Ladies and gentlemen,
What lurks before your eyes right now is what Fin, Shroom and myself suggest is the ultimate fate of MEH-Earth and its leader. It’s a strong suggestion obviously, because we’ve put a lot of thought and effort into it and we think it’s a fair and interesting and dramatically pleasing outcome, but we’ll be happy to work with any suggestions you might have to add, or indeed answer any questions you may have about it.
But now I bid you without further ado to behold the grim darkness of the future, in which there is only long-winded prose.
By Fingolfin, Shroom, Siege and CJ Motonow
Stars fell from the sky. Or to be more precise, Imperial warships were pushing MEH space colonies into calculated degrading orbits. The moonlets fell, burning comet-like through the atmosphere until they struck the areas in the shield that protected the cities below. Theatre shields buckled and vaporized sizable portions of the tremendous mass-energies to which they were exposed, sending fragments scattering in blinding displays of force-on-force. But shields could cope only for so long, and as time progressed some of the artificial projectiles began to punch through, striking the continent-spanning cities nearly whole, toppling starscrapers and shattering the immense megalopolises in apocalyptic paroxysms. From space, the once-great cities of Earth were seen to light up one by one.
Rus licked his lips and surveyed his works. Everything was working according to plan. He had conceived it, and now his forces were moving just as he had foreseen. Somewhere deeper in this system the fleets of the human coalition were now engaging Battlefleet Sol; the Emissaries were approaching and the Bragulan admiralities were doing their duty in keeping their nominal allies away as long as possible, or at least long enough for the Imperium to accomplish the dastard work of shattering the defences and cracking the shields that protected Earth. Just in case the Bragulans proved unable - or unwilling - to hold up their end of the deal however, Rus’ brother Aurelian had ordered the fleet’s frigates and corvettes to lay an extensive minefield along the planetary hyperlimit.
It was a nasty business, the Warmaster admitted. There was no doubt that the human coalition was unable to stomach this bloody mindedness, but it was what their Father had ordained, and none could question the judgement of the God-Emperor - not even his sons. He had ordered that this empire must fall, that its leader be captured, and if the cost was that Rus must break this world, then that was what he would do.
Rus knew that many thought him little better than a barbarian. Barbarian, he mused as he watched another habitat tear its way through the planetary atmosphere. He liked that. It suggested strength and brutality in the face of his enemies. They might think him crazy but only a fool would mistake mercilessness for insanity. He was a warrior, plain and simple, born and bred to vanquish his opponents by any means necessary, his skills ironed in the fires of the Great Crusade. He lived and breathed war, and this... This was how war should be fought: devoid of compassion or naive civility but with raw, primal violence. There should be nothing between a man and the great fire but his own cunning, and it was the same with civilizations. Weak and strong alike could worship the God-Emperor but it was battle alone that demonstrated that most ancient and glorious of truths: the strong triumphed. The weak died. That was how it was here, and it was how it should be.
Rus turned to Aurelian. “You have the fleet, brother,” Rus twitched his lips. “I will lead the attack on the palace.”
“Be careful,” Aurelian rubbed his chin as he watched the world burn below him, a pensive look on his face. “I sense... Strange machinations afoot. Something is happening down there..”
“Death is what is happening!” Rus roared. “Do not worry brother. I will bring back the queen of this pathetic little empire. I may even tie a neat bow around her for father to unwrap!”
With that the Warmaster of the Imperium turned and stomped off the observation deck. Aurelian barely noticed his brother disappear, wrapped up as he was in simultaneously coordinating the movements of the Imperial fleet and trying to pierce the psychic veil that was wrapped around the planet. It was... strange. Ever since the start of the war the empress had been a psychic star on the far horizon, ever-present and undiminished. But now he could no longer sense her. It was as if a great shroud had wrapped itself around this Earth. And perhaps strangest of all there was a... Curious familiarity to it. Aurelian couldn’t quite shake the vaguely disturbing sense that he ought to recognize the tang and taste of it, but the worldwide panic and dying didn’t make it any easier and so recognition eluded him.
“No matter,” he murmured. He turned around, red cape flapping behind him. A gaggle of Imperial officials stood at a dozen or so referential meters distance from the primarch. Amongst them were representatives of the Munitorium, obviously pleased to see the enemy’s own colonies used against him instead of the Imperium’s munitions, a handful of brooding Inquisitors from half a dozen different Ordos, a cowled Master of Assassins all others made sure to stay well clear of, the Saint - appearing only a young girl, barely twenty-five years old, but possessed of an otherworldly serenity that Aurelian recognized as the physical manifestation of his father’s divine power - and a small group of grizzled men and women in the uniforms of the navy and the Imperial Guard. To one of these last it was that Aurelian called his orders. “General Gaunt! Prepare the landing barges. And send a message to the troops. No quarter shall be given. Kill all those who stand against us and defy the God Emperor.”
Girl looks up on a yellow sky
and the rain turns to rust in her eye
Rumours of her health are lies
The old order is dying
Her people died all around her. She could hear them scream as their spacecraft fell through the atmosphere and their worlds burned; her fleets were torn asunder and her soldiers buried beneath the cities they were sworn to defend. The very sky was alight with the flames of destruction. Pillars of fire rained down from heaven. Crashing refugee ships streaked columns of greasy black smoke across the horizons, chased by all the way down by Imperial fighters until they impacted, shattering arcologies that were become tombs. Gnatlike dropships fell through the roiling clouds, their fat bellies loaded with men and warmachines come to effect genocide upon her people.
