmarines, and the Chapter Master of the Blood Ravens stood defiant, casting down the hordes that spilled towards them, as the Dreadnought stood behind them, providing cover fire. Seven construction servitors worked feverishly to reload and repair seven auto-bolter turrets that had been hastily dropped to cover the rift.
“Chapter Master Angelos, I have received word from the Kasr that reinforcements are incoming!” one of the Techmarines voxed, sounding distracted as he covered a servitor. The former Ogryn lumbered forward, a crate of bolts in its hands.
“Finally! What did they decide to do instead of helping us?” Angleos yelled, hefting a krak grenade towards a roaring cultist that had made it past the hail of bolts. The grenade detonated inches from the screaming cultist, casting his entrails in the air.
“Meeting somebody from Terra, I gathered,” the Techmarine replied tersely, then pivoted to crush the face of a giggling Slaaneshi cultist in with his mechadendrite.
“I must say, Brother Chapter Master Angelos, this is preferable to endlessly retelling stories,” the armored form of Bjorn rumbled from his speakers. He pivoted at the waist and fired a stream of bolter shells at the flapping, winged form of a Nurglite daemon, which splattered messily at the base of the sandbags the small cluster of Marines were hiding behind.
A Lesser Bloodletter charged from the rift next, running straight through the bolter shells like they weren’t even there. It leapt the barrier and slammed into the Apothecary, who yelled in surprise and pain. Angelos hefted his Daemonhammer and slammed it into the daemons’s leg, trying carefully not to hit the prostrate Apothecary. The Khornate monster screamed, flying apart at the waist, as the Apothecary slammed his blade into the daemon’s face with every sign of relish.
“Well met, Lord Angelos,” Bjorn rumbled. “There’s another coming out now…they’re laying on the fucking pressure.” Without another word, he fired another salvo of bolter shells into the creature, which had chosen that unfortunate time to leap up into the air. It caught the bolts square in the midsection, and tumbled directly into Bjorn’s Lightning Claw. Bjorn laughed.
“Ah, the memories…”
“I thought you didn’t want to tell stories,” Angelos said with grim humor. A cultist with more bloodlust and enthusiasm, in World Eaters colors, leap over the sandbags, screaming.
“Blood for the Blood God! Skulls for his—GURK” he cut off as the apothecary grasped his head and squeezed, the unfortunate cultist’s head bursting like an overripe tomato.
“As delightful as this is,” Bjorn continued, slicing a warp sprite to ribbons that quickly evaporated, “our ammunition supply can only hold out–HOLD STILL GOD-EMPEROR DAMN YOU–so long. Brother Techmarines, when are those reinforcements arriving?”
“Under two minutes!” the nearest Techmarine yelled, seconds before catching a plate full of shrapnel from an impossibly lucky cultist with a grenade. His massive body pitched backward, colliding with the ammo servitor he had been guarding, which detonated with a crackling fireball that temporarily knocked everyone but Bjorn off of their feet. Bjorn quickly hosed down the sprawling daemons with his bolter, but he only managed to kill two before the other four leapt back up, charging forward.
“Blood for the Blood God!” one roared, leaping at the dreadnought.
“HE’LL DRINK YOURS!” a terrifying psychic voice roared, stunning the assembled pack of fighters into silence. A huge shadow engulfed the battlefield as a vast daemon speared above the tableau, landing on the daemons with an echoing THUD.
The bolter turrets rotated to destroy the new thread, but with a single roar that left Angelos’s ears ringing, their machine spirits were either deactivated or terrified into submission. The creature turned its attention back to the rift, and with a horrifying flash of light, the rift started to knit itself shut.
Angelos found his mouth hanging open. He snapped himself out of his shock and gestured to his comrades. “Wait a moment, brothers, this…abomination is sealing the rift. Wait until it finishes.”
The enormous orange daemon glowed an eerie purple light, which seemed to make the lesser daemons and cultists wither away in its very presence. The rift slowly knitted itself back together, spilling out daemons that boiled into vapor from the creature’s presence. Before it sealed completely, however, a chilling laugh echoed out of the hole, heralding the arrival of a Bloodthirster of Khorne.
