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Simon Spurrier
IT 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 ods! and master of a million worlds by the
miht of his ine"haustible armies. He is a rottin carcass
writhin in#isibly with power from the $ark %e of
Technoloy. He is the &arrion 'ord of the Imperium for
whom a thousand souls are sacrificed e#ery day! so that
he may ne#er truly die.
(ET E)E* I* his deathless state! the Emperor continues
his eternal #iilance. +ihty battleflccts cross the
daemon,infested miasma of the warp! the only route
between distant stars! their way lit by the %stronomican!
the psychic manifestation of the Emperor-s will. )ast
armies i#e battle in his name on uncounted worlds.
Greatest amonst his soldiers are the %dcptus %startes!
the Space +arines! bio,enineered super,warriors. Their
comrades in arms are leion. the Imperial Guard and
countless planetary defence forces! the e#er,#iilant
In/uisition and the tech,priests of the %deptus
+cchanicus to name only a few. 0ut for all their
multitudes! they are barely enouh to hold off the
e#er,present threat from aliens! heretics!
mutants , and worse.
To 0E % man in such times is to be one amonst untold
billions. It is to li#e in the cruellest and most bloody
reime imainable. These are the tales of those times.
Foret the power of technoloy and science! for so much
has been forotten! ne#er to be re,learned. Foret the
promise of proress and understandin! for in the rim
dark future there is only war. There is no peace amonst
the stars! only an eternity of carnae and slauhter! and
the lauhter of thirstin ods.
'In human terms, the pursuit requires a most singular talent for empathy. It has long been my observation that the
greatest of hunters are those who understand how it feels to be hunted...'
,'ord $e#isies 0eloch! alleedly the
-Skin1ipper- of 2ilotr 2lanus! speakin at
an In/uisitorial tribunal prior to e"ecution.
IT 3%S *4T a entle awakenin.
In the dark! in the spine of the reat shattered #essel that had deli#ered him! the hunter surfaced from his slumber
with a hiss. He aed on dust,dry luns! pulled a rattlin breath throuh parched lips! tipped back his head! and
He had been human! once. E#en now! throuh a ha5e of time and trauma! he recalled how it had been to awake as a
mere man. senses flickerin to life! memories accretin! dreams recedin like echoes. %nd all of it without panic!
without horror6 a shadow,allery of clumsy! flawed processes for clumsy! flawed creatures.
*ot so now. Here in the dark! in the smoke and filth and dirtied snow! such entle comforts seemed an alien
The hunter tore his way to alertness with a feral shriek! and his first thouht was this.
It has gone. Someone has taken it.
THE H7'' 3%S cracked.
0lasted apart where tectonic forces had played alon its seams! its frescoed surfaces lay lacerated6 raed edes
atherin forests of icicles. 0eyond the fissures the niht swarmed with snow. thick eddies undulatin like the
surface of an in#erted ocean. 'ihtnin flickered in the distance! shootin lon shadows across the hue #essel-s
broken corridors.
The hunter scrambled from the crippled hull without pause! castin out his senses! seekin mo#ement. To his
nocturnal eyes the ship was an empty city. a landscape of broken towers and plateau" brimmin with snow!
cocooned by a curtain of ice
'ocatin the thie#es re/uired little effort. 2ickin their cautious way alon the ship-s surface! each ineleant footstep
was a thunder,strike in his ears. 2rotected from the weather by shay o#ercoats! eyes made beady and black by
crude snow,oles! they seemed to the hunter reminiscent of ancient primates. ri55led ape,thins in#estiatin a
hulk from the stars. He! then! was a demiod huntin monkeys.
The fools. The thieves.
They had taken it.
They were hurryin! he saw. 2erhaps they-d heard his wakin scream6 perhaps they reconised they were not alone
on the ship carcass they-d plundered. Their terror was ratifyin! and as he stalked them the hunter ululated once
more. a whoop of minled aner and e"citement. He soared across the une#en sprawl of the forward decks with
disdainful ease! sprin,locked feet barely touchin the pitted hull! and swooped to find co#er in the shadows of a
collapsed buttress. From
there! shielded! he could watch his prey! slippin and stumblin! reactin with comical horror to the wind,borne
There were twel#e. Ten carried weapons. spindly rifles with torches slun underneath6 puddles of liht that picked
their way down the craft-s broken flanks.
The hunter needed no torch.
The remainin two! he saw! carried the roup-s pri5e. a sheet of shrapnel formin an impro#ised stretcher! piled hih
with plunder. 7seless ewaws! mostly! handfuls of intestinal cablin! chunks of technoloy ripped from rune,
daubed panels. He was too distant to make out the blocky shape he-d been seekin amonst the haul , that sacred
item whose theft he would sooner die than permit , but it was certainly there! in amonst the loot. He could feel it...
He scuttled #ertically like some reat spider! risin alon the filiree of a command tower! blue,black limbs
impelled by silent streams of heated air6 oo5in from his back in shimmerin ribbons. % sinle bound , les pulled
up close to his chest! arms outstretched ,and he sailed abo#e his obli#ious /uarry! landin upon the barrel of a
crippled cannon! its sements archin in rib,like cur#es abo#e the broken deck. Settlin! lutted with the
e"hilaration of fliht! he hunched on all fours and threw back his head to howl once aain! a aroyle wreathed in
snow and niht.
To the preythins! the clumsy thie#es with their uns and lihts! the cry must ha#e seemed to ha#e come from
e#erywhere at once6 a #oice on the cusp of the snowstorm.
Their careful proress collapsed.
Se#eral dropped their weapons and started to run! #oices swallowed by the wind. Slippin on icy metal!
they went boltin and cryin into the dark! scatterin across the endless contours of the #ast wreckae.
The hunter smiled! en8oyin their disarray. $eep within ornate rea#es and spine,tipped sements of armour his
muscles bunched and fle"ed! les propellin him out into the swirlin #oid! ancient technoloy holdin him aloft.
He took the first two , stralers , as they stumbled alon the crest of a propulsion e"haust! hookin his talons
throuh the first-s shoulders. 2inned aainst the splintered metal of a #ertical plate! eyes bulin! the thief barely had
time to moan before a casual flick remo#ed head from body! arterial paste briht aainst the ruffled white of his furs.
The second man cast a curious lance o#er his shoulder and tripped6 ain at the shape picked out in his
torchliht. Hunched o#er his first #ictim-s body! the hunter cocked his head like an eale! baleful eyes lowin! and
scissored his claws toether.
-E,emperor...- the thief urled! feet skiddin on the icy hull! un tumblin from his rip. -Emperor preser#e...-
The hunter was on him without appearin to mo#e. lon blades punchin throuh the man-s arms! pinionin him like
a butterfly to a pae. %nd slowly! re#ellin in his capti#e-s panicked moans! the hunter brouht his face down and
whispered throuh the settlin snow! #oice cracked and distorted by #o"caster static.
-Scream for me.-
The others were simple! after that.
Haunted by their comrade-s dyin shrieks! any #esties of an orderly retreat were e"tinuished. Fihtin to flee
whate#er nihtmare stalked them! they barely noticed that they were separatin out! losin their way. He picked
them off one by one with impunity , these
panickin fools! these nothin,men , eaerly ac/uaintin them with the force of his aner.
They had stolen it. Stolen from him.
He cut them and loried in their screams. He proloned their punishments with musical control. a chorus of shrieks
to further horrify their comrades. Some he toyed with! slashin sinews and 8oints6 others he ripped apart! snatchin
up their heads in ra5or claws and pitchin them at the sur#i#ors! knockin them down like players in some risly
sport. He was a whirlwind of #eneance! a der#ish,fury that cut throuh the scum with the contempt their theft
7nseen! unheard! he sculpted their fears and stoked their imainations. 3ith no idea what monster was amonst
them their minds con8ured possibilities more horrific than e#en he could hope to inflict.
%nd then only three remained , those that had kept their senses about them , and he clawed his way alon the
outcroppins of a shattered bulkhead to watch them from abo#e! to decide how they would die.
Two were the litter carriers! he saw! still strulin to bear their plunder. The third , a larer fiure with a
malformed bule on his shoulders , uided them! his un trained on their backs! supplantin their fear with the far
more immediate threat of e"tinction. % lare electoo , a spiral dissected by a stylised bolt of lihtnin , shimmered
at the centre of his forehead. a crude symbol of authority.
% leader! then. Some a#arice,riddled fool! more intent on preser#in the fortune he-d looted than on preser#in his
own life. The hunter hissed to himself! happy to oblie.
He cast his nocturnal a5e throuh the morass of broken hullplates and smokin wreckae! sihtin alon the path
his prey were takin! ponderin the
possibilities of an ambush. %nd then panic assailed him.
From here the full e"tent of the massi#e #essel-s calamitous impact was clear to see. %t its beak,like prow! now
blunted and smoothed to a sheen by the heat of its descent! it had clawed a scarred wede of rock from the round6
an ethereal fist lashin at the earth. %nd there! hidden by curtains of dirty smoke at the ede of the crater! waited a
transport. 4ld and decrepit,lookin! for sure! striated with rusty lesions and labelled! bewilderinly! 'TEQ' in
patchy lopaint! it was sleekly built nonetheless. If the thie#es could reach it they would escape beyond e#en the
hunter-s ability to pursue.
Fihtin nascent an"iety! diin talons into the buckled metal of his perch! the hunter howled into the shadows and
leapt aain. His leaps carried him in raceful arcs from roost to roost! rippin #erticals and platforms for instants
before relaunchin! clawin his way alon the spires and toppled towers of the rained craft. For a moment the storm
intensified! thick flurries maskin the prey-s clumsy proress! and the hunter worked his way throuh the s/uall with
reckless abandon. body flattened! racile armour cuttin the air! 8ump pack splutterin. 3hen at last the whiteout
cleared he souht a #antae point! racin alon the promontory of a collapsed sensor turret! and lared out towards
the transport.
They were almost there. &lamberin down from the ede of the prow! the thie#es stood scant metres from their
sal#ation! liftin their loot,stretcher with renewed #iour. The hunchbacked leader outpaced the two carriers and
scrambled up the crater wall! swinin himself into the waitin #ehicle-s cockpit to start its enine. E#en throuh the
storm the hunter could hear
the machine-s rowl! could taste the stink of its fuel. He launched himself one final time! o#ere"erted muscles
trierin cunnin de#ices within his armour! pumpin a slick of combat,stimms into his blood. He shi#ered with
the rush of adrenaline that followed! watchin the round streak past below. a forest of crippled decks i#in way to
deep! endless rey. Snow by niht.
The litter,bearers reached the crater,ede and hefted their burden onto their backs! steelin themsel#es for the
awkward climb. The first hooked a lo#e into the broken rock and turned! noddin at his comrade! then scowled
with a runt of surprise as somethin tued at his arm...
.. .which was no loner there.
0lood eysered across #irin snow and the stretcher collapsed to the floor! stolen treasures tumblin across the frost.
0ehind the man! steam risin from leerin rille,#entilator! the hunter hissed and brandished the se#ered arm. He
relished the rowin fear! e"ultin in the horror written across these two fools- faces. The merest shru and the first-s
heart was punctured! ribs incised like butter. The other ran6 blindly! stupidly! away from the crater ede and into
hea#y snow! stumblin on a drift. The hunter hopped! #ulture,like! onto his back! claws pluckin at his flesh! and
placed a taloned foot upon his head.
There was somethin pleasantly percussi#e in the cracklin that followed.
%bo#e him! beyond the caldera of the crash site! the transport pulled away. The hunter tensed to pursue ,the stimm
boilin in his blood6 cryin out for more carnae! more terminal 8ustice for the insult of the theft ,but paused to
reconsider. The haul of stolen oods had been reclaimed , scattered across the snow between its
bearers- bodies , and he could not simply lea#e it where it lay on the flimsy promise of one last kill.
0reathin hea#ily! tryin his best to reain calmness in spite of the stimm! he turned to the discarded loot and bean
to search. The claws of his fists , sabre,like protrusions that dripped whorls of #ibrant scarlet across the snow ,
retracted into patterned roo#es with a silken rasp! pullin back to re#eal lo#ed finers beneath. 4n his knees!
flickin aside the crumpled items of useless technoloy that had cauht the thie#es- eyes! he rummaed first in the
weapons crates! finerin ornate bolters and shell clips! tappin at renades! sca#enin throuh packain with
increasin frustration. His search intensified. o#erturnin crates! emptyin priceless baubles and ancient
technoloies across the ice! breath acceleratin with each moment.
The suspicion stole o#er him by derees , a protracted wa#e of horror and shame , and he suppressed it o#er and
o#er! pushin it down into his uts.
He couldn-t fool himself fore#er.
-*o9- he roared! claws snickerin from their sockets like lihtnin! slicin throuh crates and unmetal barrels!
wea#in a flickerin storm across snow and earth. -It-s not here9 It-s not here
The /uickenin effects of the stimm lasted half an hour! and when his raes and screams were all spent! when the
bodies of the men he-d killed could be diced no further! when his claws steamed with bloody red #apour! when
finally his mind cleared of the druha5e and bean , at last , to awaken fully! only then did he think of the thie#es-
leader. The one that he had allowed to escape. The hunchback.
4r perhaps not a hunchback at all. 2erhaps a man carryin a packae securely beneath his furs! strapped across his
broad shoulders.
&heated! the hunter slumped to the snow and breathed icy air. 1ecollections filtered into him! delayed consciousness
worked its bitter way throuh the dyin embers of the rae! and piece by piece he accumulated the framents of who
he was. This second stirrin! this fattenin packae of personality and past! stole o#er him in /uiet derees. a far
more human awakenin than the first.
His name was :so Sahaal! the Talonmaster! the heir to the &orona *o"! and he had rescinded his humanity a lon
time before.
+E+41IES %SS%I'E$ HI+. framentary and nonsensical. He ripped them as they rushed by! strulin to remember.
There had been a death.
That was how it bean. an assassination and a power #acuum.
He remembered the promise that had been made to him. the leacy he was ranted! the sacred #ows he swore. He-d
accepted a holy duty without hesitation! and at the moment of his ascension had stretched out a willin hand to
recei#e it.
The &orona *o" had been his. 0riefly.
There had been complications. There had been inter#entions. "lien inter#entions.
He remembered! throuh the riot of chatterin bolters and screamin #oices! in the rush of a psychic storm! the
"enos. He remembered the pain and the confusion. He remembered the burnin enemy! that brittle fiend! briht
helm arched and antlered! staff banishin e#ery shadow to e"tinction.
He remembered fleein. He remembered the trap. He remembered the fissure in the fabric of nothin! suckin him
down! swallowin him whole.
He had been caed within a timeless prison! and without hope of escape he had emptied his mind and slept. He-d
stumbled throuh endless dreams! rappled with nihtmares! and,
,and had awoken to disco#er the &orona one.
The leader! yes. The so,called hunchback. #e had taken it.
%* H471 '%TE1! :S4 Sahaal stood at the ede of the wreckae and rearded his #essel! the $mbrea Insidior, with a
wistful eye.
The last time he-d admired her e"terior had been from the cramped cockpit of a shuttle! risin towards her from the
surface of Tsaualsa! on the e#e of his final mission. E#en then! nawed at by impatience! he-d paused to admire her
sa#ae form. %rtfully decorated in banks of ebony and blue! picked,throuh with bron5e! her towers and minarets
endowed upon her an almost ornate fraility.
It was! of course! an illusion.
)ulture,beaked and weapon,pocked! her enerariums hulked from her stern like the head of a mallet! cannons
decoratin the hammer-s rip with all the oranic tenacity of barnacles upon a whale. Here and there her chanin
fortunes were transcribed in scars and healed abrasions6 all the arts of the %deptus +echanicus focused upon
impro#ement! strenth! power. +ore ob#ious still were the re#isions to her structure made by her latest masters.
blades and icons archin from her pitted hull! intricate desins dapplin her iron snout! stylised arcs of auss
lihtnin painted in harsh whorls across the darkness of her intricate surfaces.
She had been a strike cruiser! once. Fast and #icious! a fittin chariot for the mission he-d boarded her to fulfil. %
#essel worthy of his captaincy.
%nd now;
*ow she was a broken ha. &rooked ribs slumped from fractured e"panses. &re#ices aped like whip,wounds
where conflictin pressures had buckled and pierced her hull. Her reat spine was broken! crumpled across half a
kilometre of steamin waste. Her beak had been thrust with such #iolence into the earth that her flanks had snapped!
reactors sain then pitchin up and outwards! shearin #icious rents before detonatin6 their colossal eneries
#aporisin what little substance had sur#i#ed the atmosphere-s passae.
Sahaal could barely imaine the calamitous impact. 3ere it not for the e#idence of his own eyes , this pitiful thin
smeared like metal paste across the ice , he would ha#e doubted that such a #essel as the $mbrea Insidior could be
brouht so low.
h, how the mighty are fallen... 3here had he heard that before;
It hardly mattered! now. There were more important thins to consider. 2riorities.
There were no other sur#i#ors , of that he was certain. His inspection of the central corridors re#ealed nothin but
dry bones and ancient fabrics. all that remained of the #assals that had crewed this once,proud ship. *ow all as dead
as she! and for a ood deal loner. Siftin throuh storerooms! kickin aside mournful skulls! Sahaal bean to
wonder 8ust how lon had passed since his imprisonment bean. Had his ser#ants withered and rown old as he
slept! as aeless as old; Had they fallen to dust and ash around him! mayflies around a statue! or had they perhaps
taken their own li#es! foroin the tedium of confinement for a swift! bloody release;
%ain! he di#erted his wonderin mind. There would be time for speculation later! once his pri5e was reclaimed.
In the end his sal#ae was little better than had been the thie#es-. Into a crate he upended as many ammunition clips
as he could find! layin an ornate bolter re#erentially on top. The looters had missed it when they-d raided the
shattered remains of the armoury6 ne#er thinkin to prise away the manled sides of the stronbo" at the armoury-s
core! where he had placed it.
It was named %orda& Tenebrae , the $ark-s 0ite. It had been hand crafted on *ostromo <uintus and was! in any
material sense! priceless. %s Sahaal ran an eye across its familiar stock! its elaborately decorated chambers and
skull,mouthed barrel! he found himself wishin that they had found it! that they-d stolen it in e"chane for the one
item that he could not abide to lose , the #ery item that had been taken.
It was an impressi#e weapon! certainly! and he-d maintained it with the respect its manificence demanded. It had
been a ift from his master! and such was his de#otion that had it been a knife or a book or a lump of rock! he would
ha#e cherished it with an e/ual fer#our. 0ut still! but still...
'ike any un! like any crude pro8ectile,#omitin apparatus! he thouht it a clumsy tool. a thin of noise and
desperation! of smoke and flame. For all its comple"ity! for all the care and artistry la#ished upon it! it would ne#er
ri#al the purity of a blade.
It would ne#er be as #ital to him as the &orona *o".
Into the crate it went! and alon with a scatterin of what random munitions and renades he could find! and a rack
of fuelcells for his armour! he took 8ust one last item. a hea#y rectanular packae! stolen from the
wreck-s remainin enerarium! lowin with a pestilent reen tine. This he loaded carefully between layers of
foam! acknowledin that sometimes the precision of a blade would ne#er be enouh.
The crate hissed as he depressed its sealin rune! and as he ripped its iron handle he reflected that in another time
such an inoble thin as carryin luae would ha#e been unthinkable6 the remit of the numberless sla#es that
tended to his e#ery desire.
#ow the mighty are fallen... % simple phrase! whisperin throuh his mind for a second time! like the host of an
echo. He realised with a start that it was his master-s #oice he-d remembered! and with crystal clarity recalled the
time! the circumstance! the sentiment.
It had been on Tsaualsa. 4n Tsaualsa! before the killer came. Ga5in into the niht! brows beetlin toether!
ancient eyes clouded! Sahaal-s lord had turned to him and smiled! and said those words! and in his #oice Sahaal
could taste his disposition.
Troubled. 0itter. 0etrayed. #aunted.
-3e shall be mihty yet!= Sahaal promised! words lost to the dri#in snow! fist clenched aainst his heart.
'iftin the crate to his side! he set his sihts upon the faint shadows of the transporter-s tracks! took one last lance
at the $mbrea Insidior, and leapt into the niht.
IT 3%S 'ESS an awakenin than a rebirth.
%lways it was like this! after the trance. %lways she allowed the subtle skeins of perception and concept to break
free from her focus! shiftin her mind state from some inner #antae to the mundane outer realities! the pro#ince of
con#entional sense and thouht.
She returned to her corporeal self like an eale resumin its eyrie! breathin honeyed incense and en8oyin the slow
trickle of physical sensation. It felt like blood flowin throuh star#ed arteries.
In the Scholastia 2sykana she-d learnt to call this the pater donum' the brief flush of warmth and contentment that
followed a scryin trance! like a reward from the Emperor-s own hand. She allowed it to work its way alon each
limb! curlin her toes and archin her back.
1elish it! the adept,tutors had tauht. En8oy it whilst it lasts. It was! after all! the sinle facet of telepathy that
8ustified the term -ift- where all others e/uated more accurately to the symptoms of a curse.
The pater donum would not last. It would be one in an instant! and at that unhappy moment all the fierce memories
of the trance would crash inwards to drown her.
She opened her eyes! focused on the sinle utterin candle at the centre of the scryin,rin! and allowed the slude
of recollection to break throuh.
Her first thouht was this.
Something has fallen from heaven.
THE +E$IT%TI4* &E'' was a simple affair.
Four rockcrete walls arched o#erhead! slopin toether to form a crude dome with a needle of bron5e at its core. a
conduction point for the astral body. Gone were the scriptures picked out in old and opal across each wall! one
were the stylised star charts and mantras patternin the seer,dome! one were the reat twistin shel#es of chitterin
incense drones. Such comforts she-d left behind on the fortress,world Safaur,In/uis! and this spartan cube was as far
remo#ed from the decadence she-d come to e"pect as it could be. She supposed she should be rateful for anythin
at all! i#en the indifference her new master had showed her! but still... there were limits.
% withered ser#itor , once human! lon since lobot,omised! dissected! infested with loic enines and clatterin
components , poked a stunted limb aainst her shoulder! its one rheumy eye flutterin spastically. It tried to talk! but
the rune,etched staples throuh its lips and 8aw allowed little more than a moist cluckin6 a lon strand of drool
wobblin from its chin.
4n Safaur! her trance,awakenins had been tended by ende ser#ants. smooth,skinned subordinates with
tonues neady remo#ed and ownership studs across each eye! hurryin to mop her sweat and massae her shoulders!
lo#inly recordin on scented parchment whate#er insihts the meditation bestowed. 4n Safaur her trance,suite
flocked with locust,like automata. emeralds for eyes and rubies for 8aws! coloured streamers of psychoacti#e
pheromones fallin like musk from their tails. 4n Safaur a do5en coitators e"isted solely to interpret her #isions.
4n Safaur the ma8esty of her /uarters was matched only by the #iew from her central arret! and between
assinments she spent hours a5in across the acid shores of the sulphur seas. 4n the In/uisitorial fortress,world of
Safaur,In/uis! her masters wielded their influence with artistry and opulence.
Her present circumstance was therefore somewhat allin.
Here! a one,armed man!=machine with a techstylus and a snot,cloed nose was the best the o#ernor-s chamberlain
could pro#ide. It poked her aain! markin her naked skin with a moronic stripe of ink before leanin away! eye
rollin. %bo#e it a faulty ser#odrone corkscrewed erratically across the ceilin! oo5in incense. It bashed aainst the
wall with depressin reularity! and she found herself unconsciously countin alon , tap(tap(tap ( like the beatin
of a plastic heart.
%nythin to distract her from the memories.
0ut no! the warm pleasure of the pater donum had passed! the details of this dull litde chamber had ceased to offer
any but the most rudimentary of di#ersions! and the rowin pressure behind her eyes couldn-t be contained
indefinitely. Sihin! she pulled a simple robe across her shoulders! clenched her 8aw! snuffed out the candle and
focused on the details of the trance! still burnin briht in her mind.
-1ecord!= she commanded! wa#in a hand. The ser#itor straihtened! stylus poised on the flutterin surface of an
auur,slate! cluckin its readiness.
There follows the account!= she bean formally! inorin the whisperin of the ser#itor-s 8oints! -of the furor
ar)anum undertaken in the Emperor-s name on this day , date it , by I! interroator primus of the retinue of
In/uisitor >austus! on Imperial hi#e,world E/ui"us. In ser#ice of the most blessed In/uisition and in fealty to his
Holiness the Emperor of +an! I attest upon my immortal soul to the pro#enance of this account! and swear upon its
#eracity , may my lord else strike me down!= She drew a breath! shi#erin at the cold. -0lessins be upon His
Throne and dominion. "ve imperator*
She watched as the ser#itor scrawled the dedication with a mechanical twitch! scrollin the data,slate onto a clean
line. She took a moment to compose herself! pursed her lips! then continued.
-For the third time , refer to prior reports , the trance bean with the sensation of... altitude!= She closed her eyes and
remembered the cold! the di55yin sensation of an abyssal nothinness apin on e#ery side! ice formin on her
skin. She immersed herself in the memory and continued to speak! applyin the recall techni/ues she-d been tauht
since an early ae. -I... I felt as thouh I was standin at a reat heiht!= she said! -and all around me the round
rushed away like the sides of a mountain. E"cept... a mountain made of metal. I couldn-t see anythin , there was too
much snow , but I knew that if I stepped too far in any direction I-d fall. I-d fall and ne#er stop fallin! all the way
down to a... a deep darkness! where no liht e#er shines. I couldn-t see it! but... I knew it was there. I could feel it.
There was a moment of nausea , thouh...- She half smiled! childishly proud!=... thouh today! for the first time! I did
not #omit.
-It seemed to me! then! that somethin was drawin near! pushin throuh the snow! and thouh I was scared I stood
my round...- She chewed a lip! brows dippin. -2erhaps I feared the drop more than I feared the approachin
presence! I... I don-t know. $urin pre#ious trances I-#e awoken at this point and my efforts to di#ine further details
ha#e been frustrated. Today I... persisted. I-m certain I cauht a limpse of the... the presen)e in the snow! which has
eluded me until now.
-It seemed to be myself!=
She lanced up! aware of how ridiculous the sentiment sounded. If the ser#itor was e#en capable of such 8udement
it a#e no indication of it! awaitin her ne"t words with the same dumb focus as before. She tried to rela"!
remindin herself that the interpretations of the furor ar)anum were ne#er straihtforward! and that the libraries of
the Scholastia 2sykana were filled with #alidated predictions that had arisen from the most preposterous of trance,
Still she hesitated! disturbed by the #i#idness of the dream.
-It was me! but... but I looked different. +y hair was cut short and I wore ras! and... there was blood on my face.
4ne of... oh! Throne... one of my arms was one. 0leedin like a fountain... I was tryin to say somethin but the
wind was too stron and I... I couldn-t hear! and that-s when I saw... I...
-I was bein carried. In the air! like... flyin. I tried to see what was holdin me but it was co#ered by the snow and
there was... there was a shadow o#er its face!=
She was #auely aware of a tear slippin down her cheek! and distantly , surreally , wondered why it was there.
3hat did it mean;
The words came in a 8umble now! refusin to stop! and she felt herself cauht up in the same fearful horror as durin
the trance itself! tumblin and screamin and free5in! all at once.
-I looked into it... the shadow! I mean... and it was like I was fallin! straiht throuh the snow towards the round!
and... and somethin was chasin me! burnin me from behind my eyes... Emperor preser#e me! it was a prenant
ha , the si5e of a city , rushin down from the stars... a,and... and she hit the snow and... ohhh... her bones broke
and her belly split and...
-.. .and darkness crawled out from her womb.-
She forced open her eyes lon enouh to check that the ser#itor had recorded e#ery word. It watched her without
comment or mo#ement! fully prepared to wait fore#er for her ne"t command.
Sihin! Interroator +ita %shyn of the 4rdo ?enos allowed herself the indulence of slippin into a deep!
e"hausted faint.