How had it come to this? She stared at the apocalyptic vista of her burning planet, transfixed with rage and despair. Her crown, her empire, every hope and ambition, her very life crumbled to ashes around her. What cruel irony! To escape the doom of an entire reality only to fall now, here, after witnessing all that she had redeemed put to the torch. There was nothing left now, nothing between her and all the terrors of the void.
Only one thing could still make all the death and destruction mean anything now. One last chance to strike back at those who had reduced her so. She waited, and she wept and laughed and cried with horror.
Still he sings an empire song
Still he keeps his navy strong
He sticks his flag where it ill belongs
The old order is dying
Covered with the putrefied blood that ran through the veins of his foes, Rus Komnenos, the most violent of all men, turned back to survey the men remaining to him, those brave few who had stood with him so far.
“Death! Death! DEATH!” bellowed the Warmaster. He beheld the Goddess’ palace, a gargantuan gilded ziggurat that now reflected the bloodlight of the burning world around it, piercing into a dead sky blackened by the ashes of the mass cremations taking place all across the planet. At long last, after waiting for so long, he was finally here to do his Father’s bidding - what he was made to do, what he was born to do.
Rus looked past the ruined wrecks of fallen Titans at the mad architecture of the palace stabbing from the Earth and into the storm-laden sky. Red lightning flashed, the paroxysms of a wounded sky arcing off the crown of the palatial spire, casting an eerie light on the pools of blood at Rus’ feet, silhouetting the ruined hulks of ruined Land Raiders and MEH machines around him, and the countless bloated corpses littering his feet. Rumbling thunder blended with the growl of his bloodstained chainsword.
Before them, the gate of the ziggurat opened like the iris of a cyclopean eye of steel. And from it poured forth the Goddess’ palace guard, legion in number, attired in ceremonial garments marked with the sigils of their deity, wielding a mix of small arms and wicked blade weaponry, and showing their utter fanatic devotion by screaming exultations to their false goddess as they charged the remaining Astartes. They did not even take heed of cover or concealment, for such was the extent of their fanaticism. And the Astartes, after carving a bloody warpath through entire armies on their way to Sasha’s throne, were disinclined to waste any ammo on these mongrels. Some of the guardians opened fire with their blaster weapons, filling the air with a hail of crimson bolts, while others shrieked their battle-cries and charged into melee range.
Rus grinned, a feral smile splaying out across his scarred and pitted face. This would suit him just fine. With his chainsword he wove a web of flashing steel before him and halved three men with but a stroke. Viscera sprayed all over his armor. With his armored fist he threw a punch that liquefied a guard, and a backhand sent another flying across the courtyard only to be impaled on a spiked banner. In his mind, this hell on Earth was heaven. Here, he could finally be himself with no pretensions of civilitude and restraint. He delivered a headbutt to a guard that got too close, and his helmet pulverized the mere mortal man’s cranium in an explosion of brain matter and cerebrospinal fluid. Rus wiped the slime off his visor and laughed as he continued on killing. He leaped into the air and landed in a group of blaster-wielding guards, crushing several of them underfoot while dismembering the rest with broad strokes. His guffaws echoed along with the dying guards’ choked prayers to their Goddess.
“Onwards, to glory!” he shouted to his cohorts, a retinue of Terminators, a Devastator squad, and the Venerable Dreadnought Titus - his mentor from the days before the Great Crusade, old yet lethal as ever in his armed sarcophagus. Of his entire warband they were the only ones who had survived the running battle that had taken them across the span of the continent, to the very doorstep of the Goddess’ profane temple.
“Aye, young master,” boomed the vox-amplified voice of Titus as he finished eviscerating the last of the enemy with his lightning claws. “It is time to go into the den of the beast.”
The Astartes finished their bloody work and proceeded through the gate and into the palace itself. Each step was slick and slippery, as they were ankle-deep in the spilled gore of their enemies. The were so many bodies that they could not be avoided, armored boots ended up crushing these remains into pulp. They left behind bootprints of blood as they marched towards the unholy ziggurat. Lightning crackled in the air once again, static electricity from the airborne ash of the burning cities. The palpable scent of ozone assaulted their auto-senses, mixing with a butcher’s shop miasma, the smell of death. Corpses began to rot unnaturally fast, festering before their very eyes. To any right minded being, what was transpiring here and now was the very definition of wrongness. But for the faithful servants and children of the God-Emperor, all was right in the world.
The holy ziggurat had now fully taken up the color of fire. Perhaps from the searing heat of the orbital bombardments and the fires that raged throughout the surrounding lands, or for another and entirely more sinister reason altogether its golden walls appeared to be deforming, melting like wax. The precise geometric shape of the structure was slowly becoming more misshapen with each passing second. Strange, indeterminate liquid oozed from the ziggurat and flowed between the cobblestones of the courtyards around it, marking the yards with strange lines. And as they entered it, it was as if the walls of the palace had begun to degrade not with time but with other, less comprehensible forces. Stones that had stood for millennia warped and altered, transforming into something that looked like viscous glass, and the deeper in that they went, the worse the effect. These strange barriers seemed to shift, seemingly nebulous and intangible like fog in one moment, and then solidifying into stained crystalline matter in the next. In select places, the walls wept blood.