The monstrous orange daemon that had come to Angelos’ aid abandoned its rift-sealing sorcery and hurtled itself forward, catching the winged Khornate daemon in the midsection. It sprawled back onto the ground, but recovered quickly, beating its wings to regain its balance. It hefted a blood-drenched sword and charged the huge orange creature.
Angelos watched in awe as the two monstrous creatures grappled, with the orange interloper seemingly holding the advantage. It swept one massive hand at the Bloodthirster’s knees, catching it off guard, and grabbed its torso with the other clawed hand, then, with a sickening rip, tore the monster in half, discarding it like a candy wrapper. It turned back to the rift, and roared so loudly that Angelos was fervently glad he had elected to wear a helmet that day.
Finally, with a horrid ripping noise, the rift sealed itself up, the eldritch light faded, and the air settled down. The creature twisted, nonchalantly, to face the Marines. Angelos felt a strange sense of finality wash over him, as he stared certain death in the face.
The orange daemon turned to Bjorn, who was busily scraping daemon ichor off its carapace with a pile of clothes ripped from a dead cultist. Bjorn’s optics glanced at the beast. “Boss. Have you gained weight?”
“BJORN, YOU OLD FART, I ALMOST DIDN’T RECOGNIZE YOU IN THAT COLOR.”
“Why, whatever do you mean?” Bjorn asked coyly, an instant before Angelos could make a panicked statement. “I’ve always been with the Blood Ravens.”
The massive creature stared at Bjorn with its horrible eyes for a moment, before shrugging. “EH. YOU SAY SO. NONE OF MY BUSINESS.” He turned to Angelos, who was staring at the exchange with a look on his face that could modestly be described as ‘stupefied.’ “YOU MUST BE GABRIEL ANGELOS. CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR PROMOTION. I WAS BRIEFLY CONCERNED THAT I WOULD HAVE TO DECLARE YOUR ENTIRE CHAPTER EXCOMMUNICATE TRAITORIS.”
Angelos finally found his wits. Sort of. “Um…who are you?”
“WHAT, ARE YOU DENSE?” the creature replied. After a few awkward seconds, it laughed. “I JEST. I AM THE EMPEROR OF MANKIND, REBORN IN A NEW BODY.”
If the word ‘stupefied’ had described Angelos before, ‘flabbergasted’ would work now. The huge creature turned back to Bjorn, who had discarded the cultist’s rags, apparently satisfied with his cleaning job. “SO, HOW DID YOU KNOW WHO I WAS?”
The elder dreadnought shrugged his artificer adamantium shoulders. “We fought under the same sky, once. Leman Russ and I battled at your will on Ildrave III, and I met you in person after the battle, if you’ll recall.”
“WELL, YEAH, BUT I WAS HUMAN THEN.”
“You’re the memorable sort, Sire,” Bjorn said, using the honorific that probably hadn’t been used to describe the Emperor in eight thousand years. “Besides, I could…sense it. I’m no psyker, thankfully, but I remembered that you used a similar ability to seal a rift on Klenda Prime. I only heard about it in the after-action report, but…”
“YEAH, THAT WAS ME. GOOD MEMORY.” The Emperor turned to the apothecary, who had fallen to his knees. “SO, ARE YOU GOING TO SEE TO THE BROTHER TECHMARINE?”
“What? Oh…” the apothecary turned to the techmarine who had been flung into the explosion, who was twitching feebly, the back layer of his armor shattered. The apothecary struggled to his knees and hurried over to the marine, slipping a probe into the downed techmarine’s armor. The other techpriest knelt reverently before the Emperor, who sighed.
“HONESTLY, YOU DON’T NEED TO DO THAT.”
The Techpriest looked up at him, his mask hiding his confusion. “But…my Lord God, I am simply offering you a sign of my devotion.”
“YOU’RE AN ASTARTES, YOUR GENE-SEED DISTILLED FROM MY OWN ESSENCE. YOU DON’T NEED TO SHOW ME DEVOTION THROUGH ANYTHING BUT ACTION. NOW GET UP, REALLY.”
