Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Four Stories

I'm still gathering my thoughts and trying to acclimate to real life after the parade of spectral visions that is Adepticon. In the meantime, since the judges didn't read the background stories I wrote for our armies, here they are for your viewing pleasure. Lesson learned, and in retrospect it should have been obvious, but next year we'll have to make an effort to do something more visual.

Our theme was "The Feast of Terra," a commemoration of the events that transpired at the defense of Terra during the Horus Heresy. I present the following with a good-natured laugh at myself, keeping in mind the time I asked Joe to remove my name from some 40k-inspired fiction from our club's website as it might jeopardize my "serious writing career..."

This way to the feast of Terra:

Adeptus Custodes: Proclamation

In the name of HOLY TERRA, throne of the Emperor of Mankind, the most beneficent, glorious and godlike, cradle of Mankind, locus of all goodly realms, and spiritual home to all that rightly breathes.

WHEREAS, Terra, the seat of His glory, stands unyielding as all the stars move around her,

AND WHEREAS, Terra, the seat of dominion, stands unbroken throughout the long millennia,

AND WHEREAS, Terra, the seat of justice, stands as the living and eternal exemplar of the Emperor’s will,

THEREFORE do we, the HIGH LORDS OF TERRA, proclaim the FEAST OF TERRA, that we may remember His victory over the legions of ++Redacted by Inquisitorial Order++, casting them down before His very walls. In this way may the lessons of that day resound throughout eternity.

THEREFORE let the victors, or their inheritors, choose delegates to return to HOLY TERRA on the thousandth year and every thousandth year thereafter. In recognition of their honor do we name them:

THE BLOOD ANGELS, Sons of Sanguinius,

THE WHITE SCARS, Sons of Jhagatai Khan,
THE IMPERIAL FISTS, Sons of Rogal Dorn.

Let them gather with those who hold yet the highest honor:

THE ADEPTUS CUSTODES, let no man question their lineage.

Done in the sight of the Emperor,

Imperial Fists: Pilgrimage

++Disengaging neuropsychic lock. Resurrection protocol complete. Hail, honored ancestor.++

In the silent pink darkness, Laconicus stirred.

++Thought for the day: What is your fear? My fear is to fail. Primary life support online. Secondary life support online. Motive power online.  Weapons systems online. WARNING: ammunition depleted. Searching for personality engram… ERROR: personality engram not found. Beginning mnemonic recall:++

Breathing hard, Brother Laconicus crouched beneath the shattered column. To his left, the devastators were struggling through treacherous piles of fallen masonry, still too far removed to bring their heavy bolters to bear. Before him, a sea of bone and chitin as a horde of aliens breached the perimeter of the hive city. Black streaks arced through the sky like perverse rainbows. Moments later, a sickening liquid static filled the vox-net as Laconicus’ sergeant was enveloped in black acid, his armor plasteel and ceramite armor sloughing from him like an insect’s discarded husk.

Four were dead; six remained. The aliens bounded across the broken ground with unnatural speed. The devastators were still just out of range.

Laconicus broke cover, standing proudly, and leveled his bolter at the swarm. “Rally squad! Advance. Primarch-progenitor, for your glory…”

++Mnemonic recall 33% complete…++

“…and the glory of him on Earth,” intoned Sergeant Laconicus.  Squad Laconicus perched on the edge of the open cargo hold as the Thunderhawk gunship hovered unsteadily, ten yards above the ground. As one, they went over, sending up spatters of mud. The orks attacked almost immediately, bounding through the muck, a brutal cry filling the air.

Laconicus fired three deliberate shots, felling as many aliens, and then the orks were upon them. As squad Laconicus laid into the aliens with combat knives and bolter stocks, a huge ork stalked out of the driving rain, a mountain of green flesh and muscle. It swung its wicked axe in a wide, sweeping arc, knocking three space marines into the mud.  Time slowed as Sergeant Laconicus stepped forward to meet the beast.

++Mnemonic recall 82% complete…++

Laconicus, Brother-Sternguard of the Imperial Fists first company, touched the bronzed ork tusk as he often did before battle. The Rittenhouse Campaign was almost at an end; there would be a few scattered pockets of resistance and then Laconicus would return to the Phalanx and then Earth itself for the Feast of Terra.