Hairline fractures appeared on the glass walls, spiralling webs of cracks, jagged lines crisscrossing madly over an unending and shifting surface that reflected warped and twisted images of those who gazed into them. Strange forms ghosted in the background of these reflections, dissolving into mist whenever seen. The fracture-lines splaying across the surface themselves formed nauseating patterns, as though extending beyond than the walls’ two-dimensional boundaries in impossible ways. Strange light emanated from these cracks, but the source wasn’t from the other side of those walls.
As they went in deeper, the corridors seemed to stretch on forever, and bodies were strewn everywhere - bodies, and body-parts, enough to construct an army of servitors out of. The dead were stacked against the walls, piled up in heaps high enough even the Emperor’s warriors had difficulty navigating the nightmarish labyrinth. Blood caked the ceilings, the walls, ran in thick runnels across the dead in dizzying three-dimensional hieroglyphs.
“What cognitive trickery is this,” growled Titus, proving that even his mechanical sensors were affected by the strange geometries of the bloody patterns.
“Do not look at them,” warned one of the Terminators, a grizzled veteran in the iron livery of the Grey Knights, the God-Emperor’s psychic warriors - an elite within the elite. He waved his hand and seared away the eldritch symbols with arcing flickers of blue light. “This is sorcery most foul.”
And as though to affirm his words, the grotesque sights before them dissolved, the innumerable bodies and bones and hieroglyphs littering the floor and lining the walls melting into liquid blood, which receded back into the walls that regurgitated them, leaving the corridor in a sudden immaculately gold-hewed state.
“Heresy.” Titus spat angrily at the blasphemous spectacle. “Let the enemy show himself and cease these pathetic games!”
“Blast the walls open! Let us see what the enemy tries to conceal with his charade!” Rus barked. He too grew weary of these monkeyshines - wary, and though he would never admit it, would kill in fact before admitting it, a little disturbed.
“With pleasure.” Titus uttered. The lightning claws of his right arm folded away, revealing a tri-linked lascannon. There was a sharp noise as the tri-barrels spun around rapidly, and the weapon sent rapid-fire laspulses to vaporize the heretical masonry. The wall exploded, not in a shower of shattered concrete or stone, but in a detonation of charred flesh and bone and boiled blood. As though the building itself were alive.
Behind the living wall was a massive chamber shaped like an amphitheater fashioned out of black basalt. Its lowest part was a circle, transfused into the same black glassy material as the walls. The distinctive dark brown stains of dried blood were everywhere. Headache-inducing ritual marks had been cut deep in the stone, in a massive circle some three hundred metres across. On each cuneiform stood a terrible machine. They were steel frameworks like four-poster beds, with elaborate pulleys on each corner. On each upright was a coil from which sprang a thick cable, four of them joining above each machine and then sprouting a single thick bitumen that snaked through the air to the middle of the ritual circle, where they connected with all other such cables and then disappear in weirdly tangled geometries somewhere in the ceiling.
Humanoid shapes were spread-eagled on their backs in each of machine, naked and tied to the uprights. They were all freshly killed, hundreds of them, their chests annihilated by three-dimensional guillotine blades of blackest obsidian. Rus could not be sure what those blades were made of - but glass and bits of human bone seemed to figure in the design. Blood seeped from ruined ribcages, pooling in lakes of blood, funneled into obscene, circling patterns carved into the floor that gravitated to a concavity in the heart of the room, a basin full of sanguine fluids.
“Psykers,” came the warbled electronic voice of the Grey Knight. The holy warrior held up a portable auspex array that crackled with intermittent bursts of energy whenever it came near one of the ritually slaughtered bodies or the reservoirs of pooling blood. “All dead - their souls destroyed. There were others here too, before these wretches.”
“So that’s what this so-called goddess wanted them for.” Rus is undaunted by the grisly sight before him. “Lambs to be slaughtered and consumed.” He sounded derisive, yet he was unsure of just what he was seeing. He recognized a crude psychic conduit when he saw one - such technology was hardly without precedent in the Imperium - but he couldn’t fathom the purpose of this sorcery. Was she trying to imitate his father? If so, then an end must be put to this madness - this blasphemy
- at once.
“What shall we do with them?” Titus asked. Despite being a hardened warrior, the venerable dreadnought couldn’t stop himself from making the sign of the aquila with his hydraulic lightning claws.
“Leave them. We are here for the goddess, and the goddess only.”
You're asking what makes me sigh now
What it is makes me shudder so well
I just freeze in the wind and I'm
numb from the pummeling of the snow
that falls from high in yellow skies
down on where the time-stained flag of
the Eagle flies
The planet itself was a sacrifice, a charnelhouse dedicated to an unmentionable evil. The hated enemies’ engines of destruction unwittingly turned the tide against him as every death, every drop of blood spilt strengthened the threads of unholy force that were even now bonding this world to a reality far removed but drawing inexorably closer. War had become ritual, and that ritual was now perilously close to completion. She smiled. There was no mirth or humanity in that smile. It was the smile of something that tried to imitate a human emotion it had no clear recollection of. Luminous worms of light writhed soundlessly behind her eyelids, twisting in the empty space of her skull.