The techmarine (and Angelos) scrambled to their feet, while the Emperor looked back to Bjorn. “SO, BJORN, IS THERE ANY TRUTH TO THE RUMOR THAT LEMAN RUSS HIMSELF IS LEADING YOUR THIRTEENTH GREAT COMPANY INTO BATTLE, HERE, RIGHT NOW?”
“I haven’t the foggiest idea, Boss,” the dreadnought said. “He disappeared into the Eye of Terror over nine thousand years ago. If he’s here, then it must be…”
“THE WOLFING TIME, YEAH, I GATHERED. YOU GUYS PICKED THE WEIRDEST NAME FOR IT, THOUGH.”
“I loathed it, Sire, always have,” Bjorn said disgustedly. “Back in my day, we used wolves as mounts, maybe, icons, symbols. We were never literal wolves, but now…fuck, the lead Space Wolf on this planet is named Deathwolf, Wolf Lord of the Wolf Pack. Fuck. That’s just perpetuating a stereotype.”
“HAHAHAH, YEAH. WELL, HEY, LISTEN, IT WAS GREAT TALKING TO YOU AGAIN, BUT I SHOULD REALLY GO BACK AND CHECK IN WITH CREED. I’LL KEEP MY EARS OPEN REGARDING THE RUMOR THAT RUSS HIMSELF IS SOMEWHERE ON THIS ROCK.”
“Oh, no hurry, Sire,” Bjorn said hastily. “He’ll turn up if we really need him.”
“SUUUURE,” the Emperor drawled, not buying it for a moment. “I’LL TELL HIM YOU SAID HI.” With a flash of purple light, the huge Emperor disappeared. Bjorn glanced up momentarily, the dreadnought equivalent of a shake of the head.
“What a kidder.” He turned to Angelos, who was looking seriously stunned. “You okay, Chapter Master Angelos?”
Angelos turned to look Bjorn in the optics, looking stunned. “How…you…is it true? You walked under the same sky as the Emperor Himself?”
“Sure did,” Bjorn said, wandering around the sandbags to the piles of discarded clothes and weapons where the evaporated daemons and cultists had once lain. “Really, are you okay? You’re looking kind of wobbly. Here,” he said, lifting a discarded combi-bolter with his lightning claw. “Take this. A little looting after a battle always cheers you up.”
Two hundred miles south, Logan Grimnir, the Great Wolf of the Space Wolves, stood uneasily alongside Deathwolf and Creed. The rest of the council of war Creed had gathered had dispersed back to their commands, with orders to seize as much territory back from the Black Legion as they could, now that Abbadon was safely neutralized. The Titans under Pace were advancing into the vanguard, where the second company of the Dark Angels and seventy five Blue Daggers were pinning the rearguard of the Legion down. True to their orders, Deathwolf and Creed had assembled their forces to help seal the rift, but when the Emperor had seen how small it was, he simply told them to stand by, so that he could seal it himself.
Now, Grimnir, who had been aboard his vessel in orbit both when the Emperor first arrived and when he had returned, had used a drop pod to deliver both himself and three other First Great Company veterans to the surface, to meet the Emperor in person. The other three had found excuses to linger, for the chance of seeing the Emperor Himself, and Grimnir hadn’t objected.
With a brilliant flash of purple, the Emperor appeared before them, once more in the middle of the courtyard. Grimnir knelt, as did Creed and Deathwolf. “My Lord God, it is a true honor to stand before you now,” he began.
“SO STAND. DON’T KNEEL LIKE YOU’RE TYING YOUR SHOES. REVERENCE FROM AN ASTARTES OF ALL PEOPLE IS NEEDLESS. YOU TOO, LORD CASTELLAN CREED,” he added. “IF ANY MORTAL MAN HAS EARNED THE RIGHT TO STAND BEFORE ME UNBOWED, IT IS YOU.”
“My thanks, Your Divinity,” Creed said, creaking to his feet once more. Deathwolf and Grimnir stood as well. “Might I ask how the battle went?”
“ONE TECHMARINE WOUNDED, NO OTHER LOSSES,” the Emperor roared. “CHAPTER MASTER GABRIEL ANGELOS OF THE BLOOD RAVENS LEAD A FORCE OF FOUR, AND I ARRIVED JUST IN TIME TO KILL A BLOODTHIRSTER AND SEAL THE RIFT.”