-%H! I*TE114G%T41.-
-+y lord.- +ita bowed formally! keepin her eyes lowered. She hadn-t yet rown accustomed to her new master-s
idiosyncrasies! but had learned /uickly that his leendary temper was deployed far more readily amonst those who
failed to show the proper obeisance. Gi#en that he insisted upon wearin a mirror,helm with only the narrowest of
eyeslits! it was perhaps unfortunate that any interested lance towards his surreal headear was mistaken for
disrespect! which of course in#ited the full force of his wrath.
In/uisitor >austus was not a man to cross lihtly.
+ita considered herself relati#ely safe! 8ust as lon as she occupied her #iew with the tails of his che/uered robes
and the hea#y soles of his armoured feet! rather than his feather,mantled shoulders and reflecti#e mask.
-Stop that!- he snapped! pro#in her wron! his #oice curiously soft for such an imposin fiure. -I won-t ha#e my
acolytes bowin and scrapin like common peasants. I-m your master! irl! not your Emperor!=
-%poloies! my lord!= She straihtened and ad8usted her a5e #ertically! oo5in penitence. 2erhaps )hest height
would be more appropriate.
0ehind her! a couple of the innumerable cowled fiures that comprised >austus-s retinue sniered lihtly! amused
at her mistake. She forced down the o#erwhelmin desire to break their heads and forced herself to calm. %s the
newest member of the entourae she-d /uickly learned that rank counted for e"actly nothin. technically her
command was second only to the in/uisitor-s! but it seemed respect was earned , not demanded , amonst this
colourful crowd. %s lon as >austus continued to humiliate her in front of them their respect would continue to be
in short supply.
-I-#e read the account of your #ision!= the in/uisitor said! #oice drippin scorn! wa#in a spindly datapad across her
#iew. (ou fainted.'
-It was... unusually #i#id! my lord!=
-I don-t care how #i#id it was! irl. I-ll not tolerate my ser#ants passin out at the drop of hat!=
-It won-t happen aain! my lord!=
-*o. It will not!= The datapad dipped upwards , the in/uisitor-s a5e ro#in across its spidery te"t. @(our account
makes for... interesting readin!= he said. -3hat does it all mean;-
-I don-t know! my lord. There are no coitators here to deciph,-
-I didn-t ask what some Emperor,damned ma)hine would make of it! irl9 I asked what you think!=
She swallowed! resistin the ure to meet his a5e. Here! in the splendour of his uest suite at the heart of the
o#ernor-s palace! he was as terrible and manificent a fiure as the leends made claim.
-I... I think somethin is comin! my lord. &omin here! I mean!=
-@Somethin@. Is that the best you can do;-
She bristled! fists clenchin at her sides! strulin to keep the bitterness from her #oice. -Somethin from the stars!
then. Somethin massi#e. S,somethin dark!=
For a moment there was silence. $ust motes circulated throuh the hard beam of a ho#erin illuminator! and at the
periphery of her #ision +ita could see the retinue shufflin its collecti#e feet. Had her words struck a chord;
>austus shattered both the silence and her hopes with one deft e"clamation.
-Emperor-s blood9- he boomed! #oice hea#y with sarcasm! -such detail+ How did I e#er cope without a witch at my
2redictably the room e"ploded! acolytes and cowled disciples #entin their sycophantic amusement in ales of
lauhter. 3illin herself not to blush , unsuccessfully , +ita supposed she couldn-t blame them. In shared cruelty
lay acceptance! a bitter lesson she-d been slow to rasp.
For an instant she found herself hatin them. Hatin him, e#en6 re#ilin her own master like some undisciplined
child... 0ut such thouhts were the atestones at the head of a danerous path! and her entire life had
been spent studyin to ward off such heretical temptations. She willed herself to rela"! bore the humiliation with
ood race,
,and du her finernails so far into the flesh of her palms that blood oo5ed between her knuckles.
>austus silenced the lauhter! tossin aside the data,pad like some broken toy! its ability to entertain spent. %n
abrupt silence ripped the room and he watched the crowd with narrowed eyes! colossal shoulders s/uared.
-% mission!=
To +ita! bathed unwillinly in a tumult of psychic emissions! the phrase was like an icy wind. She tasted the hunry
anticipation of the retinue6 all forced amusements forotten! minds focused and sharp. She a#e them their dues.
fools they miht be! but they were obedient with it.
-In#estiation and sal#ae!= >austus cocked his head towards his staff! barkin commands. Three teams! three
transports. $i#ision pattern delta. *ow!=
The entourae di#ided like a machine! three roups formin in short order. 3ithout the benefit of indi#idual
familiarity! +ita could nonetheless detect the more ob#ious distributions of resource. in each roup there hulked the
cowled form of a combat ser#itor6 in each a medic fussed with triae apparatus and checked chemical proboscis6 in
each a hooded priest stepped from fiure to fiure! administerin blessins and prayers.
>austus had been collectin disciples his entire life! amassin a crew to shame e#en the most luminary of fellow
in/uisitors. 3ith a sinle command the capabilities and specialisms of the whole had been spliced e#enly and
instantly! without comment or /uestion or
flaw. E#en to +ita! still smartin from their scorn! it was a display of impressi#e efficiency.
She struck what she hoped was an authoritati#e pose , uncomfortably aware that she alone had failed to fall in. If
>austus had e"pected her in#ol#ement he a#e no sin of it! noddin briskly at each roup.
3e rende5#ous at ate Epsilon,Si" in three hours!= he barked. -&old,weather ear! niht,siht! fully armed.
The retinue filed from the suite without a word! and +ita reflected that for all their #ariety! for all the many
characters and histories contained within the roup! they operated with parade,round efficiency to match e#en the
most elite of the Imperial uard-s storm troopers.
She realised with a start that she was the last to lea#e! and that >austus was starin at her! lo#ed finers toyin
eleantly with the cruciform T medallion around his neck. -Interroator!= he said! features unreadable. (ou appear to
still be here...-
-+y lord!= she swallowed! huntin for a diplomatic method of deli#erin her en/uiries! settlin e#entually for a
lame. 4)hat are we to in#estiate;-
The anticipated rebuke for her insolence ne#er came. She imained the man-s lips curlin behind the mask. the rin
of a cat entertained by its strulin prey.
That-s 8ust it! interroator!= he cooed. (ou already know.-
She frowned. -+y lord;-
-How did you put it; @Somethin from the hea#ens... Somethin massi#e... Somethin dark@;-
-I... I-m sorry! my lord! I don-t u,-
(ou were riht. %lbeit somewhat late.'
% #essel , a large #essel , crash,landed in the ice wastes two hours ao. Gi#en that we were already here! it would
seem remiss to not aid in the in#estiation!=
-0ut... but...-
-It-s not )oming, interroator. It-s already arri#ed. $ismissed!=
She marched out in an unthinkin ha5e! and as she stamped towards her diny cell to prepare! an uly forebodin
twisted in her uts. Her wakin re#elation returned to her and she winced aainst the pain.
Something has fallen from heaven.
TH147GH *IGHT,)ISI4* bino" , baro/ue coils of cablin and lenses en#elopin her eyes like a hunry kiss , the hi#e
was a flamin steeple.
2eerin o#er her shoulder! shi#erin despite thick furs! +ita rearded the city,world as the con#oy left it behind!
swallowed by the hori5on like a meltin stalamite. That there were larer hi#es on worlds less remote couldn-t
detract from its manificence. the city-s #astness snaed at her eyes! suckin on her attention. Two hundred million
souls! crushed toether like termites! ekin out their blind li#es in the belly of a spine,tipped beast.
+ost would ne#er see the sky.
It punctured the air like a narled knuckle. &loud,clad and encased in frost! it was an in#erted icicle! its une#en
surfaces eroded by time and weather! pitted by industry and accented by turrets and spires. 3here once the tempests
of E/ui"us had raed undisturbed! now they found themsel#es incised! ashed apart by this upstart architecture. It
drew a thick blood of lihtnin! auroras boilin into the niht! and the splendour of its cracklin crown strobe,lit the
bleak wastes for kilometres around.
4n this! the planet-s unlit face , tumblin in perfect synchronicity with the orbital year , it was always dark! and
always cold. %ainst the loom! factories belched fiery waste and loadin bays #ented nebulae of ionic pollution.
From the upper tiers! abo#e the drudery of plebeian life! windows bled ala"ies of spilled liht. In +ita-s eyes! with
her bino" de#ourin e#ery luminous pinprick! the hi#e stood aainst the darkness like a monolith,od! an effiy
thick with fire.
+ore pronounced still was the brihtness in the chambers of her mind. in those unseen tendrils of psychic thouht
that swarmed about her like the arms of an anemone! she could taste the life of the city. Two hundred million souls!
each one a utterin candle of psychic liht. Each one as fraile as it was briht.
She turned away! briefly da55led! and focused instead upon the small con#oy. There were four transports ,con#erted
Salamanders with widened tracks and pintle flashlihts , racin across the ice at an alarmin speed. Three contained
the In/uisitorial retinue , assorted cloaks flutterin as their mass allowed , whilst in the lead #ehicle a s/uad of the
local lawmen! the 2reafec,tus )indictaire! set their helmeted heads aainst the wind and lared back towards the
others! no doubt deridin the interference of outsiders. 4fficially the 2reafectus was an independent body!
administrated by the ala"y,spannin %deptus %rbites! but a certain amount of diplomatic compromise to Imperial
officials was customary. +ita suspected that the in/uisitor-s in#ol#ement had been far from sanctioned by the
lawmen! thouh it would be a bra#e man indeed who denied an offer of assistance from >austus.
The man himself shared her portion of the rear #ehicle! a5in out from a raised antry with face and mind e/ually
as shrouded. The In/uisition trained its
operati#es to shield their minds from psykers with en#iable aplomb! and where the other members of the retinue
bla5ed in her si"th sense like lanterns! his radiance was shuttered and barred. He stood with arms crossed! as
unperturbed by the cold as if still within his suite! and only his finers , kneadin toether ,belied the impression
that he was a statue. some decorous idol draped in fine cloth. She realised without surprise that she still knew all but
nothin about him. In the short time she-d spent in his ser#ice the one ob#ious conclusion she-d drawn was this. The
leends were wron.
In/uisitor >austus came complete with a reputation as lowin as the nocturnal hi#e at his back! and e"ploited it
shrewdly. That he had undertaken reat deeds! that he had crushed alien heresies throuhout the 7ltima Sementum!
she did not doubt. 0ut that he had done so with nobility and honour , with heroism, no less! as the myths claimed ,
was harder to diest. 1uthlessness and heroism did not! in her e"perience! sit well toether.
+ita had beun her tenure as an In/uisitorial e"pli,cator direct from the Scholastia 2sykana on Escastel Sanctus.
Selected by her masters! deemed stron enouh to resist corruption without recourse to the cripplin Soul 0indin
ceremony re/uired of lesser psykers! she remembered the shadowy recruitment rituals with uncomfortable clarity.
*aked and hairless! the youn chosen had shi#ered in subterranean ca#erns6 ser#itors lidin amonst them! testin!
proddin! twitchin. She remembered the shame! minled with secret relief! as one by one the other youths were
borne away by the #apid machines! selected from afar by their new masters. They would be scattered amonst the
+unitorum offices! she knew! or perhaps
deployed by the %dministratum! or e#en , so the whispers went , inducted into the &hapters of the %deptus %startes.
*o one had warned her there was a fourth possibility.
She was claimed by the 4rdo ?enos of the Emperor-s di#ine In/uisition. that most clandestine of societies. She
found herself obbled whole by an oranisation with unlimited authority! tasked to stalk the shadows of the
Imperium and keep it stron! pure! and holy. $rued and hooded! she was initiated into a world of secrecy and
paranoia at the ae of twel#e.
%t the ae of twenty,fi#e she left the fortress,world of Safaur,In/uis to 8oin the retinue of the In/uisitor 2etrai
'e#oi" , blessed be her name , and for si" years she was... )ontent.
In that time she witnessed the scourin of the necron-tyr mealiths on 2arson-s +oon. She took a hand in the
shatterin of the -aaagh(Shalka. when she o#ercame the warlord-s puppet,wyrds. She bested the primacii mai of a
enestealer insurrection in the +ar,/uand Straits! and broke the mind of the Hruddite $emaoue of the 2leanar
campain. She earned the rank of interroator at the ae of thirty and! in the crucible of the (lir uprisins! earned a
citation from the &onresium ?enos for capturin the son,sword of a slain eldar warlock.
She was makin a difference. She was the in/uisitor-s riht hand. She souht , and earned , lory! and the accounts
of her deeds ran in flutterin te"t,ribbons that she twined throuh her hair. She was somebody.
%nd then a week before her thirty,first birthday her mistress died , stupidly! pointlessly , in a messy crossfire on
Erasula I?. %nd e#erythin chaned.
%bruptly she was no one. %bruptly she was less than nothin! and when all the en/uiries and refutations were done
she found herself reassined! re,deployed,
,and re,subordinated.
Starin ahead into the dri#in snow! darin to study her new master-s statues/ue form in stolen lances! she
wondered how lon , if e#er , it would take her to reain those heady heihts of respect. Tastin the ebb and eddy of
the retinue-s thouhts around her! each one swarmin with the desire to impress! to rise to the top! to be noti)ed, she
realised with loomy certainty that it was not oin to be easy.
THE &1%SH SITE was as chaotic and as desolate as +ita could ha#e imained. To see a thin so mihty as a spacecraft
so utterly ruined was a humblin siht. %lready the snow settled across its fractured flukes! only the 8uttin
paraphernalia of its lance arrays and command turrets breakin throuh the white sheet like the half,submered
bones of a drowned corpse.
For all that it was a mihty thin! its ancient plates and spars were nonetheless imbued with a reat sadness , and a
reat bitterness. If the other members of the retinue shared the empathic shudder she felt as she ran a /uestin finer
across a frosted bulkhead they a#e no sin of it! but their search was conducted nonetheless with unusual restraint!
like looters in#adin a mausoleum.
The #indictors barely e"chaned a word with their unin#ited assistants! clumsily pickin their way towards a wound
on the #essel-s side! powerful torches spillin liht as they entered. 0y contrast the retinue deployed /uickly and
efficiently! enterin 8aed orifices on three flanks. %s they /uested deep inside! like maots s/uirmin throuh
rotten flesh! they directed
terse reports #ia the shortwa#e #o"casters each wore. >austus recei#ed these bursts without comment! wanderin
across the #essel-s surface! content to allow his minions to e"plore on his behalf.
She fideted in his wake! wonderin whether she should ha#e taken it upon herself to 8oin the search. Her mind
fluttered throuh awkward /uandaries. should she await his command or assert her own authority; Should she seek
to impress him with loyalty and obedience! or would a firebrand self,initiati#e ain his appro#al; 3ithout any
inklin of his temperament or tastes! such actions could easily dictate her success or failure as his hihest rankin
7nable to skim his thouhts! denied the #iew of his facial e"pressions! she nonetheless had a fair idea that she-d
sinularly failed in her attempts to impress him thus far.
-%re there sur#i#ors;- he asked! finers kneadin toether.
-+y lord;-
He sihed! hot #apour curlin from the dimpled breathin slats of his mask. -Interroator! I dislike bein answered
with /uestions!=
-0ut! my lord! I,-
-I was assured by the ordo that your skills would pro#e in#aluable. %re you now suestin they were incorrect;- He
spoke slowly and loudly! #oice thick with condescension! and +ita struled to control her risin hackles.
-*,no my lord! but,-
-E"cellent. Then the time has come for you to show me you-re here for a reason! don-t you think;-
She tried to form an intellient response! but as e#er the options each seemed as lame as each other. She sihed!
noddin in defeat. -(es!=
-So; %re there any sur#i#ors;-
Forcin herself to calm! she closed her eyes to the lowin traceries of the bino" #iew and unfolded her mind!
allowin it to seep into the metal of the craft like acid throuh stone. Immersed in the Empyrean! she tasted the
ship-s secrets! she learned its ancient name! she swarmed in its chambers! and she drank its fla#ours.
SHE FI*%''( ST422E$ screamin when the in/uisitor slapped her! hard! across the cheek.
:so S%H%%' 'E%*E$ out from his sheltered alco#e and drew hunry eyes across the structural anarchy around him.
He-d warmed to his new en#ironment /uickly , a predator enterin fertile huntin rounds , and couldn-t resist a
secret smile! relishin the darkness. This che/uerboard of shadows! this ferrous 8unle! this ca#ity,filled mountain.
here he was indomitable.
7nable to pause! fihtin urency and e"citement! he /uit his nook and bounded across a pluneshaft! dodin
chains and cables. a shadow mo#in throuh shadows. 1isin across #ertical antries! claw,o#er,claw! he pushed
off with his hooked feet to hop between silent ele#ators! hanin like ibbeted bodies. )oices filtered from passaes
to either side and he paused! mimickin the raed fabric of the wall. In a world of such hapha5ard architecture one
more une#en shape! midniht,coloured and indistinct! was unlikely to
draw attention. He unsheathed a claw! shi#erin at its silky emerence! and waited! e#ery muscle tensed.
Thus poised! with e#ery sense racin and alert! his mind found itself free to wander. It seeped into his memory like
oil into a spone! musin upon how he had found himself here. stalkin this ancient labyrinth like a panther in the
THE 21E)I47S $%(! lea#in the $mbrea Insidior countless kilometres behind him! he had watched the city appear by
derees on the hori5on. For all its enormity he hadn-t paused to admire it! or e#en to catch his breath , boundin e#er
onwards! tracin what faint e#idence of the thief s passin remained.
%t one point a phalan" of #ehicles streaked nearby! enines broadcastin their approach lon before the snow,ha5e
a#e them up. &autious of confrontation! Sahaal merely pushed himself into the snow and watched them pass! ebony
eyes trackin them throuh scarlet eyeslits. He assumed they must be headin for the crash site! and wondered
#auely what manner of personnel had been dispatched! and by whom. He decided e#entually that he didn-t care.
there were a host of such minor /uestions to be answered! but nothin must di#ert him from the &orona.
He-d hastened towards the city! finally losin what #esties of the thief s tracks remained. Sta#in off an"iety! he
told himself the tracks no loner mattered. the scum-s destination could hardly be doubted.
The city was! simply! vast.
%t its uncertain base! where scarred rides of stone and snow seued with serried ranks of ferrocrete and steel! he-d
come to a deep fissure in the earth. Into the ca#ity iron foundations coiled down into the dark like the rusted roots of
a titanic tree! colonised on e#ery
e"panse by the rindin structures of industry. The rent billowed its fumes like the breath of a de#il6 a toothless
mouth into the scarred round.
%bo#e it! where the frosted rock sprouted the lowest towers and tiers like mould! a multitude of hea#y,doored ates
had reeted his eyes. loadin bays and #ehicle access points! a hundred and one ways to cross from the arctic waste
to the cloyin darkness within. %nd e#ery last one was closed! sealed aainst the cold.
Sahaal had considered his options. That he must enter the hi#e was without /uestion! but where to bein; 3here to
hunt the thief; 4n the cusp of this #ast edifice! hunkerin amonst the pipes and cos of its dermis! he found himself
assailed by hopelessness. To find one man within all this... He miht as well search a desert for a sinle rain of
sand! or a ala"y for a sinle star.
0ut! no. *o! he could not allow himself the lu"ury of doubt. He must be focused. He must be dri#en.
He must be ruthless.
He-d slipped into the foundation,cre#ice like a knife between ribs! swallowed by the dark.
%*$ *43! % day later , a day of e"plorin! of hauntin the wastes below the city itself! of stalkin this endless parade
of corridors and tunnels and pits , was he any closer to his pri5e;
There was no loic to this underhi#e realm. 3here abo#e tiers crested tiers! 8oined by tapestry,strewn stairwells and
columns of ele#ators! flanked by de#otional statues and preachers- pulpits! here there was madness.
%ncient stairways led to nowhere. Tunnels twisted throuh knotted irders and plastic waste! collectin chemical
slude. )isceral cables spewed from hapha5ard
partitions! coilin away e#er upwards into the city. &ollapsed tunnels were rebored or circum#ented! uphi#e,sluices
opened to #omit acid upon duct,strewn channels! and ele#ator shafts full of snowmelt rippled and splashed where
slime,scaled things coiled in the deep. The weiht of the hi#e settled across pillars and posts like an e#er,present
promise6 like a clock countin out the hours until the fall of the sky.
%nd the people... &owerin in hettos around scarce resources! these were the hopeless! the useless! the dis,
possessed. $i#ided amonst the petty empires of criminal ans! sca#enin in the dark to feast on funus and
beetle,meat , these were not people. They were animals. /ats.
In that first day! as he-d slipped throuh the under,city-s heart like a wraith! Sahaal had felt himself sickened. If this
was the reward for de#otion to the Emperor! he had chosen his side shrewdly.
He returned his mind to the present! focusin all his attention upon the step(step(step of his imminently,arri#in
prey! and unclenched his riht hand. %t its tip the auntlet-s hooked claws fle"ed! mirrorin the internal mo#ement.
a second set of finers! power,bladed and bloody,red! sla#ed to the mo#ements of the first. These too had been a ift
from his master! whose enerosity was as unpredictable and spectacular as his moods. Sahaal had recei#ed them as
ratefully as he had his bolter! but had wielded them with far reater relish. findin in them weapons worthy of the
precision and purity he cra#ed.
He had named them the $nguis /aptus ( the 1aptor-s claws , and in so doin had coined the name of his command
company. 0efore e#en the Great 3ar his 1aptors became 8ustly feared! and in the name of first
the Emperor! and then his master alone! they had brouht swift death from abo#e to their foes.
If his master had known where the auntlets were constructed! or by whom! he had ne#er re#ealed it. They were as
much a part of Sahaal now as were his eyes or his tonue.
4r his hate.
Two men e"ited the tunnel beside him. $ressed in 8ackets and ferro,sal#ae pads! they spoke softly and trod with
the ner#ous ait of lifelon underhi#ers. In these trolodytic ca#erns caution was as natural as breathin.
It did them little ood.
The first was dead before his brain could e#en reister a threat! twin skewers punchin out of shadow and into his
face! slippin like icicles throuh the pulp of his eyes. Sahaal shook away the corpse like waste from a sho#el!
slidin from his alco#e to re#eal himself to the second. Slowly. Silently.
The memory of his master-s #oice! leadin his 'eion in lecture,prayer! rustled like pourin sand! floodin his mind.
'Show them what you )an do,' it trilled! as soft and cold as dead flesh. 'Steal their hope, like a shadow steals the
light. Then show them what you are. The tool never )hanges, my sons. The weapon is always the same. 0ear. 0ear
is the weapon.'
In the corridor! standin in the bloody mess of his fallen friend! the second man looked into the face of a nihtmare
and falterinly! chokinly! bean to scream.
-I ha#e /uestions!= Sahaal said! reachin out for him.
THE +%* >*E3 nothin! of course. *one of them did.
0y the end of the second day there had been twel#e. Se#en men! four women! one child.
It ne#er ceased to ama5e Sahaal how #aried were their responses. Some , most , had screamed from the outset.
3hen he came upon them! when he fle"ed his claws and hissed! when he worked their terror like an artist with a
brush! smotherin ouache horror on subtle blends of oil,smear dread6 in those incandescent moments his heart
soared with the rihteousness of his work! and they threw back their little heads and ,mostly , they screamed.
Some! thouh! were silent. Starin with mute animal,shock6 dark eyes bulin! lips twitchin! faces briht. In those
cases Sahaal took them in his claws and carried them away! slippin down throuh layers of debris to secret!
sheltered places where they could reco#er their #oices at leisure.
Then the screamin could bein.
%nd then he could ask his /uestions.
4ne of the women , deluded! perhaps , dropped to her knees and bean to pray6 some mumbled litany to the
Emperor. %nered by her piety! Sahaal sliced away her finers one by one! en8oyin the chane in her demeanour.
Holy fools! it would seem! could scream as well as sin.
4ne of the men tried to fiht him. 0riefly.
The child... the child had cried for his mother. He-d screamed and blubbed and wailed! thouh when Sahaal leaned
down to fi" him with a helmed a5e the tears stopped abruptly! surprisin him! and the youth-s hand flickered with
the briht shape of a switchblade! lunin from below. It seemed that innocence had little business in the underhi#e.
AThe blade had snapped. So had Sahaal-s patience.B
%nd yes! now perhaps he could reflect upon the responses to his work. He could skulk here in the ruins of this
derelict factory! on the cusp of a deserted
settlement! its floors lon since collapsed into the abyss! and consider his palette of fear like a painter schemin to
mi" new colours.
0ut always! always such distractions were tempered by hate! by focused rae! and by the spectral possibility of
3hat! he asked himself! had he learnt from his murderous forays; 3hat had he disco#ered from all his many
/uestions! all his many descriptions;
1othing. *othin of the &orona *o"! at least.
He-d one to pains to illustrate the spiral electoo sported by his /uarry , car#in it lo#inly on each #ictim-s skin ,
but not one had reconised it. He-d described the thie#es- shay furs! their crude oles! e#en the unknown word ,
TEQ , daubed on their transport6 thouh it was familiar to none. Sahaal did not for a moment consider that his
#ictims miht ha#e been withholdin. one by one their defences cracked! their sanity shattered! but their inorance
remained intact.
*o! he-d learned nothin of the &orona. His re#elation had concerned somethin entirely less pleasin.
Since awakin on this nocturnal world somethin had eaten at him! nawin at his psyche. 3hen he took his twelfth
#ictim , a bearded man with copper fletches across his brows and ras drapin his wiry form , Sahaal-s curiosity had
finally o#ercome him. He-d ritted his teeth! hooked one eleant claw into the wretch-s arm! played the bladed ede
alon the cusp of e"posed bone! and asked the /uestion that haunted him.
3hat year is this;-
$espite the pain! despite e#en the terror that had ripped him since first he was attacked! the man had paused with a
look of almost comical incredulity.
The year9- he roared! ripplin the waters of the slude,lake to which he-d brouht his capti#e. He raised the claws of
his auntlet abo#e the man-s roin! poised to clench. It was a crude form of threat! but he had to know. -3hat year,
-*ine,eiht,si"9- the man wailed! all thouhts of bemusement obliterated. -*ine,eiht,si"9-
Sahaal rowled! absorbin this unwelcome information. %n absence of si" centuries was far reater than he-d feared.
%drift upon the trance in the $mbrea Insid(ior, he had been resolutely unable to estimate how lon he had spent in
silent incarceration. Time mo#ed differently in the warp! and a day-s slumber in its coilin belly could easily affect a
month-s passae in crude reality.
Si" hundred years was beyond his most fearful appro"imation. In a fit of pi/ue he bean to brin down his claw!
#entin his aner on his capti#e.
%nd then an uly afterthouht arose! and he paused to form words in the plebeian 'ow Gothic tonue! so
appropriately fa#oured by the underhi#e filth. The thirty,second millennium; (es; %nswer me9-
For a fraction of a second! the man-s lips curled in a dumbfounded! confused smile.
Sahaal fle"ed the claws.
-*o9 *o9 *,no9 F,forty,first9- the words rushed out like an a#alanche! 8umbled and formless. -Forty,first millennium!
year nine,eiht,si"9 Forty,first9 Sweet Emperor-s blood! forty,85rsr9-
The bottom fell from Sahaal-s mind.
He killed the man /uickly! too distracted to e#en relish the moment.
He returned to the factory he-d adopted as his lair.
He scuttled in the dark and brooded. He #ented his aner on the shattered masonry of the ancient buildin! and when
the #iolence o#ercame him he peeled off one mihty shoulder,uard and bean slowly! precisely! cuttin roo#es
into the e"posed flesh of his arm.
It didn-t help.
4ne hundred centuries had passed.
IT 3%S THE bodies that brouht answers! finally.
He had taken them! all twel#e! from where they died. dismembered and brutalised! hun hih from stanchions in
public places and busy roads! emptyin their thickenin fluids upon the debris below. This was not sa#aery on his
part! nor some crude announcement of territory , but as #ital a part of his master-s doctrine as was the attack itself.