The planet was an altar and the Imperium was its ceremonial knife. The golden palace was a focal point for incomprehensible energies, every death now channeled here, into her. She was a nexus of arcane power, and she felt the skein of the universe unravel beneath her. Coursing ley lines connected all of this world to her now, and through her to the place beneath. She could sense the darkened ghost of that extinguished universe, and the terrible creatures that dwelt there. Cold, malignant and unspeakably old.
Almost there now. Almost... almost... there.
She would make them pay for what they’d done. She would make all of them pay
All that you touch
And all that you see
All that you taste
All you feel
And all that you love
And all that you hate
The world burned as Aurelian watched. He could sense, deeper into the system, the fleets of warships, his nominal allies, who were finishing off the last remnants of Battlefleet Sol, could feel their shifting purpose. They would be here in hours, maybe less, but they would be too late. The battle had been decided, the empire had fallen and soon, so would its leader.
The battle had been easily won. True, brave men had fallen, many of them, but in the end Aurelian suspected that victory may just have come too easily. For moments the primarch had feared a trap, but he knew the enemy had no reserves left, no more fleets or soldiers to throw against him, no more planets to retreat to. If Earth fell, the Multiversal Empire was done. Then why? It had taken him long minutes to shift paradigms. Perhaps, if they enemy could not resist militarily, they would try some other way? But what? Then he remembered the psychic shroud that had veiled the planet. Could it be that the enemy was resorting to sorcery?
After that it slowly began to make sense. The goddess was using the planet as a... a conduit. A vast necromantic drain, sluicing the very life energies of its dying inhabitants away to do... To do what? He envisioned the patterns of occult force in his mind, let his probing mental fingers slide along the web of arcane geometries. He began to notice hotspots that corresponded with reports that were now beginning to filter back from the planet: a thousand ritual sacrifices here, occult symbols daubed in blood discovered there, and began to combine them with battle reports. An entire division of troops slaughtered to the last man, refusing to surrender at this location, a crazed suicide charge by ten thousand unarmed men at another. In his mind he connected them with what little knowledge he had of sorcery. He wished his father was here, who would surely make sense of this in a heartbeat, but even without the God-Emperor his Son slowly began to unravel the web of unholy force, saw it coalesce in his mind into a loathsome Sign.
Realization dawned just as every auspex on the command bridge came alight with warning signs. Aurelian could hear sirens go off in the depths of the massive battleship. Ancient runes flashed with a warning he had not seen in hundreds of years: Unscheduled Reality Excursion
Now the primarch realized where he had seen this type of warp magic before. It had been a long time ago, during the great war that had followed when his beloved sister was taken, when the Imperium had tested what it had hoped would prove a decisive new weapon against the Swarm and the mysterious Collectors. It had failed. Oh, how horribly the Sisyphus
had failed. And now, here, an entire world...
“Brother!” he mouthed in horror.
And all that you slight
And everyone you fight
And all that is now
And all that is gone
And all that's to come
And everything under the sun is in tune
But the sun is eclipsed by the moon
The last room was a vast and open space, a once-beautiful place where congregations had once visited to pray and pay tribute to their goddess. Now, their bloated corpses carpeted the floor. In desperation, thousands of citizens had flocked to the chapel to pray for absolution, for salvation, and when it became obvious that the goddess would not save them from what was to come, these men, women and children simply laid down on the floor and died. Yet in these sacred grounds, even their death was a prayer and a tribute to their goddess. Runes carved on the floor drew out their blood, which flowed into minute ley lines that channeled the precious life-liquid to where it was accumulated.
Flies and carrion insects swarmed around them.
“Fools,” Rus said, almost sorrowfully. This was no way for anyone to die. He would have preferred if they had died at his hands, violently and gloriously in combat. But not like this. Either way, the goddess was not here. They had suspected that this chapel was her final resting place, as Battle-brother Nathanael, the Grey Knight, had determined it to be in the middle of the four sacrificial psychic conduits they had found, an ideal position for the channeled psychic energies to converge on. But no, the goddess was apparently elsewhere in the palace. “Come, there is nothing here.”
As they turned away from the mass grave, something trickled on Rus’ enormous shoulder pauldron. He looked at it, as far as he could turn his head to the side anyway, and he saw droplets of blood. He gazed up, looking for their origin, and he found it. The chapel had no ceiling. Instead it had a lake of blood over it, accumulated from all of those who died in the room, and somehow the host of blood managed to defy gravity. Until now.
More droplets fell on Rus, staining his shoulder pauldrons and the rest of his armor. Not that it made much difference, he was already covered in the blood of countless slain enemies. But the trickle of droplets intensified, until they were in a proverbial downpour of the horrid stuff that seemed without end. Several large humanoid forms of coagulated hemoglobin fell from that raining blood-lake. The sanguine creatures uttereda savage shriek and attacked the Astartes.
A crimson blade narrowly missed Rus. He dodged it deftly and stabbed the creature in the face with his lightning claws, before spinning and decapitating another one with his chainsword. The creatures dissolved into red mist after the blows. There was nothing solid in them, nothing tangible. Were they more tricks?
“Phantasms!” Nathanael shouted, as he examined his enemies with his auspex while simultaneously dispatching them with his sanctified force-pike. “They’re not real!”