“A Bloodthirster, my Lord God? A worthy foe indeed,” Grimnir said. “By any chance, did you see a dreadnought with the Blood Ravens?”
“…NO,” the Emperor said evasively. “ANYWAY, GRIMNIR, I’M GLAD YOU’RE HERE. I WAS WONDERING IF YOU HAD HEARD THE RUMOR THAT LEMAN RUSS HIMSELF IS LEADING THE THIRTEENTH GREAT COMPANY HERE, ON CADIA.”
“It is true, my Lord God,” the Space Wolf said, apparently taking the Emperor’s word for Bjorn’s absence. “The Father of the Pack leads the Lost Great Company. I have no idea where they are right now, but I’m sure they could be found with sufficient resources.”
“NO NEED FOR EXPENDITURE, GRIMNIR,” the Emperor replied. “THEY ARE HERE TO BATTLE THE FORCES OF THE TRAITOR PRIMARCHS, AS RUSS HIMSELF COMMANDED THEM TO DO. NOW THAT HE’S HERE, THEY’LL KEEP DOING IT, I’M SURE, BUT HE’LL BE LEADING THEM HIMSELF. I WILL MERELY NEED TO FIND THEM…AND I’LL FIND HIM.”
Clear on the other side of the planet, where the rifts of Chaos grew the largest, and where Abbadon had landed his forces first, a small band of Space Wolves were carving a path. They had started two hundred strong, but they had now been whittled down to a mere fifty. Their numbers didn’t translate to success or failure in battle, however.
For they were led by a Primarch.
Leman Russ himself had emerged from a warp rift at the onset of the Black Crusade, leading his Lost Thirteenth Great Company against the armies of Abbadon. He was cut off from the Imperial command, but still he had two hundred Space Marines at his back. That was more than enough.
Fully a month had passed since he had reappeared, and he had cut a swathe through the forces of Chaos Undivided. Now, however, he was pinned, with two Chaos Warhounds pouring energy blasts into the surrounding structures. A collapsed agricultural station was providing them with limited cover, but it could never have been enough to block that much fire continually.
Most of the Wolves were down to melee weapons, or improvised explosives. A few men had salvaged equipment from fallen enemies, but most could only hope for a chance at hand-to-hand.
Russ leaned back against a collapsed brick wall, flinching at the pain from a seeping wound on the back of his hand. Their few living gunners were hammering away at the spotters for the Warhounds’ guns, but the incoming barrage was undiminished.
Russ felt a patter of brick chips land on him from a near miss and grimaced. If he had a single grenade left, he reflected, he would make those spotters acutely regret getting so close…
He glanced from side to side, taking stock of the rest of the people huddled in the expansive building. A few Wolves with ranged weapons – what few they had – were hiding at the windows, taking potshots at the enemies who were guiding the Warhounds. Those without were picking up chunks of building or furniture, barricading the doors. As if it would matter when the enemy came in through the roof with Titans.
A few of his wounded men were stretched out on the floor, some comatose, some just staring blankly, not seeing anything, and a few howling with pain. A PDF medicae had been lucky enough to stumble onto the Wolves when they were charging through the ruined city, and was tending to the gigantic Marines as best he could. The lack of proper medical equipment, the Marines’ modified genetic structure, and their wolf mutations were not helping. Russ’ eyes fell on the meager pile of food in the middle of the room, under an iron table for cover. It wouldn’t last them a day. If they hadn’t collapsed the buildings around them to slow down the Titans, or if the Titans were larger than Warhounds, they probably would have arrived already, but they had been blessed enough to avoid that.
The last thing to catch his eye was a small group of civilians who had been hiding in the building prior to his arrival. They had been desperate and scared, defended only by a brave squad of Kasrkin who had been protecting them until their numbers had gotten too low, then drawn the fire of the nearest Chaos forces and made a break for it, drawing the daemons off of the civilian’s scent.
A few were just too old to have fought, one or two were PDF who were too badly wounded to be of any help, some were just ordinary citizens of Cadia who had mustered out of the PDF when they were old enough and had something to protect…and then there was her.