'2ill a thousand men,' the lesson had run! his master-s solemn #oice echoin throuh the warship 3astitas 3i)(tris,
'and let no man bear witness. -hat have you a)hieved4 -ho will ever know4 -ho will ever fear you4 -ho will ever
respe)t or obey you4
'5ut kill a single man, and let the world see. #ang him high. 6ut him deep. 5leed him dry. "nd then... ,isappear.
'1ow. -ho will ever know4 Everyone. -ho will ever fear you4 -hy, everyone* -ho will ever respe)t you, who will
ever obey you 4 Everyone*
'These humans, their imaginations are strong. 2ill a thousand men and they will hate you. 2ill a million men and
they will queue to fa)e you. 5ut kill a single man and they will see monsters and devils in every shadow. 2ill a
do.en men and they will s)ream and wail in the night, and they shall feel not hatred, but fear.
7This is the way of obedien)e, my sons. They are pani)ky, gossiping beasts, these humans. It serves us to allow them
to be so.'
4n the third day! when he had crept throuh the ductcrawls beneath the local settlements and listened to the
#illaers- fearful rumours! when two separate posses had ridden out from Spitcreek with furti#e eyes and crude
weapons to catch the killer! when his fits and raes had e"hausted him! there came cautious footfalls into his lair. He
watched the in#ader from abo#e! irritated that his sanctuary should be defiled by such clumsy! thouhtless steps.
The man was dressed stranely! e#en to Sahaal-s eye! sportin a robe of white and red rids. *ot some flimsy
rasheet! this! but e"pensi#ely tailored and elaborately decorated! hun with old and crystal pendants. Small cables
looped delicately throuh the stitches at the slee#es and collar! and where his flesh showed , pallid and puffy , the
wires burrowed into the man-s skin! unbroken lines like capillaries. +ore startlin still was his face , what little
remained of it , with its near,total co#erae by aumetic de#ices! steel,sheet platin and bristlin! spiny sensors.
0oth eyes were one! replaced in messy ca#ities by mismatchin bionics! a thick layer of pus and infection markin
their boundaries. % duct coiled o#er his shoulder like unruly hair! and the soft lines of his lips were broken by
raed scars! as if his mouth had once been sealed shut then broken open. 1ebreather tubes writhed! hooked into
sockets on his chin and neck! like train tracks bisectin his face. $ermis,circuitry patterned his throat! #anishin into
the folds of his robes which! on closer inspection! concealed also the hard edes and uncertain outlines of more
mechanical de#ices.
His mo#ements were 8erky but precise , like a rounded canary , and Sahaal 8uded him more machine than man.
He would ha#e remained hidden!
content to let this unthinkin drone remain inorant of his presence! but for a sinle detail.
0randished in one metal,knuckled hand! the man wa#ed before him a sheet of parchment bearin a bold! ink,blotted
imae! catchin at Sahaal-s attention and sendin adrenaline poundin throuh his body. a sinle unbroken spiral!
dissected by a 8aed stripe. The thief s electoo.
He worked his silent way down towards the intruder without pause! considerin his best course of action! fihtin
e"citement. $espite the robe and decoration! the interloper bore all the sins of bein little more than some #acuous
ser#itor! obeyin whate#er simple commands its master had pro#ided. It was therefore with little sense of threat! and
a reat lut of hope! that Sahaal installed himself in a shadowed recess to watch.
-I know you are there!= the man said! startlin him! #oice as lifeless as the lens,eyes that rearded him! focused
despite the dark. -I sensed mo#ement before e#en I entered this place!= The fiure twitched its head. @(our stealth is
commendable. #et(het(het(het...'
It took Sahaal a moment to realise that the man-s harsh chirrupin was his mechanical e"cuse for lauhter! and he
bunched his muscles in the shadows! temper inited. This was hardly the beha#iour of a mere ser#itor.
The man s/uinted up at him! brows twitchin around metal studs. -I cannot see you well!= he said! lips brandishin
their houlish smile. -3hat are you;-
-I am your death!= Sahaal said! patience e"pirin! and pounced.
The man was hea#ier than he had anticipated , his mechanical portions more e"tensi#e e#en than they appeared , but
he went down with satisfyin ease. Sahaal bowled him to the floor with a sinle bound!
claws pushin hard throuh flesh and cable! pinnin him. The diaram fluttered from his hand! the connections of
his shoulder se#ered.
The man did not scream.
-(ou will tell me what you know of the thief!= Sahaal rowled! #o"caster blendin his smooth synta" with
danerous! reptilian tones. The filth with the spiral on his skin. 3ho is he; 3here is he;-
The man smiled. 3ith half,metre claws pinionin him to the round! with ra5or edes playin across bone and
muscle! with a thick paste of blood and ser#o,oil soakin into his decorous robes! he smiled.
Sahaal twisted the kni#es.
Sahaal fouht the ure to cut out his tonue.
-+y name is 2ah#ulti!= the man said unin#ited! shi#erin with amusement! eye lenses re#ol#in. -I think we shall be
Sahaal almost killed him then! infuriated by the scum-s audacity. He 8erked a claw free and lashed at his face!
rippin across cables and skin. % rebreather tube snickered apart with a hiss and the lens of his left eye shattered! its
sutured edes bleedin from fresh sores. Sahaal stopped short , fractionally , of a killin blow! and it re/uired all his
effort to force down the rae in his mind.
The thief3 he bellowed. -4r you die in pain9-
-I doubt that!= the man said! calm to the point of insanity! -on two counts. First... I don-t belie#e you foolish enouh to
kill the one person who reconises the symbol you-#e been slicin onto all your #ictims. %nd second! het(het(het, I
don-t feel pain. I reard it as an incon#enience I-m better off without!=
Sahaal all but screamed. $id the fool not know how easily he could be crushed; $id he not know what
manner of man , what manner of warrior ( he directed his insolence towards;
%s if readin his thouhts! the worm-s one remainin eye twitched across Sahaal-s armour! takin in e#ery detail of
his colossal form. -I daresay that painlessness is somethin to which you can relate!= he rinned. -Space +arines are
notoriously robust.-
'%TE1! I* % place so silent that e#ery spoken word was returned to its speaker-s ears in a spectrum of lassy echoes!
Sahaal folded his arms and fouht for calm.
The man,machine 2ah#ulti had been crucified. 3ith 8aed splints of debris forced between the bones of his arms
and a tiht cord securin his neck to the slumped pillar Sahaal had chosen as his anchor! he should by rihts seem a
pitiful thin. stripped naked of his robes! bound with chains and barbed cables! slashed and bleedin in a do5en
%las! his situation did not appear to ha#e dented his enthusiasm! nor silenced his lauhter.
-.. .and at one time! het(het(het, I miht ha#e prayed to the 4mnissiah!= he cackled! -but no loner! no! no. *ot
2ah#ulti. They tried to turn me! you see; They said the puritens had re8ected my flesh. #et(het(het. 1e8ected9 *o9 It
made me stron9 It made me wise8
-0e silent! confound you9- Sahaal-s temper was by now comprehensi#ely frayed.
-%re you not interested! Space +arine! in how your new friend came to find you; %re you not interested in my
-&all me a Space +arine once more! worm! and I-ll cut out your tonue and choke you on it!=
'#et(het(het, no! no... *ot my tonue. *ot while I know what I know!=
The spiral electoo; 3ho wears it; His name9-
Sahaal hissed his aner throuh the rille of his helm and hooked a claw into what little meat remained of his
capti#e-s belly. It was a hopeless esture , the man had demonstrated nothin but contempt for the notion of torture ,
but at the #ery least the moist noises of slicin helped to calm Sahaal-s mood.
*e#er before had a mere human occupied a position of such influence o#er him. 2ah#ulti refused to di#ule what he
knew until Sahaal #owed to spare him! and to offer him such an oath would shatter e#ery code Sahaal belie#ed! tear
to shreds e#ery ounce of his dinity and sully e#ery corner of his authority. 7nder other circumstances he would
ha#e lauhed at the #ery suestion.
*or could he merely make! then break, the oath. 2ah#ulti had made it clear that he would deli#er his information
only from afar! well beyond Sahaal-s puniti#e rasp.
For the twentieth time since brinin his capti#e to this dark! deep well! Sahaal cursed 2ah#ulti-s name! cursed the ill
fortune that had ifted him with such le#erae! and cursed the warpshit filth that had stolen the &orona *o" and
placed him in this situation in the first place.
:so Sahaal was not accustomed to fear or uncertainty. His natural response to each was to row angry, and in his
increasinly #iolent ashes at 2ah#ulti-s uts! some small portion of his #enom was assuaed.
'#et(het(het... not that it bothers me! Space +arine! but you should be aware...- 2ah#ulti made a show of rinnin!
-...that imper#ious to pain I miht be! but in#ulnerable I am not. &ontinue to cut me and I am eihty,se#en,point,si"
per cent certain that I shall
perish.- His remainin lens,eye twinkled. -Cust thouht you should know. #et(het(het.'
He was a calculus loi! or at least had been. 4#er the pre#ious hours Sahaal had been treated to the man-s life story
at least three times , a repetition which was not helpin his mood.
2ah#ulti had beun as a human sa#ant,computer of the %deptus +echanicus , whose brittle thouhts had aided
administrations and diplomats! tacticians and e"plorators all across the sector. 4n the day of his fiftieth birthday he
was presented with the hihest accolade reser#ed for his kind. the puritens lobotomy. This ritualised surery
remo#ed from his scarred brain what little trace of humanity remained! amputated his subconscious! and burned
away his pain.
It should ha#e made him pure! mechanical! perfect. It should ha#e brouht him closer to his od! and sheltered his
weak bioloy from the predations of temptation. To say that it failed would be a /uite spectacular understatement.
His body re8ected the implants. He awoke shri#en of his pain and his dreams! but e"cised utterly from the obsessi#e
faith he-d held before. He awoke a reedy! flawed bastard with the mind of a computer! and when his priest,masters
ordered that he report for dismantlement! he lauhed down his thrice,blessed comm,line and fled.
%nd now;
*ow he was the self styled -conis mercator- of the E/ui"us hi#e. an information broker whose lattice of influence
and spymonerin e"tended to all points. He ser#ed the anmasters with mercenary neutrality! sold his rumours to
upcity analysts! hired himself to na#y officials to direct pressanin and rew fat and rich in
the certain knowlede that he was too #aluable! too vital, for any fool to kill.
He alone had collated information on all twel#e of Sahaal-s slayins. He alone noted the spiral scars cut into each
corpse. He alone reconised the power! the lethality, of the killer on the loose. He alone had compiled maps and
beha#ioural patterns! identifyin the point central to each murder. He alone had found Sahaal-s lair.
%nd he alone was bold enouh to come looking for him! seekin influence and opportunity o#er whate#er force of
destruction had entered his territory.
%nd he alone was fortunate enouh to be in a position to achie#e both.
Sahaal cursed his name aain! fle"ed his claws impo,tently! and prepared to cut him free.
THE >*4&>I*G %T her cell door! which she had been e"pectin! came in the e#enin of the third day. The cowled
acolyte responsible sniered as she read the summons he deli#ered.
Her master demanded an audience.
Ha#in failed utterly to distinuish herself at the crash site of the $mbrea Insidior , its name bein the only detail
she remembered from her trance and subse/uent blackout , she e"pected the summons to herald a formal dischare.
The In/uisition was ruthless in defendin its obscurity! and if that re/uired ineffectual personnel to be cerebrally
cleansed or! worse! )ulled, then so be it.
She had spent the inter#enin days meditatin , neither scryin nor dreamin! but baskin in the Emperor-s liht ,
and when the summons arri#ed she had prepared herself for death! or at least lobotomisa,tion! as best she could.
>austus recei#ed her alone , that was the first of her surprises6 she-d assumed the retinue would turn out in force to
witness the spectacle of its newest member bein cast aside.
-Interroator!= >austus reeted her! not lookin up. He sat at a simple desk in the centre of his suite! enrossed in a
bundle of parchments and auspe" pads! and delicately laid down his writin stylus as she dipped her head in return.
-+y lord.-
The second shock! and one for which she was utterly unprepared! was that he had remo#ed his mask. His face was
unremarkable , somewhat aunt! perhaps! borderin on the a/uiline , and his hair! tied in a tall black tower that
crested his head like a topknot! could hardly be described as outlandish amonst the clashin fashions of the upper
hi#e. 0ut it was his teeth that stood out. Two of them! at any rate.
In/uisitor >austus had tusks.
-4rkish!= he said! without prompt.
+ita realised she-d been starin and lowered her eyes! brows furrowin in uncertainty. He hadn-t e#en looked up.
-For three days I stalked the bastard throuh the tar pits on 2hyrra. 3e-d freed his sla#es! wiped out his war,band!
crippled his fleet and filled his reen flesh with more lead than a taret rane! but the brute wouldn-t i#e in.
3arlords are like that. 2roud. Stubborn.'
+ita fideted! wonderin if this was some per#erse treat the in/uisitor reser#ed for the condemned. a story from his
own lips! a limpse of his secret features! then a bullet between the eyes. If >austus noted her tension! he a#e little
3e cauht up with him on the ede of a #olcano!- he continued! turnin a pae of parchment before him!
-and after he-d hacked his way throuh my men I fouht that piece of "eno filth for two hours. The way I saw it! if
he-d killed me he would ha#e taken my head as a trophy!= He twaned a tusk with a lo#ed finer! finally lookin up
with a smirk. This seemed an appropriate measure!=
+ita wondered if she should comment. %s e#er! the in/uisitor sent her confidence crashin around her! robbin her
of any certainty. % wron word! a misplaced facial e"pression. in a man as unreadable as this! such thins could be
4n the other hand! if she was here to die anyway...
-I imaine! my lord!= she said carefully! -they come in useful!=
He nodded! smilin at her boldness.
-Indeed they do. To the ork! symbols of status are #ital. I-#e seen the #ermin retreat rather than face a human with
tusks reater than their own. I-#e seen them turn on their own lords when their enemy-s fans are taller or sharper
than his. % simple thin! but so #ery effecti#e!=
+ita-s resination to her fate lent her a danerous bra#ery. :o outfighting, she thouht.
Thouh I imaine they make eatin difficult!=
There was a cold! uncomfortable silence. >austus-s eyes burnt a hole throuh her.
%nd then he bean to lauh.
-It depends!= he said! when the chuckles subsided! -what it is you-re tryin to eat!=
-%m I to be dischared;- +ita said! tirin of the niceties. If she was here to die she-d rather skip the preamble.
For the first time she felt as thouh she had >austus-s full attention! and she met his a5e openly. He steepled his
-*o!= he said! finally! -thouh the idea was... considered!=
Somethin like relief! mi"ed with a per#erse portion of disappointment! filtered throuh +ita-s mind.
-(ou a#e us the name of the #essel! interroator!= >austus said! -which is in itself a re#ealin detail. That you were
so... affected... speaks #olumes!=
-0,but I could not answer your /uestion! my lord. I could not tell if there were sur#i#ors...-
He wa#ed a #aue hand. -4h! the retinue handled that. There were none!= He fiddled with the pendant around his
neck. -Such remains as they found were ancient thins! lon since passed beyond the Emperor-s liht!=
Then... how did the ship come to arri#e here;-
>austus worked his 8aw! tusks circulatin below his eyes. -+y loi ha#e hypothesised it was lost in the warp!= he
said! dismissi#ely! -and has only recently e"ited!= He fi"ed her with a lare! all traces of coneniality one. -In any
case! it-s beyond our remit. 3e are here to in#estiate "enophile cults! if you remember! not to ponder upon the
comple"ities of the warp. The retinue found nothin untoward in the wreck. 'et that be an end to it!=
+ita recalled the psychic terror incumbent within e#ery 8oist of the #essel-s structure! stabbin at her mind like fire.
There was somethin dark to it! she knew! some echo of past horrors that clun to its hull like an aura.
$espite the discomfort she said nothin to >austus! aware that his newfound tolerance could end at any moment!
and suppressed her internal shudder.
-I ha#e informed the %deptus +echanicus of its arri#al!= >austus runted! returnin his attention to the paperwork. -I
dare say they-ll send sal#ae crews. It matters little!=
-(es! my lord!= Inside! she screamed. 1o, my lord* Something has arrived*
@3hich brins me to my point!= >austus lifted a parchment! narrowin his eyes. -It seems this dreary world is fated
to present me with as many distractions as it )an.' He shook his head! black hair teeterin abo#e his scalp. -I ha#e
decided to i#e you a commission! interroator!=
+ita-s heart stopped. -+y lord;-
-+y in#estiation is bearin fruit. The o#ernor has opened his records and I suspect the presence of a "enophile
encla#e in the midhi#e. I wish to concentrate my resources on locatin and purin it!=
-4,of course!=
-4f course. So when I recei#ed yet another damnable re/uest for assistance! this time from the #indictors! of all
people , and after all the fuss they made when we 8oined their little crash site e"cursion , I naturally thouht ofyou!=
+ita wasn-t sure whether this was a compliment or an insult! so she nodded discreetly and stayed /uiet.
-It seems their commander has a problem in the underhi#e. <uite what he e"pects me to do about it I don-t know! but
I-ll be damned if I waste another second on the inconse/uential internal affairs of this world!=
+ita had a bad feelin about where this was oin. @(ou-d like me to assist him in your stead...- she said! filled with
loomy resination! inwardly appalled at the inominy of such a mission. The underhive, warp dammit9
>austus rearded her with a rin! needle,like tusks bisectin his face.
-&onratulations! interroator!=
* * *
% SH41T 3HI'E later! when the indinity of the commission was beinnin to sink in! when her master had pro#ided
her with all the documents of authority that she needed! and when she was dismissed with no more than a -that will
be all!= she paused at the e"it to >aus,tus-s suite and cleared her throat.
'8es, interroator;- >austus sihed.
-+y lord! you... you said the name of the #essel had been... @re#ealin@...;-
-I... I 8ust wondered... in what way! my lord!=
He narrowed his eyes. -&uriosity is a danerous thin! interroator!=
She nodded! dippin in a supplicatory half,bow! and made to lea#e.
-Interroator;- His #oice cauht her on the threshold of the doorway.
-+y lord;-
-The $mbrea Insidior disappeared from Imperial records ten thousand years ao. %t the end of the Horus Heresy!=
She almost choked! astonished to e#en hear the name of that most ruinous of times , when fully half of the
Emperor-s Space +arine 'eions had fallen from his liht , let alone to ha#e come so close to one of its relics. 'ittle
wonder! she realised! that she had felt such a concentration of despair and #iolence in its crumpled beams.
-Goodbye! interroator!=
&7S2SE%' 3%S %S low within the hi#e as one could tra#el within the broadly defined -ci#ilised- sectors. It dominated
si" full tiers! e"tended in fi#e kilometres in each direction and had a population , dependin upon where one chose
to imaine its borders , of
somewhere between si" and ten million citi5ens. %s with all such industrial loci it wasn-t so much a city as a
borouh of the hi#e itself! seuein hori5ontally and upwards with such other townships! settlements and factories
as had erminated nearby.
The one border that &uspseal )ould define was its base.
0elow its adamantium foundations was the under,hi#e! and there any such abstraction as -ci#ilisation- ,in short
supply e#en in these supposedly urbane 5ones , could effecti#ely be inored.
If the underhi#e was a madhouse! &uspseal was its padded walls.
'ittle wonder that the #indictor precinct owed more in its architecture to some medie#al fortress than to the
industrial anarchy surroundin it. % perfect cube! it bristled with ob#ious and massi#e ordnance! much of it trained
on the larest of the ca#ernous openins into the underworld that dotted the &uspseal-s boundaries. a portal its
builders had shrewdly positioned it beside. Tramlines and suspended walkways rined it on e#ery side! risin in
metallic layers that throned with hea#ily,cloaked workers.
It had taken +ita three hours to descend this far from the upper spire! ridin a succession of increasinly decrepit
ele#ators reser#ed for authorised personnel. Such was the reality of hi#e life. the se/uential tiers represented not
only a eoraphical strata but a di#ision of status , the princely affluence of the upper tiers supported itself on a
allery of decreasin wealth. %t its base the hi#e was a pit of destitution.
%rri#in in the centre of &uspseal-s no"ious sprawl hot and irritated by the constant checkin of papers! +ita was
not in the mood to suffer further indinity.
This!= she snapped! when finally &ommander 4ro,dai entered the anteroom in which she-d been waitin! shadowed
by a pair of #indictor sereants and an aide! -is intolerable!=
4rodai had the look of a man who had resined himself to recei#in an earbatterin. -(es!= he said wearily. -I-m sure
it is!=
He was an old man! if indeed his face accurately reflected his ae. 3here others in his position miht ha#e opted for
re8u#e treatments or aumetic components! his features betrayed the sort of leathered erosion rarely limpsed in
hih,rankin personnel. %s a member of the %deptus %rbitus! and therefore operatin entirely e"clusi#ely of the
hi#e-s administration! his command was aruably second only , if not e/ual , to that of the o#ernor himself. For all
that! he was a small man in bland clothin! whose psychic emissions betrayed no sense of self,importance. +ita-s
o#erridin impression from his warp,presence was of an impressi#e dedication to his #ocation. Still! decorum must
be obser#ed.
-I-#e been waitin two hours9- she barked! stabbin at the air with a finer. The in/uisitor will hear of this9-
4rodai arched an eyebrow. -I dare say he hears of e#erythin else!= He offered her a bundle of parchments! which
she snatched with bad race. -In any case! it couldn-t be helped. (our documents re/uired confirmation and your
companion was... unhelpful!=
"h yes, she thouht! my )ompanion...
@(our men called him an ogryn.'
-%nd that wasn-t a ood idea!=
-*o. 'ast time he met an oryn it kept callin him
rr-i* HI
Tiny .
4rodai had the look of a man clutchin at straws. -%nd that was a problem;-
-*ot really. It stopped when he pulled off its arms. I demand that you release him!=
4rodai-s e"pression contri#ed to suest that she was in no position to be makin -demands!= but he nodded
thouhtfully and estured to the aide. The man scurried away! oo5in reluctance. +ita could well imaine why.
-7nder normal circumstances we wouldn-t allow his... kind in the city!= 4rodai said! strokin his rey beard. Thouh
perhaps circumstances are not @normal@!=
@(ou foret!= +ita retorted! -that it was you who in#ited the In/uisition-s assista,-
-%ctually! we in#ited the in/uisitor-s assistance! not that of his lackey and her pet! but let-s not split hairs!=
+ita-s outraed rebuff was spectacularly postponed.
The door parted with its hines and her companion entered.
His *%+E 3%S &o! and he was human , broadly speakin. 3hate#er feral world had sired him had been isolated for
millennia! denied the purifyin liht of the Emperor-s influence! and its sparse population had stanated in a
downward spiral of inbreedin and corruption.
Still human! if only ;ust.
&o and his kin had rown massi#e. Shunnin the need for hiher thouht! rapid e#olution had seen their skins row
thick! their brows brachiate! their chests barrel. 4#er lon centuries of clamberin throuh forests their arms had
elonated and formed secondary elbows! their les had shortened and their hands had rown massi#e.
>austus had found &o in the slauhterpits of Tourelli 2lanis! where he was oaded by his capti#es with enerised
spears and electroflails! forced to rapple a succession of beasts and automata for the crowd-s amusement. His hands
had been taken from him! replaced with crude bionics. 3atchin the iant enter the rin with a tribal prayerson to
the Emperor! >austus had been impressed with his piety as well as his physi/ue! and had purchased him from the
sla#ers for a princely sum.
Gi#en her own barely,tolerated mutation! since 8oinin >austus! +ita had found in &o an unlikely ally. She knew
he rearded her with a simple de#otion based on lust! and tolerated his clumsy ad#ances with ood race despite
ne#er accedin to them. If strinin,alon a entle iant was all it took to secure his personal loyalty! she 8uded it a
fair price to pay
&o had been her natural choice of companion for this deradin foray into the plebeian morass of the hi#e-s lower
tiers! and his puppy,like pleasure at her in#itation had been touchin. He-d remained at her side e#er since! as silent
as a statue! until the #indictors of &uspseal had decided his ob#ious corruption was a step too far and had him
tran/uilised. &o was draed away in chains! +ita-s protests were inored! and her sympathy for whiche#er poor
de#il was e#entually chosen to release him had been rowin e#er since.
&o didn-t lose his temper often. 0ut when he did...
THE $441! SET firmly in a ferrocrete bracket! crumpled like a dead leaf. &o followed it throuh with his head dipped
and his shoulders hunched! roarin like a hi#e,tram. The #indictor sereants reacted as if electrified! staerin
away! fumblin for power mauls. % third
#oice added to their panicky e"clamations! and it took +ita a moment to spot 4rodai-s unlucky aide! clutched in the
iant-s mechanical hand like a fleshy club.
&o-s beetle,black eyes s/uinted! seekin the best taret! brows collectin in moronic indecision. 4ne of the
sereants settled the matter by thumbin the acti#ator of his maul and shoutin -Stand down! brute9- , an attempt at
machismo derailed when &o contemptuously swatted him with the aide-s body. 0oth men tumbled in a confusion
of limbs and s/ueals towards the wall! which #ented a layer of mortar dust at their impact. The second sereant
&ommander 4rodai! by contrast! had reacted with admirable composure! directin his impatient eye at +ita. To her
psychic senses he e"uded little fear6 only an air of irritation at what he clearly considered to be a waste of his time.
%cross the room! &o picked up the second #indic,tor! plucked off his helmet like the lid from a tube of paint! and
crumpled it into a ball between thumb and forefiner. The man , stupidly! in +ita-s #iew , took a ridiculous attempt
at a punch to &o-s face! an attack which earned him a rib,splinterin bearhu and a casual toss o#er the iant-s
&o turned his attention to 4rodai and ad#anced! metal finers twitchin. % lon cord of spittle danled from his
lower lip.
-I think that will do! interroator!= the commander said! reardin +ita calmly. -(ou-#e made your point!=
She smiled! nodded with fau& raciousness! and turned to the ad#ancin monster.
-&o!= she said. -I-m fine!= She eked out a small portion of her consciousness and coiled herself around &o-s simple
mind! soothin its 8aed edes.
-H,hurt you;- &o said! blinkin rapidly. -Hurted +ita;-
-*o!= she said! #oice reassurin. -'ook. (ou see; *ot a hair. *ow )alm*
&o nodded! acceptin her words with child,like trust. He thrust his massi#e hands into the pockets of his robe and
appeared to switch off! like a machine de#oid of fuel.
+ita turned to 4rodai with a smirk.
-*ow!= she said! mollified. -2erhaps you-d care to e"plain why you re/uested our help;-
4rodai-s eyes narrowed! twinklin.
-2erhaps it would be best!= he said! and this time it was he who smirked! -if you see for yourself!=
SE1GE%*T )%1ITE*S $I$ not like mutants. Sereant )aritens did not like psykers. Sereant )aritens did not like
disobedience or po#erty or aristocracy or crime. He did not like the underhi#e! or the upper spire! or indeed the
middle tiers.
%s far as +ita could tell! skatin delicately across the surface of his mind! Sereant )aritens did not appear to like
much at all.
ASereant )aritens did not like the In/uisition.B
ASereant )aritens did not like women.B
He and +ita were ettin alon 8ust famously.
-%nd what is this 5one called;-
-'ady! it-s the warp-s,arse underhive. 3e don-t call it anythin!=
-0ut... these settlements... They must ha#e names. 3hat do the people call th,-
-'ook!= )aritens turned away from the Salamander-s cab! sihin throuh the mike of his #o"caster. -(ou want to
stop and ask some of these filth what they call places! or where the local sihts are! or which
unfortunate bastard they 8ust ate for dinner! you be my uest. 4nly don-t come runnin to us when you look down
and some odless mutie has his teeth in your le!=
They tra#elled in silence after that.
The underhi#e had not been what +ita had e"pected. Trawlin across its debris,flows and pitted causeways in the
#indictors- Salamander! she found herself admirin the di#ersity! as if there were some secret beauty , some hidden
order , lurkin in the decay. Here! sal#aed waste was old. She found herself impressed by the colour and #i#acity
of the sihts! as if life had recoiled from the s/ualor of its en#ironment in a storm of clashin hues and decorations.