“More heresy!” Titus cursed. It was frustrating him. He struck a dozen of the haemoforms, his lascannon stitching fire through the open space, shattering corpses and masonry alike, but the sanguine phantoms merely splashed away into nothingness. And then, there was a bright flash of light, and the venerable dreadnought Titus was engulfed in flame. His smoking form fell on the floor.
“Titus!” Rus cried in shock and surprise. And there, some distance before him, a haemoform stood cradling a smoking weapon. In rage, the primarch launched himself at the things. After so much treachery, they had finally deigned to reveal themselves. More bolts of energy screamed towards Rus, each bolt far more powerful than the pitiful blasters the palace guardians carried, but the primarch evaded them with ease. He closed in and brought his chainsword down on the enemy, but the sanguine creature merely leaped out of reach.
“You have come to your doom, Astartes. Primarch,” it laughed. The blood boiled off it, revealing the creature’s true form. Telltale power armor that even matched the Astartes’ own. Devastating weaponry in hand. It was a MEH Marine, one of the goddess’ greatest champions. Its armor was marked by more of those runes and hieroglyphs, and stained dedications to its goddess that hurt the eye. It trained its weapon on Rus. “Time to die.”
Before it could squeeze the trigger, a chainsword plunged into its chestplate and came out of its back. It staggered and sputtered, while trying to fire off a shot. It did, but the bolt went wide, and all of a sudden Rus appeared
right in front of him.
“Your time, not mine.” Rus said lowly as he took back his chainsword, still buried in the Marine’s chest, and slashed upwards, partially bisecting the Marine with the stroke. Without breaking his stride, Rus turned around just in time to block another blow from another blood-covered Marine. Chainsword clashed against vibroblade, both weapons locking with each other as Primarch and elite soldier struggled to gain the advantage.
“The Goddess will ascend!” the Marine cackled with glee as he pushed Rus backwards with every effort of his being, body and armor. “You have no chance! You cannot stop her! You have only come in time to bear witness -”
“Witness this.” Rus pulled out his meltapistol and jammed it at the Marine’s face. He squeezed the firing stud, and the Marine’s head and shoulders disappeared in a flash of actinic light. After kicking the twitching corpse away, he turned to his comrades. More of the bloodbeings turned out to be MEH Marines, while some remained immaterial phantasms, making distinguishing one from the other difficult. He could see a group of them, tearing one of his faithful Terminators limb from limb. The Astartes’ death-screams mixed with the orgasmic ululations of his killers.
“I am the Hammer of the Emperor!” Nathanael shouted, going on to recite a prayer of hatred while impaling another Marine with his halberd. While the supersoldier still twitched on his pike, he swung at another haemoform, which dissolved into red mist. He unleashed his storm-bolter and disintegrated more of the bloodstained beings - phantasm and real Marine alike. “None shall withstand my wrath!”
Both Primarch and Grey Knight slashed a path across the sea of enemies, until they fought back to back against dozens of the things. False bloodbeasts would strike at them, distracting them while actual Marines tried to attack from another direction. It was then that all of them lunged at the Rus and Nathanael at once, hoping to overwhelm them through sheer numbers. Chainsword, lightning claws, force-halberd and stormbolter cut own falsities and enemy supersoldiers alike, but there were too many of them.
The flash and thunder of a rapid-fire lascannon overwhelmed all sights and sounds. Bloodbeasts and supersoldiers were vaporized by the score, while two Marines on the verge of striking Nathanael and Rus, who were distracted by the phantasms, stood motionless before the Knight and Primarch. There was a metal blade protruding from each of the Marines’ chests. The blades opened up, transforming back into the fingers of dreadnought-sized lightning claws, and in the process shredding the Marines into chunks of meat.
Venerable dreadnought Titus flicked the blood away from his mechanical hands, as though it was nothing but dirt.
“Welcome back, old man. Enjoyed your nap?” Rus grinned as he carved up a Marine’s face with his own claws.
“We all have our vices, young prodigal. Yours is the bottle, mine is the somnolence of the half-dead. Let us hope we succumb to neither of them.” Titus moved with deceptive speed. Despite the fact that he was a lumbering machine, his lightning claws slashed with martial precision, cutting down the Marines in front of him before he spun around with impossible grace to gut some supersoldiers attempting to sneak behind him. After all, beneath the machine was the man who had taught Rus everything he knew about war, and entombment in an adamantine sarcophagus had not dulled his skills the slightest. His lascannons roared as they intercepted an incoming missile, and he was about to fire at the one who had launched it but stopped at the last second as the Primarch attacked the Marine.
“I’ll drink to that!” Rus happily agreed as he brought his lightning claws up in an uppercut, sliding the crackling blades up under the Marine’s chin and into its brain. He lifted the twitching supersoldier’s body and used it as a shield against incoming blaster bolts, before returning fire with his meltagun. The meltabeams sent his attacker staggering back, but the Marine’s chest armor withstood the searing energies, so Rus aimed lower and his next shots vaporized the supersoldier’s feet. The amputated Marine collapsed to the floor but defiantly brought its weapon up to return fire before it was promptly stepped on by Titus. Rus cackled at the sight. “Watch your step.”
“Young Primarch, I believe it is time to end this,” Titus suggested as he plucked a Marine off the ground with his claws and, not bothering to slash or slice or disembowel, merely slammed the supersoldier repeatedly on the floor - dashing it against stone until both man and power armor were reduced to pulp.