With practiced effort, Laconicus stepped from the Rhino before it even sopped, briefly scanned his surroundings for cover, and rushed to kneel behind a low stone wall. The campaign had been nearly bloodless so far; the fury of the Imperial Fists was more than a match for a handful of bitter and rebellious agri-serfs. Laconicus scanned the empty fields as his battle-brothers took up positions around him. Night fell peacefully over Rittenhouse VI.

Hours later, Laconicus returned to the wall with his brothers. They laid all around him in a chaotic tangle as apothecaries moved among them in a welter of gore. Laconicus’ second heart was gone, pulverized by a heavy bolter shell in the Word Bearers’ initial ambush, and now his primary heart was beginning to fail as well. At his side, an apothecary administered the Emperor’s Peace to a mangled battle-brother, and then quickly extracted the marine’s progenoid gland. It glittered briefly like a wet jewel. Laconicus closed his eyes and prepared to die.

++Mnemonic recall 100% complete. Releasing magnetic locks. End process.++

Heavy blast doors pulled away and Ariston, Master of the Forge, entered the machine sanctum. He knelt. “Ancestor Laconicus,” he intoned. “Welcome to Terra. The feast awaits.”

Blood Angels: Communion
Librarian Octavius inhaled deeply, held the breath, and then released. At his will, the shadows inside the small cell flowed like water, pooling unnaturally around his feet and lessening the gloom somewhat. Sitting before the small writing shelf, he carefully opened the ancient leather tome and forced himself to concentrate. Even aboard his sanctuary on the Angelus Aurorae, he felt strangely disquieted as the ship entered the Sol system and began the final approach to Terra.

It was an honor to attend the Feast of Terra, he knew. And yet he had still quarreled with Mephiston before departing. No, it was impossible to quarrel with the cold malevolence of the chief librarian. Instead, Mephiston had been… displeased. He had thought Octavius’ plan to include brothers of the Death Company in a delegation to Terra reckless at best. The trauma of returning to the very site of Sanguinius’ death might prove too great.
Octavius had argued that, on the contrary, it might be the very balm to soothe their shattered psyches. In the end Mephiston had relented, with some urging from High Priest Corbulo. The sanguinary priests were desperate to find a cure and would leave no stone unturned. Mephiston only smiled his thin predatory smile and sent Octavius to his task. Now, on the very doorstep of Terra, Octavius was committed to his plan, come what may. It was true that as the ship drew closer to Terra, his trained mind discerned a certain… presence. And it was growing stronger. He began to write in his ledger.
“As a gift to the White Scars, a dozen jump packs chased with gold. To the Adeptus Custodes, the reliquary recovered from the shrine world of Kohol. To the Imperial Fists…”

Octavius was not sure how long he had been writing. He had filled pages with minute details of the feast preparations. How could that be? He reviewed his writing.
“… as I cast the daemon’s shattered bones aside, I unfurled my wings, streaming with blood and liquid gold. I raise a cry as I soar above the battle. All the enemies of the Emperor are as insects before me. Joy and rage mingle in my howl for blood. Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood…"

White Scars: Continuity
The feasting hall was cavernous and somber. Kor’sarro Khan, Chapter Master of the White Scars, gazed over the celebrants through coal-dark eyes. To his left,  his sergeant Subutai held aloft a silver chalice. To his right, at the place of honor, sat Ogadai, stern and unblinking. Somewhere in the yawning darkness above, a great bell tolled. The Khan waiting until the last peals died in the still air. Then, with the scraping of wood on stone and the clangor of the many bronze talismans he wore around his neck and waist, he stood. He raised his own chalice as he spoke.
“We return always to the center. It has been this way always. It can be no other way. On the wide plains, a man is alone, without mountain or tree. He hunts in the plans, he kills in the plains. They are his life. And yet they are not his home. At hunt’s end he returns to his hearth. Why do this, my brothers? In the plains there is blood, in the plains there is glory. A man is made to ride the plains! Let him dwell there forever. But no, I say to you. A man with no hearth kills, but he kills for nothing. A man who does not know his own home is a beast. And this also I say to you, we are no beasts, but hunters of beasts. For we are men! And we have returned home!”

And as one, a hundred warriors pounded fists on the ancient wooden tables, and obliterated the silence forever.