Gaudy totems leaned from the shadows! briht raffiti announced a do5en chanes of territory. each an name
crossed throuh by its latest con/ueror. 7nderhi#ers #ariously raced for co#er or came out to watch as the #indictors
passed6 shady characters with hands reachin for , but ne#er openly wieldin , whate#er weaponry they hid within
hea#y cloaks. Here there was #ibrancy in the dark , like the perfect scarlet of a deep sea tubeworm , and +ita
struled to despise it as profoundly as Sereant )aritens so clearly did.
&ommander 4rodai had assined the sereant as her tour,uide. She suspected he-d done so out of spite.
-Tell me! sereant!= she said! tirin of the silence! -what manner of crime warrants the attention of the Emperor-s
lorious In/uisition; "nd down here in this most...- she parroted his emotionless #oice! 'wret)hed of places! to boot;-
)aritens rearded her for a moment! face concealed within the featureless orb of his #isor.
She blinked. -3e-re in#estiatin a murder;-
-+ore than one. Fi#e confirmed! probably more. 3e-re takin you to the most recent disco#ery!=
She shook her head. This assinment was rowin more and more ridiculous by the instant.
-Sereant! it-s my understandin that there are se#eral hundred une"plained deaths e#ery day. I imaine the fiure is
far hiher in the underhi#e!=
-(ou imaine riht! lady!=
Then I-m afraid I don-t understand. 3hy pay such close attention to this one;-
The Salamander turned a corner and bean to throttle down! and +ita became aware that her companions were
preparin themsel#es to disembark! heftin mauls and autouns professionally.
)aritens pointed to a side tunnel! bored from a drift of manled steel! and cocked his head.
Throuh there. (ou-ll understand!=
SHE H%$ 0EE* a missionary! 8udin by what little of her clothin remained. a white robe with a hemp cord and a
reli/uary cache slun across her shoulder! embroidered with olden scriptures.
She had come to this deep! dark place to spread the Emperor-s liht. as bra#e and selfless a bein as one could e#er
hope to find. Her reward hardly seemed fair.
The robe was shredded.
The hemp cord creaked around her neck as she twisted abo#e the round.
The reli/uary lay shattered at her feet and the framents of bone from within , the knuckles of some lon,dead saint!
perhaps , were round to dust.
-Emperor preser#e us...- +ita hissed! steppin into the tunnel.
The woman had not died here , that much was clear. 3hate#er #iolence had ended her life would
certainly ha#e spilled out across the murder scene. splatterin walls and ceilins! poolin in thick puddles underfoot.
This was less a scene of fren5y than an e"hibit! a callin,card. neat! tidy! arranged.
Her hands were one. Her eyes had been put out. 4ne foot hun by a sinle scrap of ristle6 the blow that had parted
it with such ra5or ease stoppin short ,deliberately , of amputation. Her #iscera had been e#acuated! hanin in
translucent loops from the incision across her belly.
%nd all across her! alon e#ery part of her worm,white body! la5y lines had been drawn. fluid ripples and scarlet
whorls like the eddies of some mantra,wheel! spinnin throuh holy water. %t first +ita had mistaken the lines for
red ink! scrawled across the body-s skin. She was wron. Each line was a cut! administered so delicately! so
perfe)tly, that not a drop of blood had oo5ed clear to spoil the effect.
This was not psychosis. This was art.
%nd the artist had not shied from sinin his work.
%bo#e the body! car#ed on the rocky surfaces of the borehole in a dipped! tidy hand! an enra#ed leend picked at
the liht of +ita-s illuminator and drew her eye.
"deo mori servus Imperator 0i)tus "ve ,ominus 1o&
She felt her ore rise and turned away! forcin down bile in her throat. Sereant )aritens! standin behind her with
hands on hips! mistook her disust for miscomprehension! noddin towards the te"t and clearin his throat.
-It says,-
Thank you! sereant!= she hissed! fihtin for dinity as well as air. -I-m /uite capable of readin Hih Gothic!=
She turned aain towards the words! and they seemed to writhe in her eyes with a male#olent life of their own. For
an instant she felt the stab of shockin! familiar pain , awash with ancient #iolence and aeless bitterness , and in
that moment knew! without any doubt! from where the murderer had come.
" great darkness, des)ending from the sky.
Somethin had sur#i#ed the descent of the $mbrea Insidior...
'"deo mori servus Imperator 0i)tus,' she said out loud! formin each word clear and stron. -So die the sla#es of the
False Emperor!=
She could feel the #indictors starin at her! fidetin. E#en &o watched her with troubled bemusement! strulin
to understand the words.
'"ve ,ominus 1o&. Hail to the 'ord of the *iht!=
THE( 3E1E &%''E$ the Glacier 1ats.
Their name was scrawled across parchment in the clipped hand of a ser#oscribe! belyin the information-s
remarkableness in neat! tedious words! as if to render it as dull as any other record6 sealed neatly with an uncrested
daub of wa".
They were called the Glacier 1ats.
Sahaal ran the name throuh his mind aain and aain! as if testin its mettle.
Tasting it.
The information broker 2ah#ulti had taken his lea#e from capti#ity. 3alkin free! inorin the wounds patternin
his necrotic skin! his swaer had been that of a #ictor! as if he-d somehow earned Sahaal-s respect ,or at the #ery
least incurred his debt. He-d instructed Sahaal on where to find! and when! the information he-d promised! he-d
dipped his head in sarcastic obeisance! then he-d smiled and waled his brows.
-This is a business of )redit,' he-d said! cacklin his peculiar lauh , 'het(het(het' , like a ear skippin a tooth! -the
/uestion costs nothin. The answers are priceless...-
Sahaal struled with the ure to rip the man to shreds. %llowin him to simply walk away re/uired e#ery ounce of
his concentrated pramatism.
The silent #ow that he would ha#e his re#ene later was little consolation.
-%nd yet I ha#e paid nothin!= he-d hissed! oo5in away into the shadows! strulin for some scrap of dinity.
He was denied e#en that.
-*o... no! you ha#en-t!= 2ah#ulti-s one remainin eye fluttered! cyclin throuh lenses like some perpetual wink. -0ut
then... the first one is always free!=
%nd then he was one.
They were called the Glacier 1ats.
%nd yes! 2ah#ulti-s answers had arri#ed where he had promised! lowered from some unknown tier down a disused
ele#ator shaft! and Sahaal-s cursory attempt to distinuish its source had failed. The information broker was far too
sly to be so easily undone. where#er he had his base! he was free , for now , of retaliation.
%nd yes! Sahaal had roared with huner as he learned his enemy-s name! fle"ed his claws! chanted their name aain
and aain! but e#en so... e#en so...
He was not accustomed to bein indebted.
The Glacier 1ats. The thie#es were named the Glacier 1ats.
They were a raider band! the document said. % clan of pirates unconcerned with the territorial s/uabbles of
hi#eans! collectin then pawnin such #aluables as they purloined. Their founder had been a nati#e of the ice,
world )alhalla! 8oinin then promptly desertin the
Imperial Guard on his first tour of duty! sensin far reater opportunity for wealth in the E/ui"us hi#e. His name
was Tuahli Te/o! and Sahaal-s lips curled in a mirthless smile as he recalled the uly leend sprawled on the side of
the thie#es- transport. a ta to honour his memory.
Their current leader! in as much as 2ah#ulti-s spies could keep up with the endlessly chanin hierarchies of such
clans! was named *ikhae! and was reconisable by the luminous spiral electoo on his forehead.
Sahaal said it out loud! as if to ensure its reality! and wa#ed a sinle claw throuh the air! dissectin the #ery sound
of the thief s name.
-*ikhae... *ikhae...-
(es. (es! it was him. The false hunchback. The thief. The scum. The worm.
#e had taken it.
%t the rear of the sheaf of paes 2ah#ulti included a map. +arked in blotched ink! scrawled thick by 2ah#ulti-s own
hand! the centre of the pae sported a bold! dark ?
Sahaal checked the straps on the blocky packae attached to his waist! its faint reen low shimmerin across the
blades at his finertips.
The Glacier 1ats. They were called the Glacier 1ats.
E#ery last one of them would die.
HE1*I%T43* H%$ F%''E* from race.
%t its edes the weiht of the city had broken its own base and collapsed downwards6 whole streets sain into the
abyss. 7nderhi#ers kept their distance from Herniatown-s bowed arcades! namin it well. its wilted streets were a
raw bule of #iscera that had s/uee5ed throuh the muscle wall abo#e! dippin
into inky darkness. 4nce it had been a part of &uspseal! but no loner. *estled at the underhi#e-s anarchic heart! it
seemed an in#asi#e probe of order! albeit warped incontro#ertibly by its descent.
Herniatown was where the Glacier 1ats had made their home.
Sahaal reconnoitred the 5one with fanatical care. watchin! e"plorin! ne#er inter#enin. %t three separate 8unctions
, where lon,deserted hi#ehabs met alon broad concourses , he-d been forced to stay his arm! as Glacier 1at
sentries ambled by.
The time would come! he told himself.
They wore lon coats of rey and white6 a stylised snowflake , daer tipped and skull,centred , patternin each
lapel. They carried lasuns with the e"aerated care of those who-d purchased their own weaponry! and Sahaal
bridled to see such fireworks treated with such re#erence. Stalkin the shadows of their boundaries! he reistered not
a sinle! threat! and formulated their demise with predatory ease.
Their band was well named! he decided. They were scum6 untutored and untrained! as meaninless as their
namesakes. 1ats! yes. %nd he was the owl.
He laid his plans with care! awaited his opportunity from the shadows! and then struck.
% SE*T1( , (47*G eyes flittin across all the wron shadows , was the first to die.
2acin at the town-s northern entrance! the youth had ne#er considered turnin an eye upon the #entilation stacks
halfway alon the tunnel he was supposedly uardin! and despite his enormity Sahaal arose from the #ent-s
crumpled innards with the silence and race of a strikin snake.
The sentry-s throat was cut before he reistered another-s presence! and in his brief instant of surprise , if indeed he
felt anythin at all , it must ha#e seemed like the walls themsel#es had e"uded claws. The body slumped! its knees
folded! and Sahaal passed into the shadows lon before its head struck the une#en floor with a wet slap.
Herniatown opened around him like a sacrifice bearin its heart! in#itin a blade between its ribs! and he oblied it
with sa#ae pleasure. He killed another three sentries in parallel streets! impatient for #iolence! dispatchin each
with the speed and silence of a wraith. He displayed their bodies artfully6 faint lihts catchin at e#ery wet cut!
listenin in unbroken sluices of crimson! and paused in each case only to curse the soul of his #ictims as if keepin
a tally of his re#ene.
-3arp take you...- he hissed! helm absorbin e#ery sound. -3arp eat you whole.-
3hen finally the noises he had waited so lon to hear arose he was poised within the in#erted dome of what had
once been a chapel. He clun to the ceilin with the damp,claws of his feet! danlin like a bat! and relished e#ery
echoin nuance of the Glacier 1ats- alarm.
It bean with a sinle cry! flittin across the town like a dream! and then multiplied. first a handful of #oices! then a
score! each cryin out in outrae and aner! demandin reinforcement.
The first body had been found.
Sahaal dropped onto and throuh the chapel-s mosaic floor! lidin alon the cracked seams of rock at its base! and
hastened to Herniatown-s opposite frine. He used the crawlducts to tra#el in secret. swattin aside iant roaches
and rats as he went! 8ump pack dri#in him alon like a bullet down a barrel. %t the
town-s southern entrance he hopped from a ser#ice hatch and /uickly snickered thrummin claws throuh the meaty
8oints of the atekeeper-s les. Scraps of the man-s coat twisted aside! blossomin with redness! and his stranled
runt of astonishment warmed Sahaal to his core. The man toppled like a felled tree , more surprised than pained ,
and thrashed in a delue of his own blood.
This time Sahaal allowed his #ictim the pri#ilee of screamin.
0efore he left the wailin cripple! arteries belchin their #ibrant load across tunnel walls! he prised open the man-s
clenched fist! pushed somethin hard and round into the cae of his finers! and nodded his head.
-$on-t let o!= he said! tonuin the e"ternal address stud of his #o",caster.
Then he was one.
The man-s screams echoed like the howl of a ale! and already the cries of alarm from the north were becomin
those of /uery! roups meetin at intersections! tradin orders! pointin finers! headin south to in#estiate this
new tumult. Sahaal watched them rush about like insects from abo#e! safe within a collapsed attic! and relished their
panic. To them it must seem as thouh their territory were surrounded. imperilled from opposite directions! menaced
by unseen attackers.
'0ear and pani)', his master had once said! 'are but two sides of the same die*
The sentry-s screams weakened and died shortly before the bobbin torches reached the south ate. Sahaal imained
him alone in the dark! clutchin with increasinly feeble finers at the renade in his hand. Sooner or later his rip
would falter and the bomb-s primin trier would release.
The foremost roup of uards entered the tunnel an instant before the renade detonated.
To Sahaal! perched like a aroyle on hih! a5in across the le#elled towers of Herniatown! the e"plosion rose like
a luminous bubble from the south6 its flickerin radiance risin across the entire realm. Shadows and hihlihts were
scrawled across e#ery surface! and when the brihtness diminished a out of oil,black smoke twisted! snake,like!
abo#e the southern atehouse.
'<reysight,' Sahaal whispered! and the bitter machine,spirit of his armour nictitated new lenses across his eyeslits!
manifyin his #iew. 0rouht into sudden and sharp relief! the smoky pall broke apart where the dead and dyin
staered! stumblin with faces blackened and limbs one. There were far fewer than had entered.
Sahaal watched their pitiable li#es dwindle away with unashamed pleasure! then leapt from his alco#e into the
smoke,thick sky! headin downtown.
%s he tra#elled! he took a care to allow himself to be seen. Cust brief limpses flittin across smoky e"panses!
whoopin as he hosted past hurryin bands of frihtened men. He did so at distant points , here in the east! there
near the centre! leapin in reat arcs across the town-s concrete sky. In the ruins of a librium to the west he dropped
throuh a shattered skyliht and shrieked at the men below! then #anished! slashin at their faces as he went.
%t an intersection in the north he hopped from a crumblin wall onto the back of a transport! claws e"tendin with a
silken rasp. Two men were dead before he was e#en amonst them! heads spinnin in the #ehicle-s wake! and their
bodies tumbled beneath its tracks with damp! cracklin retorts. The two remainin
men opened fire. Sahaal acti#ated the e"ternal line of his #o"! amplified its #olume to a danerous le#el,
,and laughed.
%cross all of Herniatown! in e#ery honeycomb passaeway of its crumblin boundaries! in e#ery sheltered corner
beneath its sunless sky! frihtened men and women paused to listen! shi#erin in the dark.
3hen finally Sahaal turned his attention upon the 5one-s tilted! sain centre! any sense of order to the Glacier
1ats- search had lon since passed. % nihtmare stalked the shadows of their domain! and as rumours of its
appearance spread , midniht blue and clothed in lihtnin! lon of limb and hunched of back! with eyes that
lowed like rubies and claws like sabres ,pandemonium reined.
Sahaal basked in the air abo#e it all! and lauhed and lauhed and lauhed.
THE &E*T1E H%$ been a )olereum, at one time.
% #ast hydroponics dome! bristlin with slude,farmed crops! its inwardly,mirrored surface recalled an insect-s eye6
iridescent and multifaceted. %t one time it had disored a thousand tonnes of starchpaste e#ery year! di#erted
amon rust,thick pipes to a million habs. %t one time.
It had borne its relocation into the abyss with poor race.
The crops had died when the collapse occurred! their irriation channels cut fore#er. 3hat little water filtered into
the underhi#e was tainted by its descent! and those few hardy weeds that had escaped had rown shay and
truculent! skins thick with mutant bristles. 4nly the lamps had sur#i#ed6 lobular drones of archaic desin with
thrummin ra#motors and simple loic,minds. They ro#ed the dome with ultra#iolet
torches bla5in! unconcerned with the absence of #eetation! falterin only when their aeons,old fuel reser#es
Sahaal straddled the dome like a beetle! limbs mo#in with insect confidence! drawin himself up its prenant
camber. %t its crest he paused! a5ed throuh its scars at the buildins within! and raised his hand to the bandolier
straps of his 8ump pack! pluckin at the renades that danled there.
The pirates- base was a sprawl of lodes and can#as tents! centred about a stone,walled tower6 a fittin head/uarters
for a leader. There! Sahaal uessed! he would find his prey. %round it uards sprinted between sal#ae stores and
bi#ouacs with uns brandished! shoutin orders6 faces milky in the ultra#iolet low. )ehicle enines inited in a
cascade of throaty roars! tracks rindin as they spun towards the )olereum's e"it.
3e-re under attack! Te/o-s blood9- Sahaal heard! filtered amonst the screams. -$o5ens of them9 %ll directions9-
% roar from the east told him the bodies of the three slain uards had been found! addin to the confusion! and to the
west the dry sound of lasfire , unmistakable in its breathless crackle , supplied the finishin touch.
The Glacier 1ats were shootin at shadows.
*oddin! he sunk needle claws into the pinions of the dome! braced e#ery muscle of his body! and closed his eyes.
-In your name! my master!= he said. -%lways!=
%nd then he drew a breath.
%nd then he tossed back his head.
%nd then he s)reamed.
%t its ma"imum #olume! the #o"caster of his ancient helm could burst the #eins of a man-s skull and turn his teeth to
powder. He-d seen men fall paralysed to
the floor at the 1aptor-s shriek! and birds fall stunned from the sky.
In Herniatown! the )olereum's mirrored dome e"ploded.
$o5ens of men paused in their panic and lanced up! limpsed a nihtmare fiure haloed by ultra#iolet! then fell
screamin as eyes and mouths filled with splintered lass. Their final siht would haunt the brief remainder of their
li#es6 bathed in a shower of 8ewelled framents! a banshee on the crest of a ra5or,tipped wa#e.
Then the renades bean to fall! and from each roilin fireball a spume of hooked shrapnel sprayed itself outwards!
makin mince of flesh.
Sahaal stretched out his claws and e"alted in the carnae. He felt for an instant that he could taste the fear of his
#ictims! and tilted his body to rise on its whisperin thermals! bathin in the horror he had sown! loryin in his own
awesomeness! ascendin to deity on wins of terror9
0ut! no. *o9
E#en at the peak of such #icious pleasure he shied away! nashin his teeth. In base e"altations lay an insidious
daner. Focus was the key. %lways. Focus and de#otion.
In vengean)e upon the false Emperor, in the name of my %aster.
%ll else was corrupt and meaninless. He must condition himself to feel pleasure in the e"ecution of his work!
pleasure at drawin a step closer to his oals... 0ut ne#er pleasure in the act itself.
The fear! the destruction! the death. these were tools. 3eapons. %spects of the artist-s palette. +eans to an end.
1ever the end itself.
* * *
HE 3E*T %+4*GST the dyin men with restraint! after that , althouh those who fell in his path miht not ha#e known
it. +ost were in8ured! able only to staer aside as he passed! claws bloodied. He a#e little thouht to stealth now.
whether his panickin prey saw who , what , was in their midst was now irrele#ant. *one would sur#i#e to speak of
In a /uiet part of his mind he wondered how he must seem to these half,blind worms! supplicatin as he passed by!
or else cut their throats with the contempt they deser#ed.
He must appear a iant. He stood far taller than e#en their mihtiest champions! and that despite the hunched
posture his armour had adopted. Stridin on hea#y boots! autoreacti#e claws fle"in at their tips! rea#es that
tapered towards horn,like knees pistonin abo#e! he mo#ed throuh their midst like a #ulture,treadin with care! the
twin rides of his 8ump pack recallin furled wins! beak,like helm slopin forwards like a 8uttin 8aw.
%nd where he stepped throuh curlin fronds of smoke and dust! where he mo#ed without fear throuh sooty flames
and hopped across boilin craters! where shadows mo#ed around him like a li#in mantle! then it was his eyes alone
that these dismal ra,men would recall. bla5in red! like embers at the heart of a coolin hearth.
The stone tower was all but deserted when he reached it! its uards lyin dead from shrapnel wounds at its door! and
he swatted the portal from its hines with a casual shru. He inhaled as he entered! prayin to the cold spirit of his
master that here! at last! he would find the pri5e and its thief.
In the latter respect at least his prayer was answered.
The attack came from abo#e! the flash,flicker of a mu55le initin warnin runes in his eyeplates. He
pounced aside e#en as the hail of lead landed around him! armour whinin in protest. Thick plumes of dust and
shattered stone danced! and the staccato rattle of a hellfire un shook the tower from base to tip. The first ineleant
sweep of his attacker-s hand raked him with lead! and despite the speed of his reaction knocked messy craters into
the filireed surfaces of his armour.
The impacts did not wound him. In those few lucky places that the attacker found his taret he failed e#en to
penetrate Sahaal-s carapace! inflictin nothin but petulant surface,scars on the midniht blue shell. This was /uite
enouh of an insult to enrae him nonetheless.
He bounded #ertically , risin on the wash of his crested enines , and ashed at the wooden spars of the spiral
antry! splinters and sined beams topplin below him6 the rhythmic collapse of each le#el , koom(koom(koom(
koom , like the poundin of a fearful heart.
The unman! lost somewhere in a ha5e of spinnin wood! cried out as his platform dissol#ed. He skittered broken
nails alon stone walls! clutchin for handholds! and hit the round with an untidy crunch! le twisted in fractured
He roaned! strulin aainst the fu55 of shock.
%nd then somethin landed beside him. Somethin #ast! clothed in black and blue. Somethin with the eyes of a
de#il! that fle"ed its claws and hissed like a serpent! that stepped closer and leaned down to inspect him! as a cat
miht a mouse.
Somethin that ran a blade! almost tender! across the lowin electoo of the man-s forehead.
-*ikhae!= it said.
%nd finally! hearin his own name from this nihtmare-s shrouded lips! the man-s #oice came back to him. His shock
parted like thinnin smoke! and as the
claws reached out to touch him he screamed with the raed #esties of his breath. -3here!= the #oice hissed! -is it;-
:so S%H%%' 'EFT Herniatown an hour later! thouhts clouded. The packae he had taken with him had been left in his
wake6 placed carefully amonst the scraps of offal , shredded by the force of his fury , that had once been *ikhae. It
would claim the li#es of any who remained within the town-s sain rid! but where the thouht of such wide,scale
re#ene should ratify him! Sahaal felt only emptiness.
The &orona was one.
It had been sold.
0artered! like some plebeian )ommodity.
He walked from the town-s northern entrance without a care for stealth or destination! in a ha5e! and when a cloaked
fiure approached from the darkness to bow before him he barely paused! whippin a thouhtless claw into and
throuh its neck in a sinle motion. The body collapsed and his feet carried him on! and from the shadows a chorus
of asps arose around him. Finally! berudinly! he lanced up from the round to reard this new circumstance.
There were fifty or more! each draped in black! prostratin themsel#es in terror and awe. +ore scum! worthy of his
Sahaal sihed! flicked blood from his claws! and prepared for more slauhter.
-H,hail!= one of them said! her wide eyes a#oidin his a5e. -Hail to the Emperor-s anel. Hail to the holy warrior.-
Sahaal stared at her! uncertain. He had e"pected opposition! terror! pitiful aression , but not obeisance.
-3hat do you want;- he hissed! and each of them shi#ered at the sound of his #oice.
-4,only to ser#e you! my lord!= the woman /uailed! e"tendin her riht hand in a tall salute. '"ve Imperator*
%nd then the $mbrea Insidior's promethium reactor,cell! the bulky packae he had remo#ed so carefully from its
crippled enerarium! reached critical mass in the heart of the Glacier 1ats- territory and detonated with the force of a
thousand renades.
The underhi#e shook! the floor /uaked like a li#in tilin! and as his new conreation cowered around him! Sahaal
basked in the phosphorliht of Hernia,town-s rain.
HE++E$ 4* %'' sides by droopin adamantium walls! the force of Herniatown-s de#astation erupted not outwards! but
%bo#e Herniatown stood &uspseal.
+ita had returned to the lower tiers from the under,city beneath a stormcloud of suspicion and fear. The psychic
resonance of the murdered woman , a spectral shadow that only she had felt , had affected her profoundly! and as
Sereant )aritens stalked off to report to his commander she had hastened to a control room at the precinct-s peak!
pushin aside ser#itors and tech,acolytes in her haste to reach the communications consoles.
She was thus ensconced! strulin with the infuriatin business of conferrin with In/uisitor >austus! when the
/uake hit. It had almost been a relief.
Gi#en that the hi#elink , a mass of switchboard feeds crammed amonst ducts city,wide , was prone to
broken sinals and interferences! and that the control room-s bustle was as endless as it was raucous! she had
e"pected >austus-s /uiet tones to be rendered inaudible. %s it was! his reaction to +ita-s report was easily aued
despite its #olume. describin to him the particulars of the murders had been an ob8ect lesson in futility! and his
#oice had dripped with an utter lack of interest. She bean to appreciate why 4rodai had insisted she see the
slauhter for herself. +ere words could not hope to describe it.
-...desecration on a... a sa#ae scale! my lord! and,-
-Sa#ae! you say;- his clipped tones had dripped with scorn. -%nd in the underhi#e! no less; Imaine that.-
She-d fancied she could hear him rollin his eyes.
-+y lord! I... I know it must seem... insinificant! and perhaps my reard for it appears ridiculous to you! but,-
-It does not appear ridiculous! irl. It is ridiculous. 3orse! it is a waste of my time. +urders in the underhi#e9 (ou-re
a ser#ant of the In/uisition! not some underlin lawman sent to sol#e e#ery tawdry crime!= He huffed loudly! and
+ita had imained him toyin with the tip of one polished tusk. -(ou will in future not burden me with e#ery
tedious item of detail that y,-
-0ut my lord! I felt such darkness9 It... it hans like a cloud9 % shadow in the warp9-
The link-s brass speaker! fashioned in the shape of a aspin fish! fell silent. +ita had stared at it! uncertain. Had he
se#ered the connection;
-+,my lord;-
>austus-s #oice had been cold when at last he spoke.
(ou will ne#er interrupt me aain. Is that /uite clear;-
Her stomach had knotted. -4,of course! my lord. +y apoloies!=
-+y patience has limits! child. $o not test them!=
-I am sorry! my lord! truly... It-s 8ust that...- she-d fumbled for words! the memory of the body twistin her uts!
flickerin before her. Its naked shape haunted e#ery blink and its empty eyes , hollows that led only to shadow ,
rearded her mutely from her own mind. Should she say it; Should she #oice her suspicions; 0y the Throne! she-d
been so sure, but now that she came to it! now that it needed to be spoken! suddenly it sounded ludicrous.
+elodramatic. Too mu)h.
0ut the words9
"deo mori servus Imperator 0i)tus, "ve ,ominus 1o&.
The words had filled her with such certainty that she-d all but screamed her fears when she saw them! bitin her
tonue all the way back to &uspseal! desperate to tell her master.
She must tell him. She must.
In the control room! starin at the #oicetube with her stomach churnin! she-d taken a breath! composed herself!
in8ected formality into her tone! and said it.
-In/uisitor! it is my belief that the taint is abroad within the hi#e!=
This time the pause had draed lon and deep! and when he spoke >austus-s #oice was so /uiet that she-d strained
to hear his words.
-&haos;- he-d whispered. -(ou think the city harbours &haos;-
She-d choked back a retch at the #ery word! and had ripped the speakertube as if clinin for dear life.