A small girl, most easily discernible from the others because she wasn’t moving at all. She was sitting against a wall, her face utterly blank. She was just holding her arms to her sides, shuddering when a particularly loud explosion rocked the walls.
Russ had no idea how long she had been in this hellhole, but she was clearly shocked beyond normal medical aid. All Cadians receive medical and combat training when they come of age, but she couldn’t have been more than fourteen.
One of his Marines let his replacement relieve him at the window, and jumped the two stories down from the catwalk below the window to the floor. He landed with a loud CLANG, and several civilians shuddered or started. The girl didn’t even flinch. Russ shot the Marine a reproving glare, but didn’t wait to see if he caught it.
The girl had been alone when the Marines found her in an adjacent building, sitting alone in a wrecked apartment, her family smeared over the walls, and a Chaos cultist brandishing a weapon, jumping at the girl. She had just stood there, her face utterly blank, either not seeing or not comprehending what was going on. Russ had shot the cultist neatly in the back in mid-jump. The poor thing didn’t even flinch, just walked out of the apartment after Russ with all the emotion of a servitor.
Russ had seen civilians in shock before, of course, and even a few of his more disappointing Blood Claws. He wasn’t really aware of why this one poor girl had elicited such a response from him, on reflection. Maybe it was the fact that he had spent literally thousands of years in the warp, only to see such despair on his return. Ultimately, it didn’t matter.
A shrill whistle announced that a shell from the Warhounds was incoming. His Marines—the ones who could still move—leapt to cover, sheltering themselves with agricultural equipment. The civilians followed suit a moment later, and the medicae lay down between two injured Space Wolves, allowing their heavy armor to shield him from debris.
The shell slammed into the roof of the building, bringing down huge chunks of the walls, and shattering another chunk of the abused roof. One vast piece of masonry fell directly for the huddled civilians, and Russ launched himself without conscious thought towards them, bracing just in time to catch the stone block before it dropped on the innocents below.
Russ couldn’t suppress a groan of pain feeling the thousand pound block of rock slam into his back, and the civilians beneath scrambled out from beneath him. All except the girl, who just sat there, unflinching, even as the Primarch tottered over her.
Russ gritted his teeth. “Run, girl, if you want to live!” he managed to snarl. She slowly shook her head.
“No. Nothing hurts me now.” With a gasp of agony, Russ finally let the thousands of years lost in the warp, month of constant combat, and days of malnourishment take their toll, and the block slipped from his grasp.
He fully expected to see the girl crushed to death under the rock, but by some Emperor-blessed miracle, she was just far enough away to avoid being crushed. He slipped down on his haunches, panting for air and feeling his abused muscles screaming. The civilians clustered around him, offering thanks, but he heard none of it. He stared at the girl angrily.
“Did you not see, girl?! Why did you not move?!”
“I saw it was going to miss,” she said blankly, to his surprise. He had been expecting her to say she didn’t matter enough, or that she would have welcomed death.
“What do you mean?” he asked, still pissed off. She shrugged, a more human reaction than he had seen from her thus far.
“The ceiling piece wasn’t big enough, and your back is sloped at an angle that would have permitted it to miss me.”
Russ stared at her again, his anger fading. Before he could ask another question, a horrifying CRACK announced that the barricades had failed somewhere. A pack of screaming Chaos cultists flowed into the room at the far side of the vast building, firing laspistols with their traditional lack of accuracy. Several Wolves popped out of the cover they had been sheltering in while the masonry fell and sniped the cultists, their sudden appearance taking the cultists completely by surprise. Several fell at once, only to be trampled under the feet of the next dozen. They streamed into the room, vaulting equipment and bodies, firing wildly.
Inevitably, the volume of fire took its toll. One Space Marine collapsed, his ragged armor unable to block the dozens of lasbolts that had impacted it. Ignoring his pain, Russ sprinted the few dozen meters between him and the cultists, leaping into their midst, howling like a man possessed.
The cultists swarmed over him, roaring their hate or delirious joy, stabbing and kicking, too close for guns. Russ grabbed one tall cultist and swung him about like a club, smashing rows of the cultists aside.
