Intro 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70
Strobing patterns of light flittered through the air, and exploded where they came to rest in rocky terrain, on armored carapace and on unprotected flesh. Shouts and screams of agony were drowned out by battle chants and litanies. The Word Bearers Legionnaires advanced upon the Imperial lines steadily, firing waves of bolter rounds and plasma weaponry into the massed attacking force. Slowly, they were driving the Imperials back, but it was a feint; behind them, supporting units and armor had begun to retreat.
Esarhaddon switched the monitor from the video feed to a strategic map of Iperin. From drop-points all around Daskros, the Imperials assaulted Chaos lines, and drove them back after sieges that had ended with the Traitor forces pulling back after offering quick and fierce resistance. Confident that they had begun to gain the upper hand, the servants of the Throne would begin to solidify their positions for a last full-out attack on the fortified walls of Daskros. It was there that the trap would be sprung. Thousands of souls, torn free from their mortal host on the plains of Iperin, held from final rest in the machines that lay within the planet’s core. A sacrifice worthy of a god. A new god, formed from the old.
In the navigation chamber, illuminated by candle light and the soft electronic glow of so many monitors, Esarhaddon looked upon murals carved into marble and jade that had been inset into the walls. They depicted battles fought in eras long since forgotten, victories over the Emperor’s dogs, the mewling children of an empire founded on a falsehood.
The Corpse Emperor. A man unfit to be a god, but to whom billions of souls were pledged to, and whose powers had rent asunder the body of Horus the Betrayer, chosen by the Ancients as their mighty Champion. A God of Man, too foolish and blind to accept worship in life, and whose broken body and shattered soul now drank deeply of its adherents’ blood. A god whose time had ended, and whose desperate spirit traversed the Immaterium,
Esarhaddon had long sought those prophets who had claimed visions from their Emperor. Mostly, they had been psykers whose power was raw and undisciplined, and who mistook their nightmare visions of the Warp for divine prophecy. There were those, however, whose had been touched by a power that reached far beyond their own. Experiments carried out in the laboratories aboard The Promise of Absolution had attempted to draw that power out, but mortal flesh was weak, and even life-prolonging elixirs and dark technology long lost to the mortal plane had been unable to sustain these prophets.
Rumors has reached Esarhaddon, though, of a figure who had claimed a vision so distinct that it had taken hold of an entire Chapter of Astartes, compelling them on their quest. A man who had long ago been entombed in the cold steel sarcophagus of a dreadnought, and whose abilities had only increased with that first death. This was his key. Deep within this prophet’s mind lay the gateway to godhood. As were the souls of these prophets bound to that wandering spirit in the Immaterium, so was it bound to them.
“My Lord Esarhaddon,” asked a parched voice from behind the throne. Eleazar the Sanctifier, commander of the Sicarii’s Chaplains, stood in the doorway, but did not enter, his shadow cast upon the cold asphalt. “Barabbas returns victorious. Thy will has been done. Now the servants of the Corpse God and their allies have brought war to the city of Daskros. The vessels of the Azure Flames draw close, Lord. Shall the order be given to bring our forces forward in full assault?”
“Yes, Elezar, Chaplain of My Host. Send word to all fleets and ground units. The war for Iperin has begun in earnest. Here, the Imperium shall learn the name and nature of its end. Leave me now, for I must call forth the Great Daemon of our Host.”
“Yes, my Lord.” Elezar nodded in assent, the door shutting swiftly on his exit. Across the fleet, orders to bring the full force of the Chaos Marines present in the Chasma Spica to Iperin went out. Across the fleets, hundreds of Adeptus Traitores boarded Dreadclaw pods, launched one by one from countless ships at hundreds of miles per hour towards the ruins of Daskros. Rituals were performed, summoning hideous entities of the Warp to the planet’s surface, while the cold plasteel of vehicles thousands of years old were loaded onto landing craft. The whole warmachine of Chaos would be brought against the Imperials today, the souls of both sides sent to the cold, black chamber buried within the planet’s surface. As the chatter of thousands of preparations played across his commlink, the Chaos Lord Esarhaddon stood from his throne, and once more opened the portal to that most secret chamber within the ship.
No mortal body could possibly contain the immense power of the Emperor’s soul, but what of a body already transfigured into that of a Daemon? Whose mind had already touched a source of godly power, and been driven to madness from it? The Children of Isha had made a god with but their thoughts and souls. Now, Esarhaddon thought, a god of humankind would once again walk the mortal plane. The souls held deep within Iperin’s core would be but a token offering. What could stand against a creature formed from the soul of the Emperor, and given a body crafted from the raw stuff of the Warp?
None, Esarhaddon thought. Upon the bloody altar of this battle, a new god would be forged, and he its High Priest. Today, thought Esarhaddon, the reign of the Corpse Emperor would end, and humanity would bend its knee to a power that drank of man’s worship, and ate of his flesh. A new age. A new Man. As he stepped into the dark hallway that led to his brother’s cage, Esarhaddon thought of the glorious millennia to follow, and was pleased.