-(es! my lord!= she said! committed. -4r... or somethin like it! Emperor preser#e!=
-Interroator %shyn!= >austus had said finally! and it seemed to +ita that a strane new element had entered his
tone! a hint of ice that had not reistered before. -3e are ser#ants of the 4rdo ?enos. 3e ha#e come to
this world to unmask the cancer that is "enophilia. That is the course we shall pursue!=
-(ou are youn! interroator. %lready you ha#e ser#ed two masters. (ou lack continuity. (ou lack e"perience. (ou
are un/ualified in the ways of &haos!=
-0ut... my lord!= she-d struled with the plu of frustration in her throat. 3hy could he not trust her; 3hat reason
could he ha#e for such bellierence; -+y lord! I feel it. I sense it. It stalks the shadows...-
That!= and his #oice had allowed no room for arument! no hope of persuasion! -is not in your power to dianose. Is
that all! interroator; 4r do you ha#e more spurious assertions to make;-
Standin there with mouth aape! a forked pathway had presented itself to her! and she had closed her eyes to
e"plore its shimmerin anles. 0eyond the uidin techni/ues of the psi,trance! without e#en consultin the lesser
arcanoi of the Imperial tarot! she knew that such echoes of the future , unin#ited and uncontrolled , should be
mistrusted. They presented fickle #isions of what might be! writhin on skeins of chance! and the adept,tutors at the
Scholia 2sykana had warned their chares to be wary of their deceptions.
*onetheless! the options had been as #ibrant as had she been seated in her meditation cell! and she-d rearded them
with the tran/uillity of a practiced! competent psyker.
4n the one hand she could return to her master-s side. She could kow,tow to his desires! disreard her own
8udements! suppress the condemnation of his eccentricities and accept his authority. She could trust in his
rihteousness and ser#e him with the de#otion his rank deser#ed. In time! she could see! she would ain a portion of
his respect.
4r she could belie#e what her heart told her. a path that ran raed with uncertainty! #iolence and blood.
%nd lory.
-+y lord!= she-d said! ensla#ed to her ambition. -I would ask your blessin in undertakin a hunt.-
-% hunt!=
(es my lord. For the killer!=
The speaker crackled softly! as if astonished by her re/uest.
-Interroator!= it said e#entually. -Either your brain is addled by the crudity of your surroundins or your insolence is
reater e#en than I had feared. (our re/uest is d,-
%nd then the connection had broken! the lihts flickered! and the world turned on its head.
The way +ita saw it , durin the hours of madness that followed the /uake , an interrupted refusal was no refusal at
I* % +ET1424'IS as densely populated as the hi#e! any uphea#al causin fatalities in the mere hundreds could barely
be considered calamitous. *or was &uspseal-s reimented architecture o#erly disturbed by the subterranean blast. its
buttresses and spindled towers continued to stand! its bleak factories barely paused in their ceaseless rind! and its
cabled walkways simply swayed before resumin their sprawl. %nd if here or there a habstack found its #iew
altered! or a chapel leaned from its foundation where before it stood proud! then the teemin masses could be relied
upon to shru and thank the Emperor,on,hih that the /uake had not been more de#astatin. The ancientness of this
skyless place weihed hea#ily! and deep in their hearts each hi#er felt its fraility keenly. It was a house of cards! a
tower of lass! and would re/uire but one carelessly cast stone to crumble.
The floor of &uspseal had de#eloped a tumour. 3here centuries before Herniatown had saed into the shadows!
now it had returned in contempt of those baro/ue towers built on its spine. It shrued off the habs and trams and
le#ered itself upriht! its ceilin bulin from the &uspseal foundation like some malin rowth. It was here! at the
disaster-s epicentre! that the loss of life was reatest. hi#ers tumblin from splintered roads! crushed between
poundin slabs. $ust boiled up and out like a li#in thin! breedin a race of staerin mud,caked 5ombies. In
places the risin hillock split! plumes of molten metal risin from its rents! and there the e"plosion could #ent itself!
reat tonues of fire lickin the bases of antries abo#e. The stink of flesh wrestled with screams of terror for domi,
nance! and for a brief hour &uspseal resounded not with the usual factorial tumult! but with the sihts and scents of a
It was perhaps a reflection of hi#e e"istence that the city barely paused in its industry at the /uake-s arri#al. In the
tier abo#e it! or a sinle kilometre to either side! there the hi#e was as obli#ious as was Go#ernor :arif himself!
insulated in the hi#e-s peak. If any aristocrat from Steepletown found his apartments powerless for the instant it took
ancient rerouters to correct the blip! or if some hih,tier merchantman disco#ered his flow of mouldpaste interrupted
before he could reassin his contracts! then such thins could be attributed to the whims of the hi#ehosts! or the
will of the Emperor! or , at the #ery least , to 8ust another aspect of the creakin! ineffecti#e workins of hi#e life.
&uspseal was all but back to normal within two hours! and the only factor of any note to ha#e chaned
was the spirallin determination of a sinle woman to in#estiate e"actly what was oin on in the underhi#e.
-(ou 3%*T what3
-(ou heard me. % s/uad of twenty men. Fully armed! fully armoured.-
-I see!= &ommander 4rodai sat back in his chair and steepled his finers! raisin an ironic eyebrow. -%nythin else;
% set of wins;-
+ita wa#ed a dismissi#e hand. She-d been too patronised by far less pleasant indi#iduals to be bothered by 4rodai-s
-I think the men will suffice! for now. %nd a #ehicle! of course!=
He nodded with false earnestness. -*aturally!=
4rodai-s office was a barren space! windowless! made all the less welcomin by the indistinct rusdin of ser#itors in
the shadows beyond his desk. E#idently the commander tra#elled often between the precincts beneath his control!
and only his staff of mindless scribes remained constant.
-Sa#e your sarcasm! commander. 3hether it pleases you or not! this re/uest carries the full weiht of the
In/uisition-s authority! an,-
-Ha! yes. %nd is therefore not a @re/uest@ at all. It-s a demand! irl! and you-d be better off callin it by name. I
ha#en-t time for your niceties!=
-&all it what you want. It-s all the same in the end!=
4rodai rearded her beneath hea#y brows! as if weihin her character by her looks alone. Cudin by the taste of
his thouhts! he didn-t reard either with fondness.
-'et us pretend!= he said! -that I i#e you what you want. 3hat sort of madness are you plannin on leadin my men
4)e o to hunt the killer! commander!= This time it was her turn to cock an eyebrow. (ou remember; The one you
in#ited our aid in capturin;-
-I remember. %nd I remember in#itin aid to spare my men the trouble! not to draw them away from more important
%h... Then you consider the In/uisition fit only for insinificant pursuits;-
That-s not what I,-
-0ut you 8ust said as much!= She crossed her arms. -If I were less charitable! I miht consider that assertion to border
on the heretical...-
She left the #eiled threat danlin! watchin him carefully.
He knew he was beaten. %nd in his thouhts , which of course he belie#ed to be entirely pri#ate , he cursed her
#enomously. Inwardly! +ita 8oined him! briefly hatin herself for steamrollerin the ob8ections of such a
fundamentally honest man. She assuaed her uilt by remindin herself of the mission-s importance. She could
brook no concessions! no compromises.
-Fine!= 4rodai snapped! hunchin forward in his seat. -Ha#e the damned men. 0ut how you plan to find a sinle
killer amonst a multitude is a trick I-d lo#e to know!=
She half smiled! dippin in a bow of enuine ratitude. -I ha#e my ways!=
(ou-ll need them!= he said! unimpressed. That /uake started below. It-s oin to be messy down there! irl. +essy
and mad!=
414$%I-S 21E$I&TI4*S 3E1E unerrinly accurate.
It was as if the subterranean blast had e"pelled not only fire and ash! but some indiscernible smo of insanity. In
e#ery settlement around the ruined husk of
Hemiatown! across e#ery sumpflow and debris,dune! madness had spilled out from the shadows to reclaim its
+ost #isible amonst the aents of lunacy were the 2uratists , sinister preachers enmeshed in suits of barbs and
bones! lashin at the roanin crowds with hook,tipped whipcords. They prophesied the Emperor-s return in a hail
of blood and smoke! and attested in cra5ed tones to his wrath. In the city abo#e +ita had noticed ad#ocates of the
mo#ement on street corners and me55anine 8unctions. moderates with earnest #oices and scarred faces! the marks of
/uiet 5eal and self,flaellation.
*ot so in the undercity! where eccentricity bred delusion and piety beot fanaticism.
The 2uratists here yelped and howled! struck at the willin crowd! set aliht pyres containin -mutants- and
-witches-! and cast /ui#erin finers towards where Herniatown had once stood! citin the Emperor-s splendid
#enom as the force that had pured so utterly the Glacier 1at filth.
2assin by the lunatic 5ealots! +ita couldn-t pre#ent a uilty thouht from seepin throuh her defences. Is insanity
the pri)e of faith4
The deraned,but,pious were not alone in sei5in the prospects presented by the e"plosion. To the ans the
e"plosion marked not only a territorial opportunity in the Glacier 1ats- wake! but a power #acuum. Total war had
come to the underhi#e.
The crackle of distant unfire struled to be heard abo#e the shouts of combatants and the thunder of collapsin
buildins! utted by fire or otherwise undermined. 4n se#eral occasions aners themsel#es! flamboyantly dressed
in the colours of their pack! appeared beside the debrisflows to snap off a
few optimistic rounds at the #indictors in their trio of Salamanders! before #anishin into their warrens like hosts.
+ita thouht it somehow e"otic. like 8ewelled wildlife limpsed at a forest-s ede.
The #indictors! of course! endured these sihtins with less sentimentality! takin turns to rise into the Salamanders-
open,topped diases! #yin to pick off those unfortunates unable to seek co#er. +ita endured the noisy distractions
poorly! strulin to remain focused.
In less enlihtened times a hunter miht follow a trail of prints! or spend days pursuin rumours and sihtins. To
+ita such crudities were unthinkable. the maelstrom of emotion that comprised the psychic en#ironment was as
perceptible to her as the scorched earth of its roads or the buckled struts of its walls. The shadow she souht , an
oilslick of malin influence and! yes... yes! she was certain! the taint , wound its way throuhout like a spectral cord.
3hether it represented the killer-s e"act trail or not was irrele#ant6 its loci were places he had been! its tentacles
were the paths of people he had stalked. 3ithout a clue as to who or what the killer was! she nonetheless tracked his
fla#our6 she followed the strins of his emotion! blossomin and nebulisin in his wake. He was anry.
%nry! and cold and bitter.
-1iht at the 8unction!= she instructed the Salamander-s pilot! eyelids closed! and watched the manoeu#re throuh a
spectrum that employed neither liht nor colour.
The trail had led them on a merry dance already! and she dimly suspected the 2reafects thouht she was in#entin as
she went. She couldn-t care less.
Their first destination! aainst Sereant )aritens-s noisy protests! had been the perimeter of the contested
5one itself! where Herniatown had once stood. That pul#erised area of metallic sla and scorched earth , its walls
and ceilins presentin not a sinle straiht line or riht anle in their fractured surfaces , had clamoured in her
mind with the darkness she-d been seekin! and briefly she-d thouht the killer must ha#e died in the inferno. He-d
been present! she had no doubt of that. 3hen Herniatown belched itself out of e"istence he-d been there! at the thick
of whate#er action had transpired! and she considered the possibility of his death with an uncomfortable thrill of
0ut! no... The trail had reappeared! coal,black! leadin away from the ruined 5one into the darkness of the western
ca#erns. She led the con#oy away from the petty an s/uabbles! away from the central settlements with their
#esties of ci#ilisation and their rantin 2uratists! and she resumed the hunt with uilty pleasure.
It had not taken the 2reafects lon to rasp the reality of their leader-s psychic ifts. +ita uessed that had it not
been for &o-s silent presence! reat machine,hands clenchin and unclenchin around the autocannon trier on the
tank! their reard for her authority miht ha#e been less complete. %s it was! they did what she told them when she
told them! throwin ner#ous lances towards the iant , and if they did so without the salutes they would ha#e
offered their own commanders it was a detail she was happy to foro. The one remainin irritation was the
interminable mumblin of Sereant )aritens! who insisted on standin beside her! arms crossed! as if keepin her in
his sihts could keep her Aclearly hereticalB mutation in check.
She huffed at the off,puttin mussitation , a prayer! she uessed , and refocused! fihtin the e"haustion that such
intense meditation ine#itably caused.
The killer-s influence wended its way throuh a knot of twistin alleys , a filiree of black and blue on the #ery cusp
of her psychic siht , and she uided the pilot throuh with a calm #oice! inorin the hammerin of opportunistic
bullets on the tank-s sides. %s the #ehicle clambered from the labyrinth onto a risin steppe of detritus! tracks
strulin for purchase! an uncomfortable silence settled! lea#in her alone with only the sound of the Salamanders-
Strane shapes loomed in the dark! and at first she mistook them for mihty oaks! rown beyond normal scale! their
branches risin abo#e! hostly lihts adornin their tips. 4nly when perspecti#e ad8usted itself in her mind that her
eyes decoded what they were seein.
)ast ducts! each a hundred metres across! littered with scaffold and pipin! branchin in myriad patterns between
floor and ca#ernous ceilin. %t odd points on their colossal trunks hellish lihts bla5ed anry red! steam eyserin
from e#ery rent! and +ita realised with a stab of ama5ement that she was seein thermal ducts! siphonin heat from
the planet-s crust where e#en the fro5en fluctuations of its weather could not hope to diminish it. From below the
entire hi#e drank the warmth of E/ui"us! and as the #ehicles passed by she found herself humbled! forettin for an
instant the trail she followed.
)aritens-s mutterins finally snapped both introspection and temper.
-Sereant! for the lo#e of the Emperor! would you be );uiet='
He lared! helmet clenched between ner#ous finers.
-It-s come to a bad thin!= he rumbled! -when a soldier-s denied a prayer for his soul.-
@)ou feel the need to pray;- she scowled! curlin a lip. (ou ha#e twenty men with unfeasibly lare weapons
standin riht behind you! sereant. 3hat-s to be afraid of;-
%t this his ri55led mouth twitched in a pale imitation of a smile. E#en afflicted by terrors of his own! the prospect
of hihlihtin her inorance was too delicious for him to pass up.
This here is the Steel Forest! irl!= he said! noddin out into the canopy of tanled pipes and pilot lihts.
-(ou told me you didn-t know any names.-
-%nd I don-t , unless they happen to be the sorts of places it-s best to a#oid!= He turned towards the #iewin slot!
larin out into the dark. -This is where you-ll find the Shadowkin. %nd they don-t much like intruders!=
'<erhaps you believe yourself blameless. <erhaps you have a)ted, as you )laim, in the interests of your people.
<erhaps, in that respe)t, your guilt is negligible.
'5ut I tell you this' there is strife enough in this gala&y without the ambitions of those who would )onstru)t empires
of their own. Selfless or not, there is room only for one Emperor in this Imperium*
,Cudement of +adam In/uisitor Trais Spirrus
at the trial of Grior -The 2rosperous-!
short,li#ed ruler of the $actylis system.
His +I*$ $1IFTE$! detached.
He had not slept in four days! and whilst it was true that the artifices of his enhanced brain and body could maintain
alertness almost indefinitely! already the nain seeds of e"haustion twitched at the back of his mind! threatenin
his efficacy. In this strane place he had conducted himself wim unparalleled caution! ne#er once allowin his
#iilance to slip.
This! finally! in the lair of his newfound ser#ants! had chaned. 1idin a wa#e of his own authority! surrounded by
those who would no more allow him harm than kill themsel#es! Sahaal at last , mercifully ,took the opportunity to
They were named the Shadowkin! and they worshipped him. The fools.
He slipped into the arms of half,sleep with an eaerness he had not e"pected! and drowned in meditation.
* * *
HE H%$ 0EE* uncertain! at first. &onfronted by a horde of black,shrouded peasants! creepin from the shadows in the
wake of Herniatown-s puration! he had nearly slauhtered them without thouht! coastin on the fury of what
*ikhae had told him.
The &orona was gone*
His pri5e was lost to him! and as he stumbled directionless from the killin fields of Herniatown! these Shadowkin
had mistaken him for a warrior of the Emperor.
They had seen pictoslates! perhaps! or illuminations in ancient scriptures. The Emperor had created the Space
+arines. that much they knew. He had fashioned their primarchs! modelled their 'eions! dispatched them to
crusade in his name. They knew little of the intricacies of Imperial history! but they could not /uestion the
bene#olence of such anelic warriors. % Space +arine was beyond imperfection.
They had ne#er heard of the Horus Heresy. Sahaal wasn-t surprised. The churnin propaanda machines of the
Imperium could hardly countenance the popular e"posure of its own flawed past.
In the ha5e of his trance! Sahaal mused upon re#ealin the truth to his new acolytes! then discounted the possibility...
To learn that half the Emperor-s anels had turned to the dark fires of &haos. to these under,hi#e scum such realities
would seem ludicrous. Impossible. 6ruel.
Sahaal was no more part of the Emperor-s #ast conreation than were the "enos that infested the ala"y! and it
sickened him that the wide,eyed men and women of the Shadowkin should mistake him so easily. It was true that
the seductions of &haos also held little sway o#er him , he considered such metaphysical corruption a sin of
weakness6 of lack of focus , but his
contempt for the Emperor matched that of any &haotic anti,5ealot nonetheless! and the Shadowkin-s mistaken
identity was difficult to swallow.
They saw his power armour! his narrow,eyed helm! his wede,like shoulderuards! his 8ewelled bolter. They saw
the intricate heraldry of his 'eion! and whilst they could not hope to reconise it! they understood that such icons
had e#er been the remit of the %deptus %startes. They had watched him sinle hand,edly wipe out a nest of their
most ini/uitous enemies! and any doubts as to his rihteousness were immediately e"puned.
They saw him! and they saw a Space +arine! and so they saw a reflection of their od. He had almost killed them
for it. %nd yet their de#otion had warmed him , as mindless as that of a machine , and slowly! with rowin
momentum! his thouhts turned to another! shrewder path.
Herniatown had burned behind him! *ikhae-s words , 'I(it's gone... It's sold*' , had scorched his mind! and the
Shadowkin had fallen to his feet and praised him. Their worship had filled him with pleasure ,pleasure borne upon a
lie! but pleasure nonetheless ,and slowly! hatin himself! resistin the bile in his throat! he had said the one thin
that could assure their loyalty. '"ve Imperator.'
They had brouht him to their lair! they had worshipped him! they had i#en him food and sanctuary! and so he
%drift upon the trance! he remembered *ikhae-s screamin face as slice by slice he was skinned ali#e. '-here is the
pa)kage4' 'I told you, >agrifs blood* It's gone*'
':one where4'
'Sold* -(warpspoor and piss* 8(you sh... shit* Sold*'
'Sold to whom4 Speak, or I'll take your eyes.'
'1o* 1(not th('
'Sold to whom4'
'Slake* The 6olle)tive* I swear it, Throne(as(my(witness* Slake*'
'-hat is this... 7Slake74'
'I don't... n(nuh...'
'8our eyes, 1ikhae. ,o you need both4'
'S(sweet Terra, a(a middleman* " go(between for up)ity mer)hants* Slake*'
'-here is he, 1ikhae4 -here did you find him4'
'I didn't, h('
'-here is he*'
'I don't know* #(he found us* #(he knew the ship would fall from the sky* #e told us to be ready* #e )ommissioned
us! warpdammit*'
'#e knew4'
'#e ordered the pa)kage by name4'
7That is not possible.'
'I don't know how, but he kn('
'8ou're lying to me.'
He was still screamin when there was no skin left for Sahaal to cut away.
0efore he planted the fuelcell that destroyed the Glacier 1ats- lair! Sahaal #ented his rae upon the meaty husk that
had once been *ikhae! e"pellin his fury on muscle and sinew and bone. It had made /uite a mess.
The &orona was gone. #e had a new target.
%nd like a dream! in that moment! when he staered e"hausted from Herniatown already plannin
this new hunt! the solution had deli#ered itself like a ift from the Four Gods.
The Shadowkin. %n army of sla#es! bound to him in de#otion for the #ery thin he hated the most.
They would help him find Slake , whoe#er! whatever, he was.
THE T1%*&E H%$ lasted some four hours! he 8uded! when his slumberin senses awoke him. Someone was
The Shadowkin lair clun to the trunk of one of the reat stacks that comprised the Steel Forest! 8uttin from its irth
like a funus! and Sahaal had found its fortification impressi#e. %s the frihtened mob had conducted him aboard
their iron,pulleyed ele#ators he had obser#ed their reimented mo#ements! their well maintained weapons! their
silent obedience. Their discipline was impressi#e! their focus commendable and their arsenal , in the midst of such
s/ualor , fearsome indeed.
They were a tribe of 5ealots! he had /uickly learned6 puritans that had re8ected the wickedness of the hi#e centuries
before! sinkin down to the depths of the underhi#e where they could pursue their #eneration unhindered. They saw
in their Emperor a di#ine 8ude! in whose name ini/uity was pured and impurity burned away. Throuh lon
decades their worship had intertwined itself with a morbid indulence. deifyin their lord in his aspect as $eath , the
ultimate le#eller , and re#ellin in the melancholic symbols of mortality.
0one worshippers. Scalp hunters.
Further! findin themsel#es surrounded by filth and hedonism! hemmed in by false worshippers and
ini/uitous licence! they had elected themsel#es to a di#ine mission! reasonin that they alone must e"ecute the
Emperor-s law.
They were pious #iilantes! these /uiet warriors! and in them Sahaal saw echoes of his master-s youth! stalkin the
streets of *ostromo <uintus! 8udin and strikin from the shadows.
They reminded him of himself! and were it not for their misplaced re#erence he miht whole,heartedly ha#e
accepted their hospitality! told them the truth! secured their obedience for all the right reasons...
0ut no... *o! they were the Emperor-s sons and dauhters first! and creatures of the niht second. He could seek
sanctuary amonst them but could ne#er fully lower his uard. His dark beliefs would be anathema to these pious
fools! and the irony of the situation was not lost on him. such similar disciplines! such reflected methods! such
matchin #alues6 but such opposite causes.
So it was that when their priestess scrambled towards Sahaal-s mediation platform on her hands and knees! her heart
hammerin like a drum in his ears! he was awake before she had e#en opened her mouth.
@3hy do you disturb me;- he said! and he smiled inside his helm at the shi#er that rattled throuh her.
-F,fori#e me! my lord! I did not intend to discomfort you...-
He dismissed her cowerin with a flick of his wrist! tiltin his head to reard her closely. -0y what name are you
known! child;-
This re/uest seemed to confuse her. 3hate#er news she-d rushed to di#ule! a personal introduction had not been
amonst it. -&hianni! my lord!=
(ou are the leader of this band;-
-*... I... I was the second! my lord. 0,beneath &on,demnitor >alriian!=
-%nd where is he;-
Her eyes! if possible! buled wider still.
(,you... you killed him! my lord...-
Sahaal recalled that first simperin fiure! approachin from the shadows outside Herniatown! cut down in mid,
e"ultation. He smoothly e"tended his duplicity. -He was remiss in his de#otions. It was a mercy to cut him down!=
If she doubted the e"cuse she a#e no sin of it. -%,as you wish it! my lord.-
He pointed a lon claw at her heart! en8oyin her s/uirms. -(ou shall be the new condemnitor!=
She dipped her head in shi#erin ratitude! sweat listenin in the dark. (ou honour me! lord! but I,-
-(ou may lea#e me. I would continue my meditation!=
For a second she seemed torn! as if her body would lo#e nothin more than to comply! but her brows dipped and she
remained where she was! strulin to speak. Sahaal watched her with interest.
-It is... please! lord. The scouts sent up flares. There are intruders abroad. Cude,men from the city!= She cast her
eyes upwards towards the distant struts of the hi#e,bottom. )indictors from abo#e. 3e... we seek your counsel!=
-3hat do they want;- Sahaal-s #oice contri#ed to indicate that such tedious announcements were beneath his interest.
-I do not know! lord. T,they share our cause , in the main , thouh their laws are la" in the Emperor-s eyes. Is it not
said tha,-
-Spare me the lesson. %re they your enemies;-
She swallowed hard and shook her head! eyes briht in the loom. -They ha#e ne#er souht our ruin! lord. They
would not enter our territory without cause!=
-I see!=
T,there is somethin else...-
They... they tra#el with a mutant. %... a iant. The scouts ha#e seen it. It is... un)hained* She spoke this last word as
if it wounded her to say it! and Sahaal mar#elled at the depth of hatred in her #oice. Here! e#en in the filth of the
underhi#e! the Imperium-s contempt for all that was -impure- had found ample representation.
-% mutant;-
(es my lord. %n abomination in the eyes of the Emperor9 I... I ha#e prayed for uidance but,-
-That is unnecessary. I am the Emperor-s #oice here!=
For a moment she looked as thouh she miht cut her own throat. Sahaal found himself ratified by her discomfort.
-+y apoloies! lord. I did not mean offence...-
These @#indictors@. They are in the employ of the Imperium;-
(,yes my lord!=
-%nd they ha#e no reason to come here;-
-*o! my lord!=
The truth saed into Sahaal-s mind.
They are hunting me. They have my trail.
Somethin akin to ner#ousness passed throuh him! then! but seemed mi"ed per#ersely with a measure of
e"citement. %fter so lon! after such care and secrecy! it was almost a pleasure to face enemies openly.
%nd in a moment of inspiration! slicin into his consciousness like a blade from the hea#ens! the solution came to
They are corrupt!= he said! standin. &hianni staered backwards! dwarfed.
-+,my lord;-
-'isten carefully. (ou will strule to belie#e me!=
-I... I will belie#e what you tell me! my lo,-
-I was sent here at the Emperor-s own command! condemnitor. $o you belie#e that;-
She sunk to her knees as if struck! mouth aape.
'"ve Imperator8 she shrieked! o#ercome.
-Stand! child. 3e ha#en-t much time.-
She lanced upward with the look of a drunkard.
-I was sent here because this world has fallen from the liht of Terra. It is consumed by corruption. From tip to base!
only impurity remains.-
-0ut... but this is...- She asped for air! like a fish remo#ed from water! and for a brief instant Sahaal found himself
pityin her. Her entire uni#erse must be crumblin around her.
-E/ui"us has fallen to &haos! child! and there are few of the Emperor-s faithful that remain!=
She #omited! clutchin at her belly! moanin in horror.
-*o...- she whispered! drool sain from her lips. -It-s not true... it-s not true... it-s not true...-
-Stand9- Sahaal ripped her collar and yanked her upriht like a heap of ras! lea#in her totterin in a fuue of terror
and misery.
-I don-t understand! my lord9 T,there was no war9 *o in#asion9-
-(ou underestimate the ruinous powers. There was no in#asion! only infe)tion. The taint spreads like disease. The
o#ernor is corrupted. His house and barons are lost to the dark. %nd piece by piece the purity of this hi#e is
-0ut... but...-
-I was sent to assess the e"tent of the corruption!= he said! lies pourin so easily from his mouth. -I was sent to
disco#er if any of the Emperor-s faithful remained!=
@3e do! lord9 -e dol' she almost san the words! arms raised abo#e her head! delirious with shock.
(ou do!= Sahaal nodded! -and I ha#e found you. %nd now... now these false ser#ants of the Emperor! these
@#indictors@! who make a mockery of all that was pure! ha#e descended to crush us all. 3e must stop them. $o you
understand! condemnitor; The Emperor Himself has spoken9 3e must stop them9-
THE I*T17$E1S- )EHI&'ES were familiar! at least. &oilin their way throuh the Steel Forest! they made liht work of
the debrisflows around the ducts- bases. &himera,class chasses! albeit lackin the artillery mounts and do5er,scoops
of their forebears. He had once orchestrated the ad#ances of leions of their kind! sa#ain the enemy with his
D1aptor packs whilst the uns of the &himerae battered their flanks. It seemed somehow ludicrous that he should
now find himself opposin such familiar machines! accompanied only by a mob of 5ealots de#oted to his enemy-s
This time his master-s #oice echoed almost whimsically throuh his memories! and he fouht a brief sure of affront
in its implied disappro#al.
#ow the mighty are fallen, it said! o#er and o#er! like a mantra in his soul.
The intruders rounded the final corner in their approach to the Shadowkin lair and Sahaal returned his mind to the
present. there was an ambush to o#ersee.