One of his men seized the opportunity to get behind a huge truck that had been parked in the building, and threw himself against it with all the might his power armor could lend him. The machine bucked and slammed into the wall next to the door that had been breached by the cultists, knocking several off their feet. With another titanic effort, the marine slammed into the truck again, blocking the door off. A few quick shots with the laspistol he scooped up from a dead cultist set the promethium tanks ablaze, the conflagration spreading out into the streets, eliciting some rewarding shrieks as the cultists beyond burned alive.
Russ threw his improvised weapon into the burning truck, and wearily plodded back to the medicae. The medicae had been fortunate enough not to have acquired more than the one new patient in the collapse of the roof and the cultist attack, the Marine who had taken too many hits. He propped the wounded Marine up against the wall and glanced him over, shaking his head wearily.
Russ sat down heavily next to the medicae, allowing a slight moan of pain from the many cuts he had accumulated in the fight to escape his lips.
To his surprise, the civilians who had run back into cover during the fighting clustered around him. One fellow who looked old enough to have fought in the Twelfth Black Crusade nodded respectfully, making the sign of the aquila with his hand. “Thank you, Lord Russ, we’d be dead without you.”
Russ nodded wearily, trying to smile. “You’re welcome, sir, but I must ask that you stand back. My blood is very acidic.” The civilians scrambled back, save for the medicae, who daubed a small patch of gauze on the marine who had been shot. Russ sighed and tilted his back, letting his weariness show completely. He shucked his gauntlets, letting them fall to the ground, and let his hands fall to the ground. His weariness overcame him, and he shut his eyes for a moment, trying to find a moment’s peace.
A sudden warmth on his hand snapped him back. He started and stared down at the girl, who had decided to ignore the tainted blood, and was sitting next to him, still staring straight ahead. She lifted his hand and set in her lap with visible effort, and he couldn’t help but grin. “Tainted blood doesn’t scare you, eh, girl?”
“Nothing does,” she said simply, without a trace of irony or deceit. “I don’t really feel much at all at times like this."
Russ nodded knowingly. “Ah, lass, that’s not always a bad thing.” He balled his hand into a fist and she placed both of her own hands over it, gazing listlessly over the chaotic room. “Take now. I don’t feel afraid either.”
“You’re a living Primarch, the Emperor’s will and blood,” she said matter-of-factly. “What should scare you is not what should scare me.”
“Oh? And why do you say that?” Russ asked in surprise. “Why do you think I’m not just another Space Wolf?”
“Because your image is recorded alongside the Emperor’s and Sanguinius’s images in the Hall of the Council,” the girl said, “and it was taken live on Terra at a meeting of the War Council.”
Russ stared at her, an eerie feeling of trickling ice in his spine. The War Council has disbanded almost eleven thousand years ago. The Hall of the Council had burned to the ground during his brother Horus’s betrayal shortly thereafter. A picture of the Hall would have to have been just as old. She had identified him as being more than a Marine from a picture of a picture of him eleven thousand years ago?
“The Hall of the Council, eh? You’ve visited Terra?”
“I could never do that, it would be too much,” she said softly, a flicker of discomfort crossing her face. “It would be home.” Russ looked around, confused. A planet full of daemons and a butchered family, and she thought somewhere else was a bad place to be?
The medicae caught his eye, and mouthed something. Russ blinked, and the medicae did it again slower: M P D
Russ caught on. The girl was mentally unstable before he even arrived?
“Well, lass, stick with us, and we’ll get you out of here,” he said, with all the false sincerity he could muster.
“I know what you can do, Lord,” she said flatly. “I was a Sister once.”
“You read about those Sororitas a lot, then, lass?” Russ hazarded. The Sororitas were a recent addition to the Imperium, but he had seen some fighting earlier in the campaign, and a member of the PDF had explained what they were.
The girl shook her head, tossing her ragged black hair in front of her face. “No. I was quiet once.”
“Quiet…what do you mean?” Russ asked in confusion.
“I don’t have a soul.”
Russ felt his skin crawl as he stared at the teenaged scamp. What the hell did she mean? If she were a blank, or Emperor forbid, a Pariah, he would have been able to sense it, even if he had no psyker talent, just from her proximity.
“Do you mean had? You didn’t used to have a soul, but you do now?” he asked, inspiration striking. She shook her head.