“Astartes! Form up!” Rus roared as what remained of his retinue finished slaughtering the Marines and gathered around their master. Titus and Nathanael were at his side, and the Terminators and surviving members of the Tactical Squad surrounded them.
“I sense a disturbance in the warp. What we are looking for is behind those doors,” Nathanael said, pointing with his force-halberd to the portal to the Goddess’ sanctum.
The blood-ceiling bled more man-sized globules of coagulated liquid. They fell to the floor and reformed into the unmistakable forms of MEH Marines. A dozen of them blocked the Astartes’ path, unsheathing wicked vibroblades and raising them for all to see. Rus and his warriors readied themselves for another battle, but instead they bore witness to something else entirely.
Moving in unnatural synchronity, the Marines brought their blades across their armored throats, pressing the blades down hard through their armor, and then through their flesh. Blood poured out of their slit throats like crimson fountains, bubbling and frothing. Yet instead of falling dead from their mortal self-inflicted wounds, the Marines stood there, strangely stiff, motionless save for their arms and the blades they wielded. They moved with clinical yet unnatural precision, like marionettes on invisible strings. After their throats, they began inscribing foul runes and glyphs on their very bodies - through armor and their own flesh. More blood oozed from the wounds, pooling on the floor.
And from these bloodpools rose forms that solidified into misshapen figures, seemingly humanoid, but composed of rippling red fluid. Details resolved themselves on their featureless visages. Lids that opened into sockets filled with burning orbs. Mouths that grinned with blacksteel fangs glinting in the non-light. From these mouths came a chilling laughter, echoing throughout the gore-stained chapel. “In death we serve her still. We are one with her, forever!”
Spoke the creatures born from the blood of the faithful who had sacrificed themselves on her altar. They uttered one last shriek as they began to boil away into mist. “Behold, she has risen!”
With a stunning display of force the gigantic golden doors to the Goddess’ inner sanctum exploded into a shard of steel fragments. The temperature began to drop. Darkness flowed out of the sanctum like a physical substance, dimming the light. Still farther the temperature fell, etching horrid, otherworldly ice flowers on the corpses of the dead. There was a sound of flapping as if from ghastly, leathery wings. The shadows darkened, thickened, swirled, and finally clotted into a dreadful shape. Something uncoiled from the shadows and suddenly lashed out at the Warmaster, hurling him bodily across the room, smashing pillars until he struck the wall. The shape vanished, and only a moment later reappeared on top of his fallen bulk.
It was only then that Rus caught a first look of his enemy. The goddess wore the crackled tatters of a regal tenue that had once been turquoise but had now darkened in the same way the walls of her palace had. Her face seemed to glow, greenish like marble. There was something luminous and wormy behind her eyes. As he struggled to bring his chainsword to bear Rus could see, very clearly, a trickle of blood bubbling from her nose. Her hands were ablaze with a horrible black balefire that seemed not to burn her at all, hammering at his chest. He would have laughed at so futile a gesture, but then noticed how every time those hands hit his consecrated armor chunks of adamantium and ceramite turned to ashes that flaked up to the ceiling on hidden winds. She snarled and ripped off an aquila and the holy shape melted and dissolved in her hands.
That was enough to jolt the Warmaster out of his stunned amazement. “Unholy wretch!” bellowed Rus. “Get you away from me!” He swiped his chainsword in front of him, aiming to take off her head but the goddess - or whatever lived inside what had once been her body - discorporated in a flash of diaphanous black smoke, then instantly reconstituted at a handful meters distance.
“His first born.
” The goddess had an echo: half a second after she spoke her words were repeated in the appalling shriek of one undergoing torture. The screamed words were not loud. They were only just audible, as if they had soared up through miles of unearthly heat from some trench in the bowels of Hell. His first booorn
came the soulless howl of misery. The goddess laughed. So did her horrifying echo. “What better way to begin my vindication. Arise, my manikins!
A single terrible, tooth-aching note dinned through the palace, like a mad flute echoing from some nuclear chaos beyond space and time. All around the blood-stained hall the dead began to rise, men and women and children, dead marines and civilians alike shambled to their feet, their once-human forms dashing forward to assault the invaders of their goddess’ sanctum.
Rus growled an ancient curse and trained his meltapistol on the goddess but she vanished again. Screams, and a gust of ash. A torrent of shadowy slag tore through the wave of undead. Each shred of soot was stained as black as the obsidian walls. The hurricane twisted, bent itself through some impossible corner, fell upon a screaming Terminator. The cinders etched runes of destruction on his armor, branded him as if they were plasma-hot. The warrior burned alive inside his wargear, and the goddess reconstituted herself in a gout of convalescing ashes and lunged for the Warmaster.
He dodged, but she was faster than anything he ever fought before. A back-handed slap hit him with freight train force, etching a black burn on his helmet and sending him stumbling backwards. One of the remaining Terminators lunged to protect his liege, powerfist buzzing, but the goddess sent him a sideways glance and the elite soldier simply froze in mid-leap. His armor began to change, flaking at the joints first, then the supernatural rot tore through sanctified ceramite as the Terminator aged a thousand years every second. Soon the armor fell away into rusted scraps entirely, exposing an ancient, withered skeleton underneath, its jaws agape in a horrible scream.
