Authors: Neil & Pringle Jones
Tags: #Science Fiction
WARHAMMER 40,000 STORIES
Edited by Neil Jones & David Pringle
T IS THE
41st millennium. For more than a hundred centuries the Emperor has sat immobile on the Golden Throne of Earth. He is the master of mankind by the will of the gods, and master of a million worlds by the might of his inexhaustible armies. He is a rotting carcass writhing invisibly with power from the Dark Age of Technology. He is the Carrion Lord of the Imperium for whom a thousand souls are sacrificed every day, so that he may never truly die.
ET EVEN IN
his deathless state, the Emperor continues his eternal vigilance. Mighty battlefleets cross the daemon-infested miasma of the warp, the only route between distant stars, their way lit by the Astronomican, the psychic manifestation of the Emperor’s will. Vast armies give battle in his name on uncounted worlds. Greatest amongst his soldiers are the Adeptus Astartes, the Space Marines, bio-engineered super-warriors. Their comrades in arms are legion: the Imperial Guard and countless planetary defence forces, the ever-vigilant Inquisition and the tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus to name only a few. But for all their multitudes, they are barely enough to hold off the ever-present threat from aliens, heretics, mutants and worse.
O BE A
man in such times is to be one amongst untold billions. It is to live in the cruellest and most bloody regime imaginable. These are the tales of those times. Forget the power of technology and science, for so much has been forgotten, never to be re-learned. Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim dark future there is only war. There is no peace amongst the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of thirsting gods.
by Bryan Ansell & William King
by William King
by Dan Abnett
by Storm Constantine
THE ALIEN BEAST WITHIN
by Ian Watson
SEED OF DOUBT
by Neil McIntosh
SUFFER NOT THE UNCLEAN TO LIVE
by Gav Thorpe
by Ian Watson
MONASTERY OF DEATH
by Charles Stross
by Graham McNeill
Bryan Ansell & William King
HE PASSAGE OF
time is ineluctable, irresistible. It touches everything, and its touch is change. All living beings are doomed to a mayfly existence, their brief efflorescence largely unnoticed among so many millions, billions of others. Only the undying Emperor endures, humanity’s light in the darkness. Like the sea beating against a cliff, time wears away all that has been built, all that has been created, all that has been dreamed. History turns into legend, and even legends are slowly changed, finally forgotten.
What follows is just one of the legends of the Deathwing, the First Company of the Dark Angels chapter. Like all legends, it changes with the telling, so that every one who hears it and retells it perpetuates the process of change. Who can now say what the truth of the matter ever was?
on the wreckage of his home and felt like weeping. He closed his eyes and took three breaths, but when he looked again, nothing had changed. He turned back towards the dropship
Weasel-Fierce had just descended from the ramp. He gazed round ferally at what once had been Cloud Runner’s village and brought his storm bolter into attack position. A grin split his skull-like face.
‘Dark Angels, be wary. Death has walked here,’ he said. The sun glistened off Weasel-Fierce’s black Terminator armour. With his white hair and Y-shaped scar-tattoos, he looked like the Eater of Bones come back to claim the world.
Cloud Runner shook his head in disbelief. For two hundred years he had held the memory of this place in his mind. Although the chapter was his home and the battle brothers were his family, he had always felt his spirit would return here when the Emperor granted him rest.
He glanced in the direction of the burial mounds. They had been broken open.
Cloud Runner made his way to the entrance. He could see that the bones had been broken and mingled. It was a blasphemy that only the bitterest of foes would perform. It marked the ending of his clan.
‘The ghosts of my ancestors wander homeless,’ he said. ‘They will become drinkers of blood and eaters of excrement. My clan is dishonoured.’
He felt a heavy, gauntleted hand on his shoulder and turned to see Lame Bear gazing down on him. Two centuries ago, Cloud Runner and he had belonged to enemy clans. Now the clansmen who they had fought alongside were dead, and the old rivalry had long ago become fast friendship.
‘The Dark Angels are your people now,’ Lame Bear said in his soft voice. ‘If necessary we will avenge this dishonour.’
Cloud Runner shook his head. ‘That is not the way. The warriors from the sky are above the squabblings of the clans. We choose only the bravest of the plains people. We take no sides.’
‘Your words do honour to the chapter, brother-captain,’ Lame Bear said, stooping to pick up something that lay in the grass. Cloud Runner saw that it was a metal axe-head. Sorrow warred with curiosity and won.