“Did you used to live on Terra?” he asked, unnerved.
“Yes. I was one with the Sisterhood.”
Russ tried to hide his shock. She hadn’t meant the Sisters of Battle…she meant the Sisters of Silence?! “You…you were one of the Sisters of Silence who was sucked into the void between dimensions when the Webway Father built collapsed, weren’t you? And your mind was sucked into this…this girl’s body when Abbadon opened his warp rift?”
She nodded, emotion flickering across her face. Russ looked at her in wonder. “You…you’re saying you were alive that whole time…trapped between the worlds?”
She suddenly squeezed her hands around his fist so tightly he thought she was trying to hurt herself. Her eyes watered up a bit, and her voice cracked with strain. “I am very old, my Lord.”
Russ leaned back, his mind churning. The girl was a blank, born with a soul but without any presence in the Warp, and when she was exposed to the raw stuff of Chaos, a Sister of Silence who had been torn apart in the Webvoid had been sucked into her. Sisters were all Pariahs, no soul to begin with, so there would have been no problem. The original girl was long since dead.
Before Russ could ask another question, a brilliant purple light flashed in the windows and the holes in the roof. The firing of the Warhounds paused for a moment, then redoubled. A horrible roar sounded in the minds of everyone in the room, and rang in their ears. “GET THE FUCK BACK IN THE WARP WHERE YOU BELONG, FOUL CHAOS! AND TAKE YOUR WORTHLESS TITAN KNOCKOFFS WITH YOU!” An echoing CRACK noise sounded from where one of the Titans had been, and one of its legs flew past the window. The other Titan scrambled to evade whatever was causing the destruction of its partner, but apparently fared no better. The sky turned white for a moment, and a shockwave slammed into the battered walls of the building, knocking some more debris loose, though fortunately it didn’t seem to hit anyone. The Space Wolf gunners, though confused, recognized the opportunity, and picked off the Black Legion spotters who had so kindly revealed their positions for them.
A few seconds of absolute silence passed. Russ slowly stood, pulling his hand from the girls’. A purple haze started to fill the middle of the room, then rushed aside as a colossal animal appeared.
Russ gaped. A daemon? Why did it slay the Titans if they were all beings of Chaos?
He shook his head, baring his fangs. No matter. He would kill it himself if he had to. Before he could take a single step, however, the girl spoke.
“Master. It is good to see you again.”
The creature turned around, shaking the room with each massive step. “OH? AND WHO MIGHT YOU BE…OH! CARANA! WOW. NO OFFENSE, BUT I HAD ALL BUT WRITTEN YOU OFF.” It turned to face Russ, who was standing next to the girl, bewildered. “LEMAN! WONDERFUL TO SEE YOU ALIVE AND WELL. LET’S GO, SHALL WE? THIS PLACE ISN’T SAFE.”
Russ felt his jaw drop. “Father? What…what have you become?”
The civilians who weren’t busy panicking and screaming looked at Russ or the monster, confused and terrified. It nodded. “YEAH, LEMAN, IT IS ME, THE EMPEROR OF MANKIND. I GUESS YOU DON’T GET THE NEWS OUT HERE, BUT I DEFEATED A DAEMON AND TOOK CONTROL OF ITS BODY. IT’S REALLY ME, THOUGH.”
The Marines either stared at the Emperor, blankly, or dropped to their knees, making the sign of the Aquila. Russ took a hesitant step forward. “Father…I have so many questions, but first…my brothers, these civilians, we can’t travel. Some are gravely wounded.”
“NOT A PROBLEM, LEMAN. I CAN BRING YOU ALL WITH ME. CARANA, I’D LOVE TO HEAR WHERE YOU’VE BEEN, BUT WE CAN DISCUSS IT LATER.”
The girl, or more precisely the Sister of Silence named Carana who lived inside her, struggled to her feet and awkwardly bowed. “I’ll tell you everything, Sire, but we have to escape.”
“YEP. EVERYONE GATHER UP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROOM.” Slowly, uncertainly, the various Marines and civilians walked over to where the Medicae and Russ dragged the wounded. The Emperor stood beside them, and despite Russ’s joy at rescue and at seeing his father again, he couldn’t fully suppress a shudder. His new form was…utterly monstrous.