Then the dead lunged past their goddess and fell upon him, suddenly supported by a massive influx of marines who had, by the look of it, ritually gouged out their own eyes. The hordes of darkness surged forward. Rus let out a blood-curdling battle cry and threw himself at his foes, the sanctified chainsword dancing lightly in his hands. Nathanael stood solidly behind his stormbolter, cutting a swathe of death through which even these mindless foes could not wade, and Titus swept up behind his commander, laying down suppressing fire with his lascannon and tearing through bodies with his lightning claw. Gruesome ichor burst from the bodies of the dead whenever they were felled, the very blood transmuted and turned to volcanic ash in their arteries. It sizzled and filled the air with the sickening scent of burning, rotted flesh. And there were many of them, so very many.
Between the dead and the ever-present shadow-form of their goddess, they were slowly being driven back to the far wall. The Warmaster’s pistol ran out of munition. He had lost his stormbolter a long time ago. The teeth of his chainsword jammed on black ichor, yet he continued to swing it, shattering bodies whenever he struck home. Something black and shadowy grabbed at Rus with dozens of tentacles. The rising dead weighed down his arms and legs, stronger than they had any right to be. The goddess had abandoned her physical form altogether, and her insane laughter echoed through his mind. The Warmaster knew she was too much for him. This place would be his tomb. But what a way to die. What a glorious way to die.
There was a terrible tremor, and the very foundations of the desecrated palace shook like a mortally wounded animal. The roof exploded inward in a shower of dust and basalt rock, torn apart to grant entrance to the massive, armored bulk of a Thunderhawk gunship. The devastating din of its chain bolters was music to the Warmaster’s ears. The pressure of the wave of bodies and vile summonings lessened as its heavy weapons cleared bloody firebreaks through the room. “The Emperor protects!” Rus laughed with renewed zeal, crushed the head of a ghoulish marine in the palm of his hand. With a devastating crunch the gunship set down on the ruined floor of the sanctum, heavy steel drop doors slamming open to reveal a squad of Astartes in the blue livery of the Anatolian Guard. “My liege!” yelled a sergeant. “We are come under orders from your brother. You must evacuate at once!”
“For once I am inclined to agree!” bellowed Rus. He swung his chainsword in a circle as a simple club, breaking bones and shattering bodies, then with a mighty leap made his way to the waiting transport where he grabbed an Astartes’ bolter. “Titus! Nathanael! To me, brothers! It is time to leave!”
However the goddess would not let them off so easily. “Run, little mongrels. See how far you get!
” A ruinous blaze of terrible black fire swept forward, melting the golden floors and ceiling where it touched them, burning the undead to cinders and adding their dying ashes to itself, expanding into a demoniac shape of blazing darkness that threatened to fall upon and lay waste to the Thunderhawk and its occupants.
A semi-translucent wall of light spread out from the outstretched hand of Nathanael, expanding until it reached the floor, walls, and ceiling where it licked and burned away at the blackened stone. “I am a servant of the God-Emperor, whose mighty power doth make the strongest walls shake!” intoned the Grey Knight, his voice crackling with holy power. “Where there is uncertainty, I shall bring light! Where there is doubt, I shall sow faith! My word in the soul shall be as my bolter in the field! And I shall suffer not the scion of the witch to live!" The shield of white light now completely barred the mad goddess’ way to the transport, and all aboard the Thunderhawk could hear her insane laughter in their minds. “My lord! Go! I will hold her off for as long as I can!” yelled Nathanael.
“You will be remembered, brother!” the Warmaster hollered back. Nathanael didn’t answer, and the Thunderhawk pilot wasted no time powering his thrusters. The armored gunship shot out of the titanic gouge cleaved in the side of the palace by a Titan’s inferno cannon and rocketed into space as below them, the great golden palace blistered and blackened. The titanic structure began to fall in onto itself as a cloud of deepest shadow erupted from it, sweeping in all directions across the dying world.
An eye for an eye!
And he weighs the cost
A lie for a lie!
And your soul for sale
To the King on the chromium throne
“Behold my ascendance!
” echoed a mental voice in the minds of every sailor and soldier aboard the Imperial fleet. Before their eyes the Earth darkened as if light were no longer reflected by it, and Aurelian realized that it wasn’t. He was no longer looking at a planet but at a breach in reality where the world used to be, a dimensional sinkhole brought about by terrifying sorcery the likes of which the galaxy had never seen before.
Ugly orange blotches mottled the black pit that had once been the Imperial capital world. Great columns of spinning flame arced around the rim of that hideous vacuity. Something was stirring deep within that non-place, ululating as it assumed the symmetries of a new reality. In numb terror Aurelian watched titan sunspots drift slowly across a colossal mass of hideous writhing tentacles, a diaphanous mass clawing itself out of the ice cold realm beneath, one moment dwindling, then growing larger and larger and he knew, instinctively, that he beheld something utterly monstrous. He could hear it in his mind, roaring with an insatiable anger. Its vast malevolent sentience buckled and ripped at his wards. He beheld the goddess unchained and for a moment he felt utterly powerless, unable to resist, he was falling headlong toward that devouring chaos...