Forewarned! the Shadowkin attack was as de#astatin as any Sahaal had seen. $ressed for war! cloaked in tattered
ras of black and red! with bones stitched to collars and stolen knuckles swinin on cords from slee#es! they were a
rim siht. wraiths that slunk in the dark! skeletal trophies adornin their brows.
Sahaal waited until the first two #ehicles had passed below before i#in the sinal to attack6 a sinle swipe
of his clawed fist! reflections flickerin like a ala"y in the half,liht.
The first hint of daner! a roilin pulse of electric sound and the shadow,stitchin flare of a dischare! came far too
late for the #indictors.
That first carefully aued blast from the Shad,owkin-s solitary lascannon! positioned at the ede of a hih balcony!
punched throuh the trailin #ehicle-s tracks like a fiery blade! obbets of molten metal sputterin from the wound.
The pilot-s attempt to brake was as doomed as the #ehicle itself. its track peeled! thrashin at the hull as it sluiced
away! whippin back on itself at the last instant to slice the #indictor ridin shotun into two raed hal#es.
First blood. Time seemed to stop.
Then the Shadowkin howled! like wol#es after a kill.
The tank slipped from its line! wobbled across unstable debris! hit a bank of shapeless scrap and flipped onto its
back! trailin oil and dust. The screams from within filtered /uickly throuh its manled shanks.
%nd then the lasuns opened fire! the #olley of renades from abo#e rattled down on the stricken con#oy! the
Shadowkin rappelled from their balconies with a chillin shriek! and the battle of the Steel Forest bean.
To THEI1 &1E$IT! the intruders were swift to react. The remainin #ehicles about,turned! tracks shiftin in awkward
patterns! to circle their stricken fellow. Their passeners tumbled out in short order! usin their #ehicles as co#er and
firin thunderous shotuns into the shapeless shadows! shoutin terse orders. To Sahaal! watchin from abo#e! they
seemed like miniature parodies of Space +arines , their lossy carapaces shaped in ob#ious reflection of the
%startes- power
armour! helms open below the nose! solid auntlets clutchin at stocks and mauls. He sneered in contempt and
launched himself from his platform-s ede! followin the whoopin Shadowkin towards the round! 8ump pack
slowin his descent.
% killin round had /uickly formed between the remainin tanks and the aners slunk forwards with weapons
bla5in! pinnin the #indictors in their places. %lready a ale of armoured bodies thrashed and moaned in the
circle! blood stainin the spony round! and the remainin lawmen struled to find return tarets. The Shadowkin
were more than adept at stealin about the perimeter of the rin like sharks! snappin off shots then meltin away.
E#en the auto,cannons on the Salamanders- spines seemed useless6 hammerin their ammunition into the wastes in
near disarray! their briht flares da55lin the #indictors further still! renderin the darkness all the more
% fra renade! dropped almost casually from the antries abo#e! split apart an e"posed 2reafect! showerin his
comrades with whirlii shrapnel and ore. His shriek lasted a fraction of a second! aborted on a froth of #iscera and
clutchin limbs. His comrades hollered and rerouped! more and more of their armoured fellows tumblin from the
safety of the Salamanders to confront the threat! and in reply more of the death,masked Shadowkin slipped alon
black ropes to surround them! lasuns shiftin shadows and colours across the distant walls.
Sahaal set himself down at the periphery of the rin and drew his bolter. 1ushin into the face of a shotun sal#o
would be a folly! but there were... other ways. 3hoopin his hawk,like shriek! kickin himself into the air! he
crossed the dead5one in a sinle bound!
larin down on the besieed #indictors with trier depressed. Throuh unsmoke and airborne ash bolter shells
kicked sticky craters in muscle and sinew6 encased bodies 8erked as shells detonated and hel,meted faces craned up
to obser#e this new threat! lidin on darkness o#erhead.
Somewhere! lost to the rushin of his blood! Sahaal heard a cheer blossom in the loom. The Shadowkin were
salutin their master.
He sa#oured their awe! and each dischare of his bolter was an offerin to his master! each scarlet,splattered scream
a uilty intonation to the &haos Gods that he neither worshipped nor denied. The siht of his #ictims- wide eyes and
pale faces! apin up as they realised what they faced all too late! warmed him to his core! and he shrilled as their
bodies dissol#ed in fire and smoke and blood.
'"ve dominus no&l'
His arc complete! he set down on the opposite boundary and spun in his place! eaer for a second pass. His feet had
all but left the round when the las,cannon fired its second pulse and the world went white.
% daer of liht punctured the ablati#e uts of the o#erturned Salamander! a wound that lanced thick armour and
stabbed deep into its fuel reser#es. The #ehicle seemed to 8udder and draw a breath! swellin! before detonatin in a
storm of shattered liht.
The metal carcass lifted hih on a spout of flame! breakin apart and litterin the air! ra5or framents bli55ardin
outwards. %t its ape" it slouched onto its back like a dyin whale! flames runnin off its scars like water! then
crashed , ruined , to the earth.
The Shadowkin roared their appro#al! weapons brandished hih! and the #indictors crawled and bled
in the wreckae. 4nly the hammerin of the remainin autocannons swelled the silence! and for e#ery lead obbet
that found a taret in the dark , flippin some nameless 5ealot to his knees with a 8et of crimson , a hundred
chattered uselessly aainst the manled surfaces of the debris flows. Such was the madness of the scene that Sahaal
went unnoticed as he clawed his way #ertically alon a rusted duct! a monstrous li5ard adherin to a wall.
He aued his release with precision! snappin free his claws and tumblin with a cry to land! as eleant as a cat! on
the cab of the nearest tank. The pilot-s wordless shriek filtered from within! and it was only when Sahaal luned at
the autocannon pintle , se#erin its plinth and blastin its unner-s head from his shoulders , that the shrill
e"clamation found words. a rush of curses and prayers. Sahaal leaned inside with a hiss! snippin at the pilot-s
thrashin arms! sprayin the interior with arterial muck.
The shrieks increased in pitch and #olume.
Sahaal leapt clear! snain at an oily o#erhan and swi#ellin to watch the #ehicle caper out of control! skiddin
on its a"is and plouhin throuh the diminishin knot of #indictors. Gore,splattered! it rushed into the darkness and
/uit the battle! dust and waste liftin from its tracks! #anishin to topple to its doom in some forotten corner. The
dismembered pilot-s screams dwindled with it into the shadows.
3ith their co#er thus diminished the #indictors were easy prey. The remainin Salamander had tasked itself with
knockin out the las,crew that had so decimated its shattered fellow! and its futile tracer sweeps of the balconies
abo#e had taken it away from the action on the round! lea#in the 2reafects #ulnerable.
Sahaal saw the trap an instant too late.
-Stay back9- Sahaal roared to the Shadowkin from his #antae. -Stay in the shadows9 Spare no one9 Spare nothin9-
The warnin was too late. Flushed by the e"citement of #ictory! led by &ondemnitor &hianni! the shrouded warriors
rushed forth throuh the rin of corpse,dotted wreckae to smash aainst the #indictors.
In the face of a direct assault the 2reafects released one final de#astatin #olley before lowerin their shotuns!
raisin instead the power mauls holstered at their sides. There was somethin of the parade round in their
synchronous mo#ements. thumbin acti#ation runes toether! strikin combat stances in a perfect circle of lossy
armour and fi55lin maces. The Shadowkin rebounded from their flanks like bloody wa#es aainst a cliff! and e#ery
failed swipe of a notched blade or 8ab with a tarblacked daer was followed by the precise! deadly swin of an
enerised club. Sparks burst in bubbles of liht! flesh charred and skulls popped. Here a black,robed man staered
clear with a scream! his eyeballs one6 there a youn woman limped to escape! the bones of her le 8abbin at uly
anles from her flesh. 3ith no space to put their numbers , or their stealth , to their ad#antae! the Shadowkin were
bein massacred. Sahaal found himself swoopin to 8oin the fren5y when the lascannon crew fired their third , and
final , blast.
This time! perhaps reconisin that the remainin Salamander had found its rane and was already tiltin its
autocannon towards them! they eschewed the ob#ious taret presented by the #ehicle and tilted their scripture,
pocked weapon towards the #indictor ranks6 resol#in to inflict as much damae as possible before the end.
Had their actions not been undertaken in his name! Sahaal would ha#e derided their sacrifice. % true warrior! he had
learned! #alues his own life at least as much as he #alues the loss of his enemy-s. There was little room in his heart
for martyrdom , beyond that! of course! of his dead master.
His betrayed master! who had died for his principles , and so fored a bitter #eneance in his own blood.
His master! whose memory he ser#ed.
His master! whose mantle he had inherited...
...and then lost.
%t the centre of the killin round! where the lascan,non-s dischare slid like an arrow into the earth! the #indictors
fell apart at their 8oints. swallowed in a torus of iridescence that incised bone and sinew like a blade throuh water.
They found themsel#es blasted up and out on the cusp of a Shockwa#e6 meaty slabs partin alon torn seams!
shredded ali#e. This was no reat pyrotechnic spectacle! no flamin tumult! no smokeless fireball. merely a sooty
chrysanthemum of uncontainable enery! blindinly briht! that dismantled its tarets like dried lea#es before a
%s if in reply! the autocannon found its taret. The lascannon crew died in fire and lead6 tumblin to the earth like
ra,dolls! dead of their wounds lon before they struck the round.
% stunned silence settled.
Throuh the shiftin smoke and lappin fires! beyond the charred bodies and shattered armour,plates! now only the
sinle #ehicle remained of the con#oy The Shadowkin stared at it with weapons brandished! skeletal trophies on
proud display! as if darin it to ad#ance.
%nd then their warrior,anel! their black!=blue lord! their benihted messiah! dropped like a stone from
abo#e! plunin briht claws into its ablati#e sides and risin up its flanks. a hawk takin a do#e.
This close! beyond the smoke and dust! Sahaal could finally see what manner of beast manned the autocan,non.
It was a iant.
It raised its arms as he slunk near and clenched iron fists! face contortin with a challene,roar. Sahaal e"tended his
claws and lauhed! ratified at the prospect of a worthy opponent. He would en8oy killin this mutant! he decided!
this ape,faced freak! and in so doin would secure the loyalty of his "enophobic little sla#es fore#er. He imained
himself surin forwards! claws snickerin! blood rainin around him.
%nd then a head appeared at the hatch into the tank-s interior. an unarmoured female! as lowly an opponent as he
could imaine. She was beneath his attention , unworthy , and he returned his focus to the hulk! claws fle"in.
-I know what you are!= the woman said! startlin him. Her eyes were wide and her skin bleached with fear! but her
#oice sounded stron and certain6 resonatin somewhere deep! transcendin his ears. -Go back to the shadows!= she
hissed! lips curlin. -Go back to the warp! *iht 'ord9-
%nd then a reat daer punctured his mind. an ineleant swipe of immaterial force that took him by surprise and
detonated a bomb within his skull! and he slipped from the Salamander-s back onto the floor.
$arkness swallowed him up like an old friend , like the mother whose face he could no loner recall ,and it was
only on the #ery ede of his consciousness that he could hear the sound of hea#y tracks clawin at soft earth and an
enine! dwindlin away into the distance.
The witch and her pet iant were one! and as unconsciousness clouded around him he recalled her words with a
:o ba)k to the warp, 1ight ?ord*
She knew what he was.
She had reconised his heraldry.
She had spoken his 'eion-s name.
In that instant! on the cusp of wakin reality! al#anised by his own disco#ery! he reached a decision. secrecy was
futile. He would summon his brethren. *o matter what had happened to them! no matter what lories and
solemnities ten thousand years had inflicted upon them! he would summon them to his side! and he would reet
them with the &orona in his possession! so that they would know! without doubt ,:so Sahaal! &aptain of the *iht
'ords 'eion! chosen heir of the 2rimarch >onrad &ur5e! had returned from his slumber to claim his throne.
"ve ,ominus 1o&*
HE , THE G1E%T! the holier,than,thou! the Scoure of *amiito 4phidius! $eli#erer of the &la#iculus 7ltimatum! lord
hih,and,frain,mihty In/uisitor Ipo/r >austus , was waitin.
+ita half e"pected a red carpet.
That he had deined to lea#e the crystal towers of Steepletown and the comfortable decadence of the o#ernor-s
palace! that he Aand his retinue! of courseB had swarmed to the unfashionable depths of &uspseal! was an indication!
she reflected! of 8ust how much trouble she was in.
He recei#ed her in &ommander 4rodai-s /uarters! and where before she had faced him with the retinue circlin
behind! now they stood arraned around her! larin as she entered.
It was a little like steppin onto a stae.
She noted without much surprise that Sereant )aritens was standin to the left of 4rodai-s desk. 4f the nineteen
#indictors and two staff,dri#ers who had failed to return from the Steel Forest! she found it particularly allin that
he hadn-t been amonst them. $oubtiess he-d filled 4ro,dai-s head with tales of his own heroism and her , +ita-s ,
mistakes! leadin his men into a massacre. She could imaine the bureaucratic paper trail that followed. from here
all the way up to the in/uisitor himself,
3ho! she had #ery little doubt! had lost his temper.
+ita had been back in &uspseal for ten hours ,much of which had been dedicated to a futile attempt to sleep , and
with e"haustion clinin to e#ery fibre she was in no mood for yet another dressin down.
-Get it o#er with!= she said! not waitin to be addressed.
Se#eral of the retinue e"chaned lances. She-d be damned if she-d treat them to another dewy,eyed performance of
apoloy and supplication.
-I be your pardon;- said >austus! finers steepled. His features were once aain concealed within his mask! its loss
accentuated by his e"/uisite own of red webbin! and +ita met her own reflected a5e and held it! chin 8uttin
The e"ecution! in/uisitor!= she said! refusin to be cowed. -I-#e failed you twice. I went aainst your orders. I-m
responsible for the deaths of twenty,one of the Emperor-s loyal 2reafects and I ha#en-t any wish to be kept waitin
for summary e"e,-
-Sereant )aritens tells me that you ha#e identified the killer!=
The defiant bite,back she-d been preparin died in her mouth.
-3... what;-
>austus leaned forwards. -He speaks of an armoured warrior! interroator. He suests there is a... how did he put
it;... % living blasphemy at lare!=
Somethin a little like triumph planted tenuous roots in her belly.
-I,is that so! my lord;-
-It is. 3hat do you say to that! interroator;-
She lanced at )aritens! seekin confirmation of his collusion. The man-s eyes seemed fi"ated on the floor! wide
with child,like fascination. 'ike a sword of $amocles! descendin to puncture her scant shred of #ictory! a lon cord
of spittle parted company with his lip and spattered to the floor. +ita-s heart sunk.
-%s you can see!= >austus added! interruptin her before she could answer! -the ood sereant re/uired some...
calmin. He was almost rantin! the poor beast!=
-He-s been draed;-
>austus-s eyes limmered within the narrow slats of his mask.
-*ot /uite. 3e thouht it best to cleanse his mind ,and that of the sur#i#in dri#er , usin a more...- he wa#ed a
thouhtful hand! '...permanent method!=
'obotomisation. 3ith such impunity could an in/uisitor wipe away a man-s thouhts and memories.
-Is that to be my fate! my lord;- she scowled! prideful rebellion sputterin in her belly. -%nd &o-s; 4ur minds
stripped away because you refuse to belie#e the truth;-
For an instant! there was silence.
Then >austus mo#ed faster than her eye could follow! and with barely a hiss reisterin in her ears she found herself
spinnin in her place! the floor risin to meet her! cheek stinin. 3hen the lihts cleared from her eyes she found
the in/uisitor stood o#er her and she realised with a thrill that he-d struck her.
So much for the cool! collected In/uisitor >austus.
-(our insolence stops here! interroator!= he said! breathin hard. -%nd should I wish it I can command far worse
fates than mere lobotomy. This is your last warnin!=
-0,but why h,-
-3hy ha#e I erased the testimonies of the sereant and the dri#er; 7se your brain! child9 If what they say , if what
you say , is correct! then the taint is abroad!=
-So you belie#e me n,-
-I will not tolerate panic and rumour,monerin! is that clear; This is damae limitation! interroator. 0e rateful I
consider you capable of keepin secrets!= He returned to his seat! eyes lowered! addin /uietly! -and yes. (es! I
belie#e you!=
+ita tottered to her feet! di55ied. Such an uncharacteristic performance from the in/uisitor had prompted a chorus of
astonished thouht from the retinue! and +ita struled to shut out the psionic clamour.
-So!= >austus intoned! returnin to his broodin position with finers toyin at his pendant. -Tell me. 3hat manner
of corruption draws me so successfully from my Holy 3ork;- The boredom in his #oice was as theatrical as it was
palpable. % cult of the $ark 2owers; Some mutant animal! perhaps; 4r some tainted aristocrat! seekin thrills and
kills in the underhi#e;- He folded his arms. -Speak! child , I would know the aent of this... distra)tion.'
+ita s/uared her shoulders.
-It is a Traitor Space +arine! my lord!=
The retinue dissol#ed in a froth of abbled prayers and startled e"chanes , outrae clamourin with denial and
4nly >austus remained silent! and it was only +ita ,who rearded his reaction scrupulously , that noted
the tihtenin of his knuckles and the stiffenin of his spine.
His eyes burned into her! betrayin nothin.
-Impossible9- It was &ommander 4rodai who first summoned the ire re/uired to speak out! risin to his feet and
stabbin an infuriated finer at the floor. The #enom in his #oice astonished e#en +ita.
-I won-t listen to this9- the commander stormed! arms wa#in. -*o warpshit daemon e#er set foot inside my city! and
I won-t ha#e some slip of a witch suestin otherw,-
-It-s no daemon9- +ita interrupted! ore risin. -It-s a Spa)e %arine, you fool9 4ne of our own! fallen from the liht.
It-s more cunnin than any daemon9-
This is intolerable...- 4rodai turned to >austus with his cheeks burnin. -%re we to listen to these heresies all day;-
he snarled. -Silence your brat before I do it myself9-
He drew his pistol.
+ita-s heart skipped.
In the mist of her senses the psychic nebula of 4ro,dai-s mind turned black and red6 an uly bruise of murderous
intent. She staered away! a wardin hand raised. Her eyes tracked the commander-s fist with morbid absorption!
e#ery centimetre of the un-s slow ascension like a countdown to thick! endless niht.
-Ha#e a care! 4rodai!=
The #oice seemed to come from far away! and it took +ita-s re#ol#in senses an eternity to stabilise! to draw her
eyes away from the risin un! and to note the tip of a sword! paused centimetres short of prickin at 4rodai-s skin.
-It is unwise to issue orders to an in/uisitor!= said >austus tiredly! -or to threaten his flock!=
+ita hadn-t e#en seen him draw the blade.
-I... I...- 4rodai seemed torn between outrae and self,preser#ation! aner and terror 8ockeyin on the surface of his
thouhts. +ita allowed herself a tiny smirk! en8oyin his dilemma.
-4ne cannot trust the testimony of a mutant' the commander said carefully! tone le#elled to be as reasonable as
possible. The sword did not wa#er. -She-s probably in leaue with whate#er @taint@ she-s unco#ered! by the Throne9-
-% ra#e alleation!= >austus said. The blade stayed where it was.
4rodai eyed the in/uisitor alon the sword-s ede! lip curlin! and abruptly he seemed to sa! shoulders droopin.
-She-d brin down the wrath of the In/uisition on my world...- he said softly! his #oice almost plainti#e.
%aah...- >austus lowered the sword with a chuckle! slidin it into its sheath. -Suddenly it all becomes clear!= His
#oice was thick with amusement. (our ob8ection has more to do with your fear of me than of whate#er boeyman
my interroator has e"posed!=
4rodai rallied with the look of man determined to preser#e as much dinity as he could! thouh there was precious
little to sal#ae.
-(our oranisation-s reputation precedes it!= he snapped! finers /uestin for blemishes at his throat. -I-#e heard the
stories. 3orlds #irus,bombed on the strenth of a sinle rumour. 3hole populations wiped out for fear of one
heretic!= His 8aw tihtened. -I won-t trust the fate of my city to the word of... of...- he lanced across at +ita!
searchin for some sufficiently deroatory term! settlin finally for a derisi#e. 'that*
-*or!= said >austus! en8oyin e#ery moment! -would I!=
%nd riht on cue the retinue chuckled its #icious amusement. 4rodai re,holstered his un! mollified by the shared
ridicule of the psyker! the mutant! the wretched interroator.
+ita bowed her head and thouht. In shared )ruelty lies a))eptan)e , her own lesson! recalled time and time aain.
The Emperor loves me. The Emperor loves me. The Emperor loves me.
0itter comfort.
She acknowlede with a start that she despised them all! e#ery last one.
-So you don-t belie#e me!= she said! doin her best to inore the lauhter.
>austus seated himself aain and wa#ed an untroubled hand.
-Spare me your damaed pride!= he said. -I-#e already told you I belie#e you. Somethin is loose in the underhi#e and
it must be brouht to heel. There-s no /uestion of that!= He fi"ed her with a pointed look. -3hate#er that @somethin@
miht be!=
-+y lord9 I reconised the traitor-s heraldry9- Her #oice came almost as a whimper. -% faned skull! leather,wined
and homed! rampant aainst a field of lihtnin!=
>austus-s casual posture did not chane.
The mark of the *iht 'ords9- she shouted! furious at his tran/uillity. -I would not mistake it9 I-#e studied the
Insignium Tratoris+ I was 5ealous in memorisin such th,-
-(our schoolin is of no conse/uence! interroator. If readin ancient te"ts is the full measure of your wisdom then I
suspect your tenure with my retinue shall be #ery short!=
%nother uffaw from the mob! another burnin moment of shame and hatred.
-+y lord...- her #oice was /uiet! almost plainti#e. -(ou must belie#e me.
-&hild!= >austus preened at the slee#es of his robe! #oice sceptical! -if a heretic +arine is indeed at lare! perhaps
you could account for how it is that you , a mere interroator , were able to escape him;-
+ita opened her mouth.
%nd closed it aain.
In truth! she had barely been able to belie#e it herself. She had lashed out at the monster with an impetuous psychic
strike! a panicky assault without measure or hope of success. It was as if the *iht 'ord had been utterly
unprepared! not 8ust lackin in psychic defence but unaware that such a thin e#en e"isted. His mind had been like
that of a child! as if the #ery last thin he had e"pected to face was a psyker.
*ot the type of #ulnerability one identified with the Traitor 'eions.
-I... I don-t know my lord!= she muttered! beaten! -but I-m certain of the identifica,-
>austus silenced her with a sih.
That is beyond the point! interroator!= he rowled! lookin away with a dismissi#e wa#e. -3e thank you for your
report nonetheless. It shall be dealt with!=
She opened her mouth to remonstrate! to make him see sense! to scream and shout and #ent her frustration until her
throat bled! but >austus cut her short with a raised palm and a lare.
-It shall be dealt with!= he repeated. -0ut not by you!= He turned to face the retinue! crookin a finer to beckon forth
a solitary member. ',issimulus*
% man! whose name +ita did not know! stepped from the thron and turned to face him! dippin his head. +ita
instincti#ely dipped inside his mind! tastin the surface of his thouhts. )isually he seemed
unremarkable6 what few features his robe betrayed were a#erae , his ae was indeterminate! his hair cut to a
medium lenth! physically neither tall nor short. 'ittle wonder! +ita reflected! that she-d paid so little attention to
him. amonst the menaerie of personalities comprisin the retinue he was positi#ely mundane.
In the boilin ocean of his mind! howe#er! he was uni/ue.
*e#er before had +ita encountered such an indistinct anima. In a typical personality the fronds and tentacles of
outward thouht clustered at their roots around a solid core of ego@ that diamond,hard seed of identity that informed
all else! as a bitter stone informs the rowth of a peach. *ot so here. In the tormented mindscape of this plain man
no such centre e"isted! no nucleus of 'this(is(me' presented itself! and the one uniformity she could identify was a
lust! a desire! a )raving' thouh for what she could not say.
She withdrew with less information than she-d held before! and rearded the uninterestin fiure with a new sense of
caution. 3hat manner of human was unaware e#en of its own personality! its own ender! its own name;
-%pproach! child...- >austus said! and the man stepped forwards until he all but touched his master. >austus leaned
down towards him! and for one surreal instant +ita wondered if the in/uisitor planned to kiss him! irrespecti#e of
his mask. %t the last instant he di#erted his face towards the fiure-s ear and there! loomin o#er like some ancient
ore! he whispered his secret plans.
If the rest of his acolytes felt any 8ealousy at this preferential treatment! or frustration at bein so e"cluded! e#en
their thouhts failed to betray them. +ita alone
struled with her annoyance! consumed by somethin that bore all the uly hallmarks of en#y.
She was the interroator. She was the in/uisitor-s second. She had found the enemy! and this was her reward , to be
ridiculed and e"cluded; This was the lory she-d pursued;
%nd then the nameless man broke away from >aus,tus-s clinch and was one! walkin from 4rodai-s office without
a backward lance. The in/uisitor lanced at his remainin disciples and barked a surly -dismissed-! and +ita
imained that he paused as his eyes passed hers and somethin dark! some shadow of malice! shifted minutely in the
laoons of his irises.
She left &uspseal alonside the rest of the retinue! returnin to Steepletown with resentment cloudin her mind! and
with e#ery breath she cursed her master-s name for not belie#in her! for not takin her seriously! for not seemin
troubled. There was a &haos +arine loose in the hi#e! by the Emperor-s tears! and he seemed no more bothered than
had he found a fly in his drinkin rail.
+ita watched him! and brooded and seethed! and did nothin.
THE *E?T +41*I*G! installed once more in the drab en#elope of her meditation cell! she awoke to the knockin of a
ser#itor,herald! pompously dressed in ermine and satin. She recei#ed its monotone messae half awake! unashamed
of her nakedness before a creature so de#oid of emotion! and slammed the door 8ust a little too loudly as it left.
>austus had once more re/uested her presence.
She prepared to 8oin him with all the usual sures of apprehension and frustration that his beckons always entailed!
and spent se#eral flustered minutes
considerin what to wear. It was as if the turmoil of the pre#ious days had ne#er occurred and she was reduced once
more to panickin o#er how best to secure his respect. She hated herself for such meaninless e"actitude as fussily
choosin her costume! but was ensla#ed to it nonetheless.
&o slept on the floor beside her simple palette! and she stepped o#er him to rummae in her luae without e#en
attemptin stealth. Ha#in noted her dismal mood! he-d come to her cell the niht before with child,like words of
comfort! and she-d allowed him to sleep on the floor beside her palette with uilty ratitude , there was someone in
the ala"y! at least! who liked her. She knew from past e"perience that nothin short of a blow to the head would
wake him from his contented slumber! so she left him to it and ot on with the business of dressin. She bean by
shruin on a scarlet robe with white and old filiree at its seams. nothin too ostentatious! but fittinly colourful
for the hi#e-s upper tiers. In these decorous corridors and it was the audiest and most patterned who went
unnoticed! and the drab who attracted the most attention.
Today! attention was somethin she could do without.
To her reat relief the retinue was absent when she reached >austus-s chambers. He stood amonst a ale of
macabre ser#itor,attendants and skull,drones! meticulously fastenin his power armour and layerin his manificent
robes. 7p until the moment that a ho#erin arcocherub , a baby-s corpse riddled with preser#ati#e machinery and
coitation enines , settled his mask o#er his tusked features! he appeared utterly bored by the whole procedure.
Inored in the doorway! +ita found herself reflectin upon how differently he wore his armour to the fiend
that stalked her nihtmares! that blue!=black monstrosity from the underhi#e. %s an alumnus of the In/uisitorial
scholastia she knew more than most about the elaborate bioloical chanes that the warriors of the %deptus %startes
, the Emperor-s Space +arines , underwent. Such thins were shrouded in mysticism! and the mere knowlede that
each +arine started life as a lowly human marked her as the recipient of pri#ileed secrets. *onetheless! the
specifics of such alterations were beyond her! and she had imained that! like >austus! such warriors wore their
armour as she wore a cloak. the fastenins more comple"! perhaps! the fabric more arcane! but -clothin-
%nd yet the *iht 'ord had mo#ed like his armour was his skin6 unencumbered! his mo#ement recallin li/uid in its
smooth! roilin reactions.