With a loud rushing sound and flash of purple light, the strange collection of people were suddenly gone. They appeared in a burst of purple mist in the middle of Kasr Vortiga, where a small cluster of medicae and a pair of Wolf Priests waited. Several civilians fell to their knees or vomited at the strain of being dragged through the warp, even protected by the Emperor’s powers, but most simply staggered towards the medicae, gasping or praying aloud. Russ tilted his head back and grinned at the Emperor. “Well, Father, that was an impressive trick.”
“GEE, THANKS,” the enormous Emperor said drily. “YOU GO GET SOME REST ON DEATHWOLF’S SHIP, YOU NEED IT. WE CAN TALK LATER.” Russ blinked in confusion.
“Deathwolf? What’s that?”
“That would be me, Lord Russ,” Harald Deathwolf said, coming to a halt behind Russ and bowing reverently. “It is the honor of my life to see you and the Emperor standing together before me.” He straightened up, beaming, until he caught sight of the look on Russ’ face. “Oh, forgive me. I am the Twelfth Wolf Lord, of the Space Wolves. This is Logan Grimnir, the Great Wolf.”
Grimnir slammed his fist into his chest and bowed in respect, a wide grin on his face. “Though, I imagine, Lord, you’ll want that title back for yourself, as before,” Grimnir continued where Deathwolf left off.” Russ shook his maned head. “No, Sir Grimnir, the title is yours to keep. I’ve been out of touch for millennia, and I am in dire need of rest and recuperation. I may one day resume my role as Primarch, but until I feel ready for the responsibility again.”
Grimnir nodded in acquiescence. “As you say, Lord Russ.” Behind them, the medicae and Wolf Priests were checking over the wounded, earning some disparaging looks from the medicae and the PDF medic who had come with the Emperor, since the Wolf Priests were using nothing but runes, balms, and potions to treat their wounded comrades. The Emperor meandered over, shaking the ground slightly with each massive footfall. “GRIMNIR, RUSS, WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH THESE MARINES WHO WERE LOST IN THE WARP FOR SO LONG?”
Grimnir turned to face the Emperor, craning his head back. “Well…my Lord God, I expect that they will return to Fenris, where they can be properly cared for and reequipped, retrained, and can catch up on the history they’ve missed. The Inquisition will be furious, but…”
“WAIT, WHAT? WHAT ABOUT THE INQUISITION?” the Emperor interjected in surprise.
“My Lord God, until very recently, the Inquisition rounded up all persons who had come into contact with daemons, our own Grey Knights, or warp entities, sterilized them, and worked them to death in labor camps or mining worlds,” Grimnnir said with unconcealed distaste.
The Emperor was silent for several long seconds. Then, without a word, he teleported himself and Grimnir outside the kar walls, leaving Grimnir feeling a sense of whiplash at the suddenness of it. Before he could ask what was going on, however, the Emperor spoke, his voice growling and dangerous. More so, anyway.
“THE INQUISITION IS WORKING OUR LOYAL CITIZENS TO DEATH FOR SEEING DAEMONS?” he snarled.
“Y…Yes, my Lord God,” Grimnir said. “In fact, even the PDF and Guard stationed on Armageddon were killed, along with the populations of two entire worlds they tried to flee to, when the First War of Armageddon unleashed knowledge of daemons among the populace. Recently, they reversed their policy, since times of Black Crusade mean that more or less everybody hears of daemons, but they work hard to maintain the image that the Imperium isn’t at constant war with Chaos between them.”
The Emperor teleported Grimnir back to the parade ground, seconds before an inhuman roar, so loud it shattered windows, echoed over the parade ground. Russ and the other Marines looked over to the source of the sound in shock, with several citizens gasping and bolting for cover before sense reasserted itself. Seconds later, The Emperor’s voice spoke in their minds. “RUSS, I WILL RETURN TO SPEAK TO YOU AGAIN LATER. CARANA, GOOD TO SEE YOU. I HAVE BUSINESS TO ATTEND TO ON HIGH TERRA.”
Continued in The Tales of the Emperasque: Part Five.