Only with an ultimate exertion of Will did he tear himself away from that horrible sight. “Full reverse!” he yelled at the horror-struck crew of the command deck. “Signal the fleet to break for the hyperlimit!” The thought to open fire on the horror did not even enter his mind. The immensity of its power was as if a physical shadow had been cast over the entirety of the system. Aurelian could feel it thrum in his teeth, could smell its taste in his blood. And as he nauseously watched this creature, this thing
glide, or jerk, or spasm through space, moving faster than should be possible, he knew his fleet was not going to make it.
“Primarch,” came a small voice. Then when he didn’t react more forcefully, “Primarch!”
Aurelian tore his gaze away from the horrifying, fascinating sight before him, and beheld the Saint. Outside the eltritch horror extended a mass of tendrils toward an Imperial corvette, and it exploded as if it had not been armored at all. The girl stood, half-dressed in a suit of sealed armor, an ancient and weathered wooden case under one arm. “I must go.”
A second he seethed, thinking her about to abandon ship. Then, for one moment his thoughts went blank and he stood, mute with incomprehension for what she was really proposing to do. Then he shook his head. “No. I cannot allow it!"
"Primarch" she gazed at him. Her hard grey eyes wilted into trepidation and unease. "“Even a monster has a heart." The Saint bent down and opened her case. Carefully, she produced a long cylindrical spear and wrapped her precious ring around its blade. The weapon reeked of world ending power.
Aurelian almost gasped. “Those haven’t been used since the Great War.”
The girl smiled sadly. “Your father is more farsighted than you give him credit for, primarch. He thought it necessary to grant me this weapon in case of...” Her expression faltered.
Aurelian nodded slowly. “I think I understand now.” He couldn’t help but feel torn. He was seeing his father’s purpose at work here, and yet... This did not seem right. He knew better than to meddle with the workings of fate, but even so he almost didn’t dare look upon her when he said, “you’ll need to get close enough.”
“I know, primarch.” Then her tone almost melted and a single word sank from her lips before she encased herself completely in her suit. “Farewell.” She turned to leave. Minutes later, Aurelian could see her explode into space. Shouldering the lance, she vectored forward. Oblivion loomed in front of her. As the Imperial flagship lit its mighty engines and pulled away the primarch caught a final glimpse of the Saint, falling amidst twisted geometries, polypous appendages, beaks of razor-teeth the size of starships, spear-tip raised...
A spreading, blinding white light backlit the Tyrant’s Dominion
. There was a terrifying psychic cry, and then nothing at all.
Evening has fallen
The swans are singing
The last of Sunday's bells is ringing
The wind in the trees is sighing
And the old order is dying
ENCRYPTED NOOSPHERIC MEMORANDUM877 –A, delivered - [XX C35] via Astropathic Choir, to Regia Inquisitorus, Hive Primaris, Holy Terra.This document is classified SIGMA THETALON HERETICUS. If you do not have SIGMA THETALON HERETICUS clearance, please report to the nearest Arbites precinct. Illegal knowledge of classified material is punishable by death.
What lies before you is an after-action report compiled by Inquisitorial agents on the matter formerly known as the pacification of Earth-4, and now classified SIGMA THETALON HERETICUS. Although it has proven difficult and dangerous to pierce the spatial anomaly tentatively classified OCCULARIS TERRIBILIS, I have been able to establish the following:
* Spatial coordinates corroborated against Imperial Navy star-charts indicates that this area is indeed the same that used to contain the capital of the erstwhile so-called ‘Multiversal Empire of Happiness’.
* Upon arriving in this sub-sector I have been forced to conclude that the aforementioned planet is now missing, along with the entirety of the surrounding solar system.
* In its place is a dimensional anomaly of terrifying intensity that my Navigator was unwilling to enter, even when I threatened him with summary execution for disobeying a direct order, citing “I’d rather you shoot me than venture into that
* After orbiting the anomaly for 24 standard hours fruitlessly trying to collate sensor data the crew of my ship came under an intense psychic attack that I believe emanated from inside the anomaly. It was sufficient to overwhelm our gellar fields and protective wards from par-secs away. At this point my astropath had descended into gibbering madness, shouting, “It’s HER, it’s HER”. I was subsequently forced to execute the astropath after he gouged out his own eyes and attempted to seize control of the helm. I believe this to indicate that the entity formerly classified as ‘Leader’ and now classified as [CLASSIFIED], is not only alive but resides inside the anomaly.
* All attempts to ascertain further information on [CLASSIFIED] from the Varangian Rus’ chapter records have been denied. All records pertaining to the operation on Earth-4 have been sealed on orders of primarch Aurelian Komnenos.
* Most disturbingly, long-range surveys indicate that the spatial anomaly tentatively classified OCCULARIS TERRIBILIS is growing in size at a slow and steady rate, in both realspace and in the Immaterium. It is uncertain when this growth will stop, or if it will stop at all, as the anomaly spreads further into the sub-sector.
* It is thus recommended that the sector be placed under constant and intense surveillance. An arrangement must be made with the Navy and Guard to place surveillance assets within the region to maintain vigilance on the anomaly and whatever heresies lie within it.
May the Light of Holy Terra shine upon us all,
Inquisitor Drusus Machilles
*Also, lastly, any psykers who turn their attention towards the OCCULARIS TERRIBILIS must be under supervision at all times, with their movements monitored. Should they display any anomalous behaviour, they should be examined at once and upon any anomalous findings immediately executed.
The Emperor protects.