‘This was not the homecoming I had imagined,’ Cloud Runner said softly. ‘Where are children gathering flowers for the autumn feast? Where are the young bucks racing out to count coup on our armour? Where are the spirit-talkers who wish to commune with us? Dead. All dead.’
Lame Bear limped away, leaving Cloud Runner alone with his grief.
studied the desiccated bodies within the lodge. One had been an old warrior. His shrivelled hand still clutched a stone axe inscribed with the thunderbird rune. The other had been a squaw. Between her skeletal fingers was the neck of an infant.
‘She strangled the child rather than let it fall into the hands of the enemy,’ Bloody Moon said. The librarian noticed the undercurrent of horror in the Marine’s voice. He took a deep breath, trying to ignore the musty stench that filled the long house.
‘Something evil happened here, but it happened decades ago,’ Two Heads Talking replied, seeking to relieve Bloody Moon’s superstitious fear. He wanted time to consider, to probe the events of the past. The aura of old terror almost smothered him. Shadows lay over this lodge. Something was ominously familiar about the psychic aura of the area.
‘Lord-shaman…’ Bloody Moon began.
The librarian almost smiled. The habits of their ancient former lives had returned in strength now that they once more walked the soil of their homeworld.
‘Brother-librarian is my title, Bloody Moon. You are no longer my honour guard. We are both Marines.’
‘Lord-brother-shaman,’ Bloody Moon continued. ‘No warriors of the plains would have wrought such havoc. Do you think—’
‘We shall have to investigate, old friend. We must visit the other lodgetowns and speak with their chieftains. If someone has returned to the customs of the reaving time, we will put an end to it.’
It was rumoured that some of the hill clans still kept to the old daemon-worshipping practices from the time before the Emperor’s people came. If that were true, it was up to the Space Marines to take action. Somehow Two Heads Talking did not think it would come to that. This did not have the feel of daemon worshippers, although there was a taint in the air that was akin to it. An almost recognisable horror clawed at his mind. He fought it down and hoped that his suspicions were not true.
HE CITY REARED
above the plain like a soot-grimed leviathan. Cloud Runner spotted it before the others and ordered Lame Bear to land the dropship in a valley, out of sight of its walls.
From the brow of the hill, he studied it through magnoculars. It was an ugly place that reminded him of the hiveworlds he had visited. It covered many miles and was enclosed by monolithic walls. Great smokestacks loomed in the distance, belching acrid chemical clouds into the greyish sky.
Outside the walls, the river ran black with poisons. As Cloud Runner watched, he saw herd elk being driven squealing from barges towards great abattoirs within the walls. From huge stone barracks, people swarmed through the streets towards enormous, brick factories.
Smog drifted everywhere, occasionally obscuring the grimy city and its teeming inhabitants.
‘That is where Lame Bear’s metal axe came from,’ Two Heads Talking said, lowering himself to the ground beside Cloud Runner. ‘I wonder who built it?’
‘It’s a nightmare,’ murmured Cloud Runner. ‘We return home to find our lodges ravaged and this… abomination in its place.’
‘That city could hold all the clans of all the peoples of the plains and ten times more besides. Could our folk have been enslaved and taken there, brother-captain?’
Cloud Runner remained silent, considering. ‘If they have been, then we will go down with flamer and storm bolter and free them.’
‘We must know more before we act. We could be outnumbered and trapped,’ replied the shaman.
‘I say we go in with weapons armed,’ said Weasel-Fierce from behind them. ‘If we find foes, we burn them.’
‘Suppose they think the same? The soot and filth give the place an orkish look,’ said Lame Bear. He had been scouting further along the crest.
‘No ork ever put stone on stone like that,’ countered Two Heads Talking. ‘That is human workmanship.’
‘It is not the work of the people,’ said Cloud Runner. ‘Those barracks are a hundred times the size of a lodgehouse and built of brick.’
‘There is only one way to find out anything,’ said Two Heads Talking. ‘One of us must visit the city.’
The warriors nodded assent. Each tapped a scar-tattoo to indicate that he volunteered.
Two Heads Talking shook his head. ‘I must go. The spirits will shield me.’
Cloud Runner saw the rest of the warriors look at him to see what his decision would be. As captain, he could overrule the librarian. He looked at the city, then at the shaman standing quiet and proud before him.