&ompared to that shadowed fiure >austus-s motions abruptly seemed cumbersome! and +ita mar#elled to find
herself so unimpressed by him where pre#iously she had thouht him awesome.
-+y lord!= she said! announcin herself. The flock of ser#itors dispersed /uietly! their task complete! and +ita
noticed with charin that her master too had chosen a scarlet and white ensemble! albeit far rander than her own.
-Interroator. Good!=
-(ou sent for me! my lord;-
-I did. I-#e decided it-s safer to keep you where I can see you. I think we shall spend the day toether!=
He sounded almost cheery. +ita feined a smile.
G4)E1*41 :%G1IF S7121ISE$ +ita by bein neither old! corpulent! sinister or pompous. She-d met a small but
illustrati#e number of Imperial commanders on other
worlds! and in her e"perience the post bred one of either melancholia or mealomania. To a psyker! such thins
were as palpable as irth! heiht or clothin! and she failed to detect either in Imperial &ommander &in,na#ar
He was skinny and short! dressed entirely in white. %s she and >austus approached his straiht,backed throne!
flanked by bron5e combat ser#itors like toy soldiers! he rearded her with a watery,eyed e"pression of pleasure.
$warfed beneath the #ast heraldry of a familial tapestry , crossed sword and sceptre upon a dappled ice,field!
crested by a crescent moon and a rin of stars , he seemed the #ery opposite of authoritati#e. +ita-s e"pectations
were utterly confounded. amonst them all the one thin she had failed to anticipate was a softly spoken man of her
own ae! with an astral presence that was profoundly dull. 3hen his subconscious flickered a brief tendril of lechery
towards her it came almost as a relief.
->austus9- he e"claimed! risin with an outstretched- hand. 4)hat news from the deepest darkest depths;- He iled
at his own alliteration! like a child recitin a nursery rhyme.
To +ita-s astonishment >austus returned the handshake.
-*othin troublesome! &inna#ar.-
+ita almost choked. The o#ernor didn-t notice.
-Good! ood!= He lanced towards her. -%nd who is this; % consort! perhaps;- He nuded >austus mischie#ously -I
thouht better of you9-
+ita held her breath! waitin for the in/uisitor to chop the man in two for his insolence. 3hen he merely chuckled
and wa#ed the insinuation aside! she was left wonderin if it was she! or he! who had one insane.
-I-m afraid not! &inna#ar. This is my interroator!=
+ita bowed formally! doin her best to inore the smo of promiscuity ebbin from the o#ernor-s mind. It was one
thin to suspect someone of undressin you with their eyes but /uite another to share the e"perience.
-%nd to what do we owe mis pleasure;- The o#ernor rubbed his hands! eyes flittin to meet the in/uisitor-s. -Is she
here to help us with the lock;-
For an instant , a sinle horrific moment , +ita felt >austus-s emotion. 3here before he had presented a solid ball of
impenetrable thouht! impossible for her to e"amine or in#ade! abruptly his defences fell! and what boiled beneath
was rage.
0ut it was only an instant! as sudden as it was intense! and his mind , whate#er had caused it to fle" so #enomously ,
was once more locked away beneath layers of self control.
-*o!= he said.
%nd was that a blush of uilt swellin on the o#ernor-s psyche; Had he said somethin he shouldn-t ha#e; +ita rit
her teeth at the uncertainties! the secrets. Somethin was oin on here! somethin she knew nothin about. 3hat
was -the lock-;
-Fine!= the o#ernor said! strulin to seem dismissi#e. -Good! ood!=
-I thouht the interroator miht appreciate a #iew of your collection!= >austus said! #oice tiht. @That is all!=
The o#ernor nodded with the look of a man who has narrowly escaped an unpleasant fate! and estured towards a
set of painted doors to one side. -0,by all means. 2lease. 0y all means!=
+ita found herself rearded by o#ernor and in/uisitor alike.
-+y lord;- she said.
Throuh there!= >austus runted! noddin at the doors.
She pushed them open with a strane sense of forebodin! feelin like some performin animal! and found herself
on a narrow bride! enclosed on all sides by thick plasple". E#en throuh the ice and settled snow that patterned the
tunnel-s outer surfaces she could see that the causeway stretched between the hi#e-s central peak , in which the
throneroom skulked , and a lesser tower! risin parallel from the shadowed depths. She crossed the abyss with a
lurch of nausea! horrified at the #ertiinous chasm below her feet! and it was only >austus-s /uiet footsteps at her
heel that kept her from cryin out! or clinin to the handrail for her life.
The tunnel ended in a second set of doors and! with an impatient nod from her master! she pushed her way throuh.
%nd stopped.
In all of the palace , a ma5e of 8ewelled stairways and i+ricately frescoed chapels! cloistered archways hun with
tapestries of spun old and elaborate conresia sportin sculptures of alabaster and ony" , it was difficult to imaine
encounterin anythin that miht shatter the atmosphere of perpetual! unyieldin opulence. *onetheless! +ita
stepped throuh the painted doorway and felt her knees weaken.
The o#ernor has a fondness for curios!= >austus muttered! in e"planation.
It was like a allery. % ba5aar. % treasure tro#e. %nd it was vast.
There were windows markin the entire periphery. Tiny reinforced portals! perhaps! but windows nonetheless. a
subtle symbol of wealth which implied this one chamber! this circular ca#ern with its sky,blue
dome and pearlescent columns! stretched the entire diameter of its tower.
%nd within it;
She-d ne#er seen such measures. %t close inter#als! raised on sil#er plinths and bordered by briht illuminators! the
o#ernor-s collection of anti/uities and #aluables could ha#e easily held her spellbound for weeks. 0ooks!
archeotech! pictslates! sculptures! pickled beasts! 8ewels! anti/ues... %t e#ery anle there stood some priceless rarity!
some article of unthinkable #alue! and +ita-s blood raced to see them all. She tottered forwards as if drunk! and
e"tended a hand towards a nearby e"hibit , a reat emerald containin at its heart the shadowy form of a tiny li5ard.
-*o touchin!= >austus chided behind her! like a parent slappin his child-s wrists. % lo#ed finer estured #auely
upwards! drawin her eye towards the ceilin. Set in a wide rin around the plinth! like spotlihts with narrow
apertures! a be#y of lasuns lared down upon her! crude ser#os trackin e#ery mo#ement. %t their centre! like some
rotes/ue trophy displayed at the heart of a spider-s web! a disembodied human head fi"ed its baleful eyes , lon
since replaced by compound optics , upon the tip of her outstretched hand.
-Security ser#itors!= >austus shrued! #oice bored. +ita noted without surprise , and only a small shi#er of
re#ulsion , that similar effiies! rottin flesh hanin from slack bones! a5ed down upon each and e#ery item in
:arif s collection.
She pulled back her hand slowly! uncomfortably aware of the machine intellience abo#e. %t some arbitrary point
its attention seemed to dwindle! as if no loner 8udin her a threat! and the lasuns returned to a neutral spread with
a soft hiss.
-Effecti#e!= she said! controllin her #oice.
She turned towards the remainder of the room! her eyes drawn towards an accumulation of spotlihts on one side!
and a dais hiher than any other. She took a step towards it! curious! and stopped.
Somethin uncoiled in her brain like a reat spider! scuttlin between uncertainties! and she knew.
-He-s here...- she whispered! fists clenchin! head 8erkin from left to riht! seekin that hunched shape! that
midniht form! those burnin red eyes.
-3hat did you say;- >austus said! his #oice so close to her ear that she 8umped.
-H,he-s here9 The *iht 'ord9 I feel him9 He-s in here9-
%nd then somethin sharp tued aainst the fabric of her arm! and before she could limpse down to see what had
punctured her skin the lihts of the allery dimmed in her eyes! the sky,blue dome clouded o#er! and her
consciousness spiralled away.
:so S%H%%' S%T upon a throne of fur and bone! armoured finers steepled before him! and brooded on past and
Tomorrow he would strike. % uildhall! perhaps or some other %dministratum stronhold some communicatory
centre where the Imperial fools would keep their mutant sla#es.
It had been the witch that had i#en him the idea. +utants and sla#es... (es.
That was tomorrow. The future. The first step upon a road to redemption.
%s for the past! as for that swirl of #iolence and chaos that had brouht him here! to this smo,thick place6 as for the
madness that left him seated in darkness upon a throne of bone6 as for yesterday...
THE( H%$ &%11IE$ him.
Followin the battle of the Steel Forest the tribe had lifted him from the debris where the witch had struck
him down! placed him carefully on a litter! and borne him up to their secret platforms amonst the canopies of the
heat #ents.
In retrospect the treatment was as allin as it was comfortin. True! he found himself amonst a community that
would o to any lenth to keep him from harm... but to be so manhandled , and by de#otees of the withered
Emperor! no less9 Sahaal had awoken with a suppressed shi#er of disust at the thouht.
0ut then! his memories were thick with uliness already.
The witch! the witch... She had struck him to the floor with a sinle fle" of her powers! like a bomb between his
eyes! and he shi#ered that such a sliht bein should hold such power o#er him. The witch. The bit)h. He had not
e"pected to face psykers.
Steelin himself , disruntled by the need to sink so low , he breathed a reluctant prayer to the $ark Gods. The
ruinous powers had always been allies to his cause , enemies of his enemies! but ne#er his friends , and e#en now!
when he needed their patronae! he shi#ered at the prospect of openly courtin their in#ol#ement. If the deities of
the warp resented his reluctance they a#e no sin of it6 within instants a dark stirrin played at the ede of his
He would not be unprepared for the witch a second time.
Had the Imperium truly fallen so far from its much,#aunted liht durin his absence; Had the &arrion God truly
allowed such de#iants to enter his ser#ice uno#erned; Sahaal could hardly despise the impurity of mutation , the
ods to whom he had 8ust appealed thri#ed on such thins! after all , but it was a needle of hypocrisy that fed his
hatred nonetheless. The mutant stood for e#erythin the Imperium
re#iled , impurity! uncertainty! #ulnerability! )orruptibility ( and yet here they were! put to work! de#ils made useful.
Cust another sin of the Emperor-s weakness. %nother symptom of his unsuitability for deification.
How lon before these psykers too were made scapeoats! blamed for actions that were both sanctioned and
encouraed! 8ust as Sahaal-s master had been;
h, my master...
>onrad &ur5e. The *iht Haunter. The Shadowed +artyr. %ntecedent of the &orona *o". Sahaal breathed his
mentor-s names with choked re#erence and! as e#er! found himself calmed and anered in e/ual parts.
3e shall repay their insult yet!= he whispered! #oice lost to the darkness of his helm.
He returned his thouhts to the witch! fle"in his finers introspecti#ely. She had tasted his thouhts. She could find
him aain , of that he had no doubt. She had known what he was.
%nd he! e/ually! had seen her true self.
She had worn it embla5oned on her collar! a thin so inconspicuous he had barely noticed it at the time! and only in
the fo of enforced sleep had the symbol come to the fore of his mind. an embroidered T! bisected three times by
bars of black and sil#er! with a tiny skull fashioned at the cru" of the central bar.
The In/uisition. Huntin him. He had no time for such distractions.
% day had since passed! and the Shadowkin lair within the Steel Forest had been deserted at his command. &enturies
of tradition! lon decades of territorial security! had perished in the instant it had taken him to shru and announce.
-3e mo#e!= The witch had escaped! and that meant the In/uisition
would return. They must lea#e at once! he knew! and seek refue in a place better suited to repel attack.
%nd the Shadowkin! his dismal little allies! had not complained once. 4#ertly.
%nd yes! his moti#es were pure6 yes! the mo#e was necessary6 yes! the an would be pured if they did not lea#e.
0ut still he could hear the mutters in the shadows! he could taste the resentment of his flock! he could feel their
worship wane. &ondemnitor &hianni had not sur#i#ed the battle! and with her leadership lost his rip upon his
miniature empire had rown tenuous indeed.
He took them into the deep! lea#in behind only a ale of scouts to watch o#er their former domain. He led them
into those boundless wastelands he had e"plored in his first days within the hi#e! into the foetid swamp5ones where
the heat of the planet warmed the air and sulphur bubbled across the pools. In these smo,thick ca#erns he prowled
before them! eschewin the snakin cara#ans that trekked at his heel and the thron that san de#otional sons to
raise their spirits... %nd also muttered! always muttered! when they thouht he could not hear.
There was no place deeper than this.
He brouht them to where the hulk of a drillin behemoth pitched like a rusted island from the slude of an oily
ocean! lost to the shadows. He uessed that at one time it had du these basins and ca#es! these rustmud ca#erns! a
swarm of humanity buildin and settlin in its wake. %nd here it had faltered , perhaps blunted by its labours or else
merely forotten! with none carin to settle so deep , and rotted in its own fuel! drowned in the snow that its
e"ertions had melted! with only its massi#e loins rearin from its caldera like a tombstone.
Here Sahaal had hidden his cache of weapons and ammunition! and here he brouht his children! his black,draped
tribe! on their e"odus from the Steel Forest.
The Shadowkin crossed the thick waters and tried to inore the sil#ery fronds that mo#ed in the deep! and settled
upon the island without comment. Their lord had won a reat #ictory! he had dri#en the heretic interlopers from
their cherished lands , why then must they lea#e those lands behind; 3hy must they come to this blihted place;
%nd in low #oices! in muffled hisses that they didn-t dare imaine he could hear! they asked. How was he struck
down so easily by the witch; 3as he not supposedly mihty; &ould he not ha#e crushed her with ease;
Sahaal issued two tasks to his tribe! before e#en they hunted and fed their children. The first was that they dispatch
scouts into the shadows! to listen to rumour and collect ossip! and to brin to him the man named Slake. He
commanded this without e"planation! and those warriors thus selected scattered into the niht without /uestion.
His second command was that they build him a throne.
For all that he considered his command abo#e dissent! Sahaal was no fool! and as his tribe worked with bone and ra
to fashion a fittin seat for their lord! their prayers seemed muted! their prostrations halfhearted! and their an"ious
lances of fear betrayed the simmerin lut of resentment. Sahaal took it all in and stored it away! but could not
brin himself to be troubled. The *iht 'ords commanded obedience! not affection! and whether these scum liked
him or not was irrele#ant. They would do what he told them! and that was enouh.
They built the throne from the crippled spars of the reat dier! sealed in impro#ised fores! and co#ered the seat in
furs of black and brown. The arms and back they topped with stolen bones and teeth6 a skull upon each hand
pommel and freshly,taken heads , those of slain #indictors they had brouht with them ,mounted on spines abo#e
die whole. Sahaal found their rim iconoraphy ratifyin. they! like his ancient 'eion! understood the power of
morbidity and the fear that went alon with it. That they de#oted their ruesome trophies to the lory of the Emperor
was the one sour note in an otherwise pleasin practice.
He ascended his throne with no small measure of pride! and as the Shadowkin dispersed to tend to their own needs
he lost himself in the memories of lories that had lon since passed! ne#er once pausin to consider the
dissatisfaction of his people.
4* TS%G7%'S%! THE )arrion world, the ?egion had raised a pala)e for its lord.
#e had gathered his )aptains together, and they )ame with a fleet of bladed prows and bitter warriors, skulls dis(
played at belt and shoulder, s)riptures )rossed through with bloody ink.
#orus was dead. The heresy that had looked ready to rip the bloated Imperium apart had ground to a halt. The
?egions that had turned from the Emperor and sided instead with 6haos, that boiling fount of madness and
disorder, were s)attered@ li)king their wounds, bemoaning their losses, running for their lives.
1ot so the 1ight ?ords*
"lone amongst them all, the 1ight #aunter's )ontempt for his father had outdated, and outlasted, the rebellion. The
Emperor's favoured son #orus had )orrupted the other dark ?egions, pouring poison upon their primar)hs with
whispers and sweet promises, but not so to the 1ight #aunter. 1ot to 2onrad 6ur.e. He had seen his father for what
he was long before. #e had )hosen 6haos as a tool (as an ally ( but was not sedu)ed by it. "nd when #orus was )ut
down, when the other Traitor ?egions were shattered, when distant Terra was liberated and the Emperor tri(
umphant, had the 1ight ?ords fled4 #ad they yelped in fear and skulked into the gloom to fight amongst themselves,
as had the others4
1o. 1o, not they.
Their primar)h unleashed them, he fed them the fear they yearned, and on Tsagualsa he )alled them to his side, and
showed them his pala)e.
It was built of bodies' still living, fused at broken ;oint and sli)ed skin, knotted around )oiling vertebrae and
disse)ted sinews.
In the s)reaming gallery, where a )arpet of moaning fa)es rose in broad steps ( writhing spines and )lut)hing
fingers shivering along every edge ( the ,ark ?ord re)eived his )aptains with a bow.
#e was naked, but for a )loak of bla)k feathers, and had never been more magnifi)ent. Sahaal and his brothers
dropped to their knees and hailed him' their father, their master, their lord, their ,ominus 1o&.
#e regarded ea)h in turn, and to ea)h he nodded on)e, a feral ;olt of re)ognition, like a wolf regarding its pa)k. "ll
of them were there' Quissa& 2ergai, %aster of the "rmoury, whose s)ouring of the ?auneus forgeworld had
)rippled the loyalists of the Trigonym se)tor. 3yridium Silvadi, ?ord of the 0leet, who had routed the flotilla of
"dmiral 2o'u)h and bombarded the /avenguard for five days before they )ould retreat, unsupported, like the
)owards they were. Even 2oor %ass, en)ased now in the sleek shell of a dreadnought, its every surfa)e de)orated
with flayed skin, had deigned to attend his master's audien)e.
There was one other who Sahaal noted amongst the menagerie, and he avoided that one's ga.e, finding his )oun(
tenan)e distasteful. 2rieg ")erbus, youngest of the #aunter's )aptains, in)al)ulably vast and swollen with pendants
and gory souvenirs of his works, leant on the shaft of his great powera&e and smiled with insolemn pleasure at his
master's attention.
Sahaal ignored the giant's smirking features and )on)entrated instead upon his lord, resplendent upon a throne of
obsidian and silver.
The 1ight #aunter paused to gather his thoughts, drawing his feathered )loak around him like a great )row folding
its wings ( and then he spoke.
#e told them of his bitter )rusade. #e told them of his hate for the traitor(Emperor who had turned upon him
without warning or honour@ a hate that burned bright and un)fuen)hed, but as patient as time itself. #e told them
that they, his )hildren, his dark warriors, his prefe)ts of fear personified, were ea)h worth a do.en of any loyalist
%arine, with 'purity' on their ignorant lips and devotion in their hollow, hypo)riti)al souls.
#e told them that they would have their revenge upon the withered god, and they )heered in the shadows of the
writhing mausoleum and )lashed their gauntlets against their breasts in ;oy.
"nd then he drew breath and told them he was going to die, and their ;oy )rumbled like ash.
S%H%%' 1ET71*E$ T4 the present in the shiftin smo of the rustmud swamplands in a bleak mood! his master-s
morbid promise rinin throuh his mind. +ore than e#er the need for action! for some palpable sense of ain!
burned throuh his brain. The bitterness of the *iht Haunter was a patient force! but his fury was far sharper and
his discipline far youner. 3hat did all this
broodin achie#e; 3hat must he do; How must he act;
Seated amonst his tattered ras! :so Sahaal found himself di55ied by a rush of panic and impatience! surin in his
uts! callin him to action! to #iolence! to murder.
It was not a wise time to approach him with a protest.
THE1E 3E1E T34. youn Shadowkin standin close enouh to each other to beuay their ner#ousness. They would not
ha#e undertaken their /uiet rebellion alone! and so like children clutchin for the comfort of their parents! they had
come toether.
The first was a man in his twenties! sha#en,headed and tattooed! whose circlet of shattered ribs and banles of
beaded finer bones marked him out as a fine warrior. 3here an older man miht ha#e leaned upon a staff this
youth clutched at a hea#y #olume of Imperial scripture like a lifeline! as if no harm could befall him so lon as he
touched its battered surface.
His companion was a woman of similar ae! hair dyed purple and blue! swept back from her skull like a teardrop!
whose black cloak danled with stolen scalps! hands crooked around a tall rifle. % sniper! then , another warrior of
the tribe.
Two fools! staerin into the presence of their lord to reister their dissent! each silently prayin that the other
would speak first. Sahaal watched them without mo#ement. He knew how to deal with insubordination.
-+y lord;- the woman said after a lon pause! unsure whether he was awake. -+,my lord! may we address you;-
Sahaal let the silence roll! en8oyin their s/uirms.
-+aster! we seek an audience...- the man said! prostratin himself beside his fellow.
-Speak!= Sahaal #o"ed finally! en8oyin the thrill of horror that passed across their faces.
%ain! the woman found her ner#e first.
-+,my lord! we... 3e are unsure of this place. The hunters ha#e found little to eat and the tribe is hunry. 3,we...-
she faltered! lancin at the man for support.
@3e don-t understand why you-#e brouht us here!= he said! the accusation firm in his #oice. E3e don-t understand
what you intend for us. %re we to continue our holy pures! or...-
-4r do you ha#e some new task for us;- the woman-s #oice too rew more confident with each word. -3e... we
would understand your wishes.-
%n uncomfortable silence settled. Sahaal decided to probe the depths of this dissatisfaction! impressed by their
-Ha#e I not i#en command!= he said! -that the man named Slake be brouht to me;-
-(,yes my lord! but,-
-Ha#e I not i#en command that the tribe fortify itself;-
(ou ha#e! but,-
-Ha#e I not led you when leadership was needed! and commanded you when command was re/uired;-
@(ou ha#e! my lord!=
He stood and raised the #olume of his #o"caster! towerin abo#e them.
-3hy then! thrice,damned! do you stand before me to /uestion my orders*'
7-e mean no insult! lord9- It was almost a s/ueal. E3e only seek to understand9 The tribe is uncertain9-
In that instant! with the woman-s silent limpse into the shadows! Sahaal rasped the manitude of his
problem. This pair were not operatin alone! he saw! not a protestin minority amonst a whole. *o! they were
representati#es , reat warriors elected to present the clan-s discontent to its leader.
'<reysight,' Sahaal whispered! and aain the lenses of his eyes bla5ed with manified acuity! penetratin the
shadows. %nd yes... yes! there they were. the elders and the younsters! the women and children and warriors of the
tribe! all of them athered to listen beyond the circle of liht around the throne! all of them hunry for answers.
His rule was not as secure as he had thouht.
He needed the tribe.
3hat heresy is this;- he roared! brandishin his claws. -3hat filth is this9-
The two warriors shi#ered on the floor and he ad#anced towards them! step by murderous step.
3hat pitiful circumstance has brouht me to you* The whole hi#e is lost to the dark! the population corrupted by the
taint! and this is my army; These are my loyal crusaders;- He spread his arms and addressed the dark ceilin of the
ca#ern! theatrical e#en in his rae. -% tribe of disloyal fools and simperin traitors9 % mob who re8ect the word of
the Emperor-s chosen because they do not understand it3
He shrieked the words until the ca#ern shuddered and! oh , it hurt to claim such a link to the withered od! but...
0ut oh! it was deli)ious to see such terror in their eyes.
->neel9- he bellowed! and the youn warriors obeyed without thouht.
He would kill them! he resol#ed. He would behead them so the entire an could watch! and all of them would know
the price of dis/uiet! the conse/uence of insolence. They would obey him! or face his wrath.
It was an ineleant ultimatum , he knew that as soon as he decided it. He needed the Shadowkin as his allies , the
reco#ery of the &orona depended upon it ,and if he must kill nine in e#ery ten to secure the obedience of those that
remained! his army would be small indeed.
0ut there was no other choice! no option but to let fly his rae! to hack off these two heads , and any other that dared
/uestion him.
(es. It was necessary.
%nd secredy! silently! a dark portion of his mind iled to itself and said. 8es, yes, make your e&)uses... ,eny that
you )herish the slaughter... <eddle your pretend(honour as mu)h as you like.
It will do you no good, 1ight ?ord.
8ou're a monster. "nd you know it.
He raised his claws and felt the silence of e"pectation. a hundred eyes reardin him from the shadows! a hundred
asps burnin in his ears. The condemned warriors moaned low in their throats! and,
%nd a commotion arose across the still waters! faint lihts wendin their way towards the distant shore.
It was the scouts Sahaal had left in the Steel Forest! and with his #ision sharpened he could see they were carryin a
It was &ondemnitor &hianni! and as the rafts slunk out from the rusted island to return her to her tribe! her fe#ered
moans rose in #olume to echo throuh the swamps.
-H,hail9- she yowled! delirious. -Hail the Emperor-s anel9-
It was like a shaft of liht! strikin Sahaal in his moment of rae. His thin lips curled in a smile and slowly!
banishin that secret #oice to the rear of his mind! he sheathed his claws.
4bedience could be secured throuh loyalty as well as terror. Sahaal-s master had understood that.
&ondemnitor &hianni was loyal to him. They were loyal to her. It was not a comple" manipulation.
-0ehold the Emperor-s mercy9- Sahaal said! in#entin wildly. -He spares those that are wise! and offers redemption to
those who are not!= He wa#ed the condemned warriors away! returnin to his throne.
'"ve Imperator3 filtered across the waters! &hianni-s plainti#e cry repeatin o#er and o#er.
(ou should listen to your leader!= Sahaal said to the warriors- retreatin backs! repressin a chuckle at his own ood
fortune. -She is far wiser than you!=
HE1 'EG H%$ been peppered by shrapnel from the e"plosion! and her throat crushed by an ineleant swipe of a
#indictor-s maul. 3hen her bearers reached the foot of his throne she nonetheless insisted upon standin! staerin
as best she could to kneel before him.
-+y lord!= she croaked! #oice fore#er chaned by the bruise across her neck! -I am laddened to see you. I feared the
worst when I awoke to find the tribe one!= Her eyes blinked with 8oyful tears. -Emperor be praised that they , and
you , are safe!=
Sahaal was uncomfortable with such unrestrained warmth! and struled to find an answer. The con,demnitor-s
return to the Shadowkin had effected an almost miraculous transformation6 all their sullen,ness and suspicion
crumblin upon itself! becomin de#otion once more. It was as if they had been waitin to ha#e their 5eal directed!
as if their obeisance was without /uestion but! lackin an interface! had become cold and bitter. *one of them had
relished facin their demiod master themsel#es! and only #ia
the mediatin presence of their leader could they direct their eneries.
0y the mere art of worshippin him! &ondemnitor &hianni had abruptly become his most #ital resource. He
breathed a thankful prayer to the spirit of his master for returnin her to his side in his moment of need.
-1est!= he instructed her! acceptin her raspin supplications without any outward display of charin. -1estore your
He raised his #oice so that the whole island could hear him! chillin tones like a breath upon the air. -3e must all
restore our strenth!= he announced! pullin the robes of the throne around him once more. Tomorrow... tomorrow
we strike a blow for the Emperor-s lory9-
%nd this time there was no mutterin! no dark e"chanes of lances! no uncertainty in the Shadowkin response.
This time they cheered.
SHE 3%S $1E%+I*G! and that was the one comfort she could take. that no matter how awful! how sickenin! how
wretched! the thins she witnessed were only the product of her own mind! and owed nothin to reality.
There was a procession , that was the first detail that came upon her. a train of walkin fiures dressed in black
cloaks! arisin from the nothinness of her sleep like specks of oil! consolidatin into fiures that mo#ed and sun.
'eanin upon narled canes! they chanted in mantra,like harmony! steppin in time like a slow,motion army.
Her perspecti#e shifted! widenin its net! and a hi#e,shell starport opened up below her6 hanars and towers 8ostlin
amonst baro/ue pylons and sweepin launch,pads! where fat shutdes sulked amonst chantin techpriests! blessed
and maintained simultaneously. Here the temperature dipped! sub8ect to the fro5en whimsy of the storms that raed
beyond the openin in
the hi#e-s shell. Here! alone in all the city! a hi#er could bra#e the snow and catch a limpse , cloud,shrouded and as
dark as coal! but a limpse nonetheless , of the sky.
%t the end of a broad concourse! where would,be passeners throned and shouted and complained! rotes/ue
ser#itor drones danled from ceilin 8oists like flies in webs of steel! needle,arms checkin documents! uncarin
eyes assessin passeners for concealed weapons! sins of disease! or whate#er other arbitrary criteria they chose.
Those that passed their capricious test hurried throuh ferrocrete arches towards the shuttles! whilst those that failed
backed away in silent horror! split from their lo#ed ones and destitute! all their funds wasted on the price of a sinle
re8ected ticket. Such wretches would in#ariably wind up dead! or else filter their way into the underhi#e where all
the other dispossessed clamoured for warmth. 0ut there could be no protest here! not beneath the a5e of the
#indictors who straddled the entry ates and perched within turrets to either side of the concourse! helmed a5es
sur#eyin the sullen crowd for the slihtest infraction. The dried blood on the round was silent testament to the
e"tent of their #iilance.
%monst the crowds the procession of black cloaks marched like a shadow! and +ita-s slumberin mind aain
wafted past! intriued! wonderin at their rele#ance. 3ell accustomed to the psychic insanity of prediction trances!
with their e"cesses of colour and sound! to her this dreary #ision could hardly be considered noteworthy. She
wondered #auely what it sinified and scolded herself for such unfounded superstition. 0eyond the realms of the
psychic trance a dream was 8ust that , a dream. no more meaninful
than a random scatterin of imaes! drawn toether in an appro"imation of narrati#e.
0ut still... There was somethin not riht here! in this fantasy #ision...
Somethin that ;arred...
+ita had arri#ed upon E/ui"us as part of the In/uisitorial cara#an! and was therefore recei#ed at the uppermost of
the hi#e-s three starports. So reat was the polarity between that tran/uil ma5e of incense,shrouded lounes and this
brutal compound that e#ery detail shocked her! e#ery petty act of re8ection burned into her mind. Such was the
reality of hi#e life , on e#ery tier! a different world , but she had ne#er witnessed the place laid out below her in the
flesh. 3hy then had her slumberin brain chosen to imaine it! to fabricate its minutae as part of a dream;
The procession of cloaked fiures 8oined the rear of the windin /ueue.
For a moment +ita had wondered whether she had somehow slipped into the 0uror "r)anum, studyin the strands
of future possibility! but no. such #isions were fat with fantasy6 abstractions that re/uired interpretation rather than
humdrum #isions such as this.
There was only one other option.
&ould it be that her astral self had left its body; &ould it be that these #isions were neither dream nor fantasy nor
future possibility! but presently occurrin e#ents; &ould it be that she was remotely #iewin thins as they
4f the four ma8or disciplines practised in the scholastia psykana! she had always considered herself primarily a
pre)ognitor , obser#in the whimsy of the warp to determine future e#ents , and had occasionally employed her
talents as an empathitor , skimmin emotion and thouht from the minds of those around
her. E#en in the field of animus motus , telekinesis! the most physically drainin of all , she had some small natural
talent... but in masterin the role of pro)ulitor, the remote #iewer! she had failed dismally.
It was a discipline that carried its own risks! and was best suited to those without the distraction of other talents.
allowin one-s astral form to roam free was to e"pose it to any male#olent force within the warp that paid an
interest. +ita had tried it only once! durin her first year at the scholastia! and had been informed by the rim,faced
adept,tutors that her mind was too ordered! too an"ious! too uptight, to enender success. The discipline re/uired the
ability to un,focus! to rela" , but to maintain a careful #eneer of security nonetheless.
&ould it be that in her present state , slumberin! surfin on an ebb of dreams and fantasies , her mind had allowed
itself to rela" enouh to break free;
%nd that it was therefore #ulnerable to attack;
3ith an"iety risin! choosin caution o#er curiosity! she tried to wake.
%nd could not.
2anic ripped her then! and as if from a reat distance she remembered bein in Go#ernor :arifs allery of
treasures. She remembered the short stab of pain aainst her arm and slowly! with the certainty rowin! she realised
what was happenin.
She had been drued.
She had been knocked out like some misbeha#in beast! shreddin her defences and her disciplines and now , now!
when she needed the ability to awake like ne#er before , she found herself trapped! ineffectual6 rela"ed to the point
that she had been pluned into a discipline that she had ne#er been tauht to master.
Her warp,a5e had elected to show her somethin! and she was powerless to decline.
E#en as her astral form fle"ed in aitation the crowds below her bean to shriek. The dreamscape ha5e turned
bloody red and the phalan" of paradin fiures threw back the folds of their black cloaks to e"pose weapons held
aainst their chests! and opened fire.
This! then! was what her senses had brouht her here to see.
It was a massacre.
The attackers concentrated! where they could! upon the #indictor sentries , pressin superior numbers aainst them
before they could respond. E#en in the midst of her alarm +ita watched! helpless! as one by one the armoured
2reafects toppled from their perches! lasbolts ashin them open! shotuns tumblin from raspin fists.
The crowd had become a li#in oranism! boltin and fle"in with a sinle #oice! and at their heart people fell
underfoot and were trampled! screams lost to the collecti#e wail of terror.
3hen finally those few #indictors that remained summoned the presence of mind to return fire their tarets pro#ed
more elusi#e than they had anticipated. 3ith their black cloaks remo#ed the aressors dispersed! 8ust faces
amonst the turmoil! snappin off opportunistic rounds before #anishin into the crowd. Ine#itably! the enforces
chose retaliation abo#e discretion.
Snappin orders across the breadth of the concourse! they turned their shotuns upon the crowd and opened fire
indiscriminately. Such was the reality of the Emperor-s law. it was better to sacrifice the innocent in pursuit of the
uilty than to allow the heretic! the traitor or the abomination to escape.
%t that moment! as the roadway rew slick with blood! as the screams of dyin women and children saturated +ita-s
dreamin mind! her psychic senses struck upon a dark suspicion. % taint! almost6 an infinitesimal cancer! nawin at
the ede of her perception.
#e's here...
She drew back from the spectacle! notin that already a column of #indictors rushed to reinforce their beleauered
fellows! and cast her eye further outwards. This was a danerous moment. 3here before she had raed aainst the
dream now she must immerse herself within it! sinkin into its folds! trawlin its shadows for her taret. %s she did
so with a shudder the colours around her intensified! the edes of buildins and cables hardened,
%nd in the warp! a hair-s breadth from reality itself! the unctuous wisp of liht that was +ita-s astral form
brihtened! like a flare.
%t the ate the crowd broke its ranks and swarmed throuh the checkpoints. Shriekin and fleein across the
concrete beyond! cloaks flappin! the starport descended piece by bloody piece into anarchy. Hundreds had died
already! and as +ita shifted her psychic self towards the dark blemish she souht! lea#in behind the crackle of
unfire and the shouts of the wounded! she knew that hundreds more would 8oin them.
%nd she knew! now! that it was all a waste.
The attack was merely a di#ersion.
SHE F47*$ IT , him , nearby! drawn to his spectral shadow like a shark to blood.
He had crawled from the depths of the undercity from a fissure at the hi#e-s base! where industrial smo belched
upwards in lon curtains! and had scaled the
plated walls of the lower tiers claw by claw! risin towards the starport-s apin launchfields not from within! but
without. 3here normally a s/uad of #indictors could be found! thermal cloaks flappin in the wind! a5in out in
ceaseless #iil for 8ust such an incursion! now the beast-s route was clear! now the sentries had rushed off to
reinforce elsewhere! now his shadow fell across nothin but empty concrete and silent! unattended shuttles.
The *iht 'ord-s entrance to the starport went utterly unnoticed! by all but +ita.
She swept around him with the dreamscape fracturin at her heel! all her tenuous eneries obbled by his presence.
3here before she had felt the taint about him like a faint promise! now it was a wound in reality itself6 swarmin
around him and suckin at her mind. He had opened himself to &haos! she could see! and in conse/uence there was
some strane /uality to him in this esoteric reality! some otherness that here! in this place of uncertain physicality
and warp,borne #isions! burned around him like a corona. She felt as thouh she swam a #iscous ocean! and to e#en
approach him took e#ery shred of her effort. He e"isted at the heart of a reat darkness! a blemish in the warp! and
she struled to see him throuh the fo of his soul. Somethin was happenin to his boundary! some trick of what
passed for liht. Some sense of motion.
4f swarming...
%nd the #oices... &lutterin! whisperin! ilin tones! on the cusp of hearin. 3ere they real;
The 1aptor draed behind him a 8aear s/uad of humans! coated warriors who wasted little effort in attemptin to
speed his climb! content to allow their lord to take their weiht. 4ne by one they 8oined him at the ede of the
platform! castin off ropes and buckles!
unlimberin from cases upon their backs lon tubes! hollow and undecorated! like the blowpipes of some 8unle
The #oices reached a keenin pitch in +ita-s mind and the air , the #ery fabric of this fantasy place ,bean to boil
around the &haos +arine-s form! as if his mere presence were anathema to reality.
He paused. He lanced around himself as if listenin to somethin that only he could hear! and his companions
e"chaned ner#ous lances.
-She is here!= he said.
-+,my lord;-
The witch. She is here. She is wat)hing*
+ita-s panic sured. How could he know
In fear and refle" she tried to kick herself free of the dream! but it was too late6 she had immersed herself too deeply6
the dru continued to rip her blood! and she could not escape into the wakin world.
The *iht 'ord-s companions had taken up combat stances! kni#es and hatchets brandished.
4)here! my lord;- one hissed! #oice little more than a whisper. -3hat should we do;-
-Fear not!= the monster said! and its #oice betrayed its amusement. 3e each ha#e our uardian spirits. It is not wise
to ea#esdrop on one such as I. %s the bitch will disco#er!=
%nd then the distortions that boiled around his outline seemed to pulse! and the fabric of the dreamscape ripped! and
there! there, like splinters of shadow hanin in the sky! the chitterin somethings of the warp were released.
They clamoured around her. They pressed in! tryin to fasten leech,like mouths to her screamin soul! slippin lon
claws into her mind.
%nd finally! as the sound of the *iht 'ord-s lauhter rushed in to fill her world! as the cost of scryin too deep
unfolded its tentacles and teeth around her! the drus that crippled her body ran their course and she awoke!
mercifully! ratefully! with a scream.
SHE 3%S I* her cell! she saw immediately. 3hate#er had happened to her! whoe#er had draed her! she-d been
returned to her /uarters without so much as a braise. Gi#en that >austus was the only one present when
unconsciousness had claimed her! it was an uncomfortable possibility that presented itself. Had he done this to her;
0ut why; 3hy had he called her to the o#ernor-s allery; 3hy had he instructed her throuh those doors; %nd
why! Emperor-s oath! why, would her own master incapacitate her 8ust as she sensed the enemy-s presence;
She pushed it from her mind. It was an enima that would ha#e to wait.
She was dressed and sprintin towards her master-s suite within instants! and with e#ery footfall she blotted out the
horror of what had happened inside the dream. Her tutors at the scholastia would ha#e been re#olted by her
foolishness6 scryin so close and so unuarded to a creature of &haos , little wonder she-d fallen prey to the
predators of the warp9 She should no more hunt sharks by paintin herself in fresh blood than she should use her
warpsiht to spy upon aents of the ruinous powers! and as she berated herself >aus,tus-s unkind words came back
to her with ra5or,like clarity.
'8ou la)k e&perien)e. 8ou are unqualified in the ways of 6haos.'
He-d been riht. The bastard.
Still! she li#ed yet. She-d escaped , thouh barely. %nd now she had news for the in/uisitor that could not wait.
-+y lord9- she howled! burstin past the sentries at his doorway! -I know where he is9 I know where the trai,-
%nd stopped.
>austus was not in his chambers.
% semicircle of amused stares reeted her abrupt silence6 the retinue takin its leisure en masse. 2riests lanced up
from mumbled prayers! scholars raised horned brows from ancient manuscripts! warriors paused in ames of dice!
and on e#ery hooded face a demeanin smile played.
-'ooks like someone finally woke up!= said one.
+ita blanched. !,.. 3hat; 3hat do you mean;-
The in/uisitor said you were takin a break.- % chuckle rolled across the room.
Indinity burst like a ripe boil in +ita-s mind.
-I was drued! warpspit and piss9 3hat do you e"pect;-
-(eah... He said you-d been sufferin from paranoia! too!=
+ore titters circulated. +ita took a breath and rose abo#e it.
4)here is he;- she demanded. -I ha#en-t time for this. It-s important!=
-He isn-t to be disturbed!=
Tell me9 I order you to tell me9-
She knew it was a mistake as soon as she-d said it. The temperature seemed to drop.
-Is that so;- one of them said.
Se#eral fiures , blocky shapes with the roilin mo#ements of warriors , slouched to their feet! drawin close with
lanuid menace! lips twisted in scowls.
-I don-t think!= one rowled! -that we-re in the mood to be takin orders from you!=
-(ou know I outrank you!= she said! almost keepin the /ua#er from her #oice. The larest of the thus was all but
touchin her now! and it was only the psychic pall of amusement from the others that pre#ented her from staerin
away. She refused to i#e them the satisfaction of another humiliation.
-%nd you know!= the brute runted! stabbin a finer aainst her chest! -that we could snap you like a twi!=
2roddin her! on reflection! was a mistake.
-I won-t tolerate this disrespect any more!= she whispered! as much to herself as to the man! and without warnin she
raised her knee as hard and fast as she could,
,directly into his crotch.
There was a noise not unlike a damp )run)h.
He went down with a urle! and that miht ha#e been enouh to end the matter! perhaps e#en to ain her a
modicum of esteem from the shriekin fool-s comrades , had she been finished with him. She was not.
She knelt on his chest and pushed a hand aainst his forehead! inorin his cries. She dispensed with subtlety!
pluned a daer of psychic thouht into his moronic brain! and needled about until the information she souht rose
to the fore. She swam throuh simple thouhts! hunted down her taret! and left with a #indicti#e kick.
The warrior died with a asp.
-He-s with the o#ernor! then!= +ita said! e"aminin the information she-d e"tracted. The retinue stared ao mouths
hanin open.
Thanks!= she nodded to the smokin corpse. -$on-t et up!=
* * *
>%7ST7S 3%S 3%ITI*G for her outside the o#ernor-s /uarters. successfully takin the indinant wind out of her sails.
He-d been forewarned of what she-d done , one of the other retinue members callin ahead! clearly , and hers was
not the only foul temper.
-$iota )as/uillius!= he hissed! eyes flashin behind his mask! -has ser#ed me for nine years. I once saw him kill a
tyranid camife" on Saliius,$ictai! loadin and firin a lascannon without assistance. I-#e seen him stranle orks with
his bare hands. I-#e seen him kill enest,-
-+y lord!= she interrupted! inorin his bulin eyes. -I suspect he ne#er faced a wit)h in a bad mood!=
>austus lared at her for lon seconds.
-&orrect!= he said! finally! and aain she felt that strane sense of respect! as thouh the line between impressin and
insultin her master was fine indeed.
-I ha#e news!= she said! pressin her ad#antae. -I... I ha#e slept. I ha#e seen where the Traitor +arine i,-
-Interroator! we ha#e discussed this. I assured you it was bein dealt with!=
There was an attack! my lord9 7,upon the spaceport9 I saw it9 It may still be under way9-
>austus eyed her suspiciously! absorbin her words.
-%n attack;- he said! and for the first time +ita felt that finally he was takin her seriously.
-(es9 I watched it all9 Hundreds died9-
>austus half turned away! finers kneadin toether. He spoke beneath his breath! and +ita struled to hear. The
spaceport...- he muttered. -3hy the spaceport;-
-I... I don-t know! my lord!=
He turned back to her as if surprised by her presence! and aain she felt that there were elements to
this ma5e she did not understand6 pieces mo#in across a mihty chessboard of which she could witness only a
fraction. The certainty was rapidly settlin upon her that she could trust the testimony of nobody but herself.
-3hat should we do! my lord;- she hissed! astonished at her master-s display of indecision. *e#er before had she
seen him so affected by a sli#er of news! let alone one from her mouth.
-$o;- he muttered. -I... 3,we should... 3e...- His #oice trailed off! his eyes a5in into nothin.
She stared! astonished and frihtened by this new >austus.
-+y lord;-
%nd then abruptly he was back! eyes focused! #oice hard! and it was as if he had ne#er been away.
-3e do nothin!- he rowled! turnin away! esturin at the audily dressed ser#itor,doorman to the o#ernor-s
-0ut nothin9 How many times must I say it! interroator; It is bein dealt with. I ha#e my own methods!=
The door swun open and >austus stepped away.
-0ut , my lord9- her cry cauht him on the threshold! and he turned back to reard her from the corner of his eye.
-3hat of the #ision;- she said. -3hat of the attack; I cannot do nothing'.'
He cocked his head! sihin! then nodded to himself.
-(ou will see to it that our mutual friend &ommander 4rodai keeps his ner#e. There will be no a)tion, do you
understand; The attack must o unanswered9-
She lared down the lenth of his pointed finer! brandished like a un! and swallowed.
She wanted to shriek. 5ut why4
She wanted to rip him by his peacock,lapels and shake him until he a#e her the answers she wanted. 1eeded.
She wanted to understand what in the name of Terra-s arse he was playin at.
0ut more than anythin she wanted his appro#al and his respect! so once more she dipped in a bow! swallowed her
ob8ections! and said. -(es! my lord. The Emperor pre#ails!=
-Indeed he does! interroator. 0e about your duties!=
The door bean to close. +ita pounced upon her one final chance like a famished tier.
-+y lord;-
This time he did not turn back. '8es, interroator;-
-I... 0efore! when I was in the allery! and... and I thouht I felt the traitor-s presence...;-
3as... was I drued! my lord;-
His pause was a fraction too lon.
-$on-t be ridiculous!= he said. (ou fainted aain. It is a habit you should learn to control!=
He closed the door behind him.
+ita %shyn was beinnin to consider the #ery real chance that her master was insane.
SHE 1ET71*E$ T4 &uspseal with a sense of urency! #yin with confusion for dominance. %ccompanied once more by
&o! she tolerated the ele#ator descent with crackin patience and raced upon her arri#al to 4rodai-s offices! to carry
out her master-s orders. That she neither understood nor areed with them was irrele#ant. This time! she #owed!
passin stammerin #indictor clerks and ob8ectin doormen! she would not fail. 4rodai-s office was empty.
She was too late.
In the wake of the assault upon the starport! unwillin to endure one more attack upon his 2reafectus )indictaire!
and eschewin the assistance of the In/uisition whose presence he was /uickly rowin to resent! &ommander
4rodai had mustered as many of his lawmen as he could! had mobilised the precinct-s entire complement of
armoured #ehicles! and had personally led a battle,roup a thousand stron into the darkness below &uspseal.
+ita had failed. %ain.
3ar was comin to the underhi#e.
I* THE FI*%' analysis! it had been easier than stealin fruit from a child.
%ll had one as planned! and if the di#ersionary assault upon the starport ates had left a do5en or more Shadowkin
dead. If the place had run thick with the blood of ci#ilians and 2reafects alike! if the operation had cost him dear in
time and effort and an"iety! then these were sacrifices he was pleased to make.
fferings, e#en.
He had the support of the $ark Gods! whether he cherished it or not.
Standin there on the ede of the launchpad! he-d felt the witch-s scryin eyes like a whisper at the rear of his mind.
%nd! as if in reply! the certainty that the warp stood at his shoulder! reardin his enemy with boundless huner! had
ripped him. It had fle"ed! swarmed at the forefront of his soul! and )onsumed her.
She would not be ea#esdroppin on him aain.
So! he had the patronae of &haos itself.
0efore his aeons of dormancy! Sahaal-s reard for the 1uinous 4nes had matched that of his 'eion. &haos was as
capricious a force as it was almihty! they understood that! and >onrad &ur5e had spent too lon o#ercomin
insanity and terror to lie so easily in the $ark Gods- bed.
0ut still! but still... It was an... into&i)ating sensation! to ha#e uardians so mihty.
So let the casualties be offerins. 'et the Shadowkin dead! with all the ci#ilians and #indictors who had perished
alonside! bleed upon the altar of &haos 7ndi#ided. 'et the hunry ods ha#e their repast of souls! and let him
return to his tasks unhindered. It was a worthy transaction.
Seated upon his throne! slouched with claws steepled and a blanket of shadows co#erin his unhel,meted face! he
inored the sounds of mournin throuhout the encampment and struled for calm.
He must be patient. The #enom that the Shadowkin had smeared upon their darts was a potent substance! and the... would be asleep a while loner.
The assault had succeeded. The starport had been breached and his rata army had allowed him all the time he had
re/uired to steal what he had come for. The pri5es , )aptives, of a kind , couldn-t be allowed to see him! not yet! and
so a team of handpicked warriors had accompanied him! blowpipes brandished! to anaesthetise the fools before they
could react.
&arryin them down into the dark , two limp shapes! withered and malnourished! slun upon each shoulder , he had
felt in his heart like a warrior kin! returnin to his tribe with the bounties of con/uered realms.
%nd yes! the Shadowkin had re8oiced in his #ictory. They-d cheered and feasted on what pitiful foods their dreary
territory offered! and praised his name for such a darin raid. 0ut as they consined their dead to the Emperor-s
race there was melancholia in their eyes.
So many had not returned.
%nd maddeninly! inmriatinly! Sahaal found himself troubled by their dis/uiet. 4h! they remained worms , less
than worms9 , but he confessed that as his reliance upon them rew he was encumbered by the distraction of pride.
This was his empire. #is tribe. %nd he could not escape their reflected rief.
He wondered! distantly! whether this was how his master had felt. The mihty primarch of the *iht 'ords 'eion
had rown to manhood as a feral creature6 a solitary hunter in the shadows of *ostromo <uintus6 a #iilante without
friend or peer. 4nly when his rein of terror had swollen to infect the entire city! when the law was his law and the
streets were his streets! only then was he i#en o#ernance of the populace.
Had he! too! resented the responsibility; Had he yearned to rely upon none but himself! to dispense with counsellors
and soldiers and assistants; Had it sat hea#ily upon his heart that e#en he could not rule a world unaided;
%nd had he learned! by derees! to #alue those at his command;
Had it hurt him when they perished;
$raped in shadow! :so Sahaal brooded upon his throne at the heart of a web of confusions and distractions! and
waited with crumblin patience for the two men that he had stolen to awake from their poisoned sleep.
* * *
So IT 3%S! with his attention elsewhere! that the burnin dri#e to locate the &orona *o" had relented to a simmerin
pain in his uts6 an unspoken knot of loss that his present concerns had eclipsed.
%nd so it was that the issue chose that #ery moment to resurface6 interruptin his meditation with shouts! cheers! and
The scouts had found Slake.
-HE 3%S I* Sewersump!= the man said! #oice /ua#erin with a soup of pride and ner#es. He was youn. still a no#ice!
in tribal terms! but sturdily built and confident nonetheless. % find such as this would secure for him unlimited
respect! and it was clear e#en to Sahaal that the youth intended to sa#our his moment. There-s a uild there!= he
added! -does nothin but broker sales for kutroach shells!=
The younster had chosen to address his report ,without instruction , to &ondemnitor &hianni! seated beside Sahaal
with her wounds bandaed and her face austere. Sahaal found the arranement pleasin. clearly the tribesfolk felt ill
at ease directin their words to their anelic demaoue! preferrin to use their priestess as an interface. It rep,
resented the perfect fusion of de#otion and terror! and their fearful limpses in his direction ratified Sahaal
->utroach;- he hissed! drawin startled lances from the crowd. He supposed that it was easier for them to think of
him as some throned idol! so perfect was his stillness. E#ery time he mo#ed or spoke it was a chillin reminder that
their manificent! terrible lord was as real! and as ali#e! as they.
Humans! Sahaal was obser#in! preferred to keep their ods at arms- lenth.
Thankfully &hianni-s reaction was rather less awestruck! and she twisted to face him with hands clasped. He had
spun her a #aue lie reardin his search for Slake , -an enemy of the Emperor-! as he-d put it , and her willinness to
assist in such a holy /uest had been amusin to reard.
-0easts of the underhi#e!= she e"plained. -0eetle creatures with leather wins and bladed tails. )ery danerous. Their
husks are perfect for ornaments and bowls! so the uilds often sell them uphi#e. The other ans collect shell
bounties whene#er they can!=
-0ut not you;-
She seemed briefly affronted. -+oney is the foodstuff of corruption! my lord...-
-4f course!- he rumbled! resistin the ure to roll his eyes. -&ontinue!=
&hianni estured for the scout to o on.
-3,well... I know the uilds sometimes use middlemen! so I thouht it would be worth checkin...-
&hianni nodded. -% wise idea!=
The boy beamed. -I found him speakin with two others! a,another man and a woman. % uilder came o#er ,
handfuls of credits! he had , and called out to him. He called him Slake! I-m certain of it!=
Sahaal-s finers tihtened on the skull,pommels of his throne.
(ou did well!= &hianni told the boy! perhaps notin her master-s eaerness. -0rin him forwards. 4ur lord would
look upon him!=
The morsel that was pushed into the liht! bound at its hands and ankles! shriekin like a stuck pi! was not what
Sahaal had imained.
It was a small man , if not enetically stunted then at least abnormal in his build6 features prematurely wi5ened!
scalp clinin to a few last scraps of hair. His
simple clothes were stained and dirty and his face was marked with fresh bruises. e#idence of the scoutin party-s
rouh treatment. +ost notable howe#er! were the twin sockets set hih on his hydrocephalic forehead! one abo#e
each eye. uly irises that e"truded lon cable,bundle umbilici! danlin to his shoulders like metallic dreadlocks.
He collapsed to the rusted floor with a wail! took one look at the throned iant loomin o#er! and burst into tears.
-Sweet hi#ehosts I didn-t do anythin don-t kill me oh God,Emperor please...-
-Silence him!= &hianni said! a fraction before Sahaal. The youn scout dropped to his knees and punched the wailin
specimen across the face! splittin his lip and specklin the floor with his blood. His cries died abruptly.
(ou are Slake;- &hianni asked! larin.
-*... no9 *o9 *ot on my own9-
The scout punched him aain! harder this time. -'ies9- he roared. -I heard his name9-
-0rean!= &hianni said. -0e still!=
The youn scout backed away! breathin hard.
@(ou are Slake!= &hianni repeated , this time a statement. -(ou are a o,between for upcity uilders! correct;
%nswer me9-
-*,no9- he wailed! tears and snot thick on his face. -*ot on my own9 4h sweet Terra! no9 (,you don-t understand9
*ot on my own9-
Sahaal had heard enouh. He was out of his throne and hunched o#er the man like a reat lion! seeminly without
mo#ement! and the Shadowkin audience cried out and backed away! astonished at his speed.
The man stared up into the twisted #isae of Sahaal-s helm! and felt the tears free5e on his cheeks.
-Four days ao!= Sahaal whispered! so /uiet that none but the capti#e could hear his reed,thin #oice! -you purchased
from the Glacier 1at scum *ikhae an item. (ou knew it was comin. (ou took it from him and paid him. (es;-
In the face of such icy terror! the man-s stammers were fro5en away! lea#in only a tiht! stranled tone.
-(es. I mean... I don-t know. I ha#e a small piece of the memory but.
Sahaal pressed a claw aainst the wattles of his neck.
-Slake9 It-s... not a person. *ot one of us!= His eyes rolled! mouth /ui#erin. -It-s a )olle)tive. % roup! you see; The
gestalim surery... we took the implant9 Separate us! we-re 8ust people. 0ut toether! all three 8oined...- He pawed his
bound hands at the cables hanin from his skull! broken nails clatterin aainst their sockets. Toether we are
Slake. Th,three people! one ma)hina. 3e share memories. 3e share intellect9 %lone we are nothing*
Sahaal round his teeth.
-(ou are ser#itors;-
-*o9 *o! the ser#itor is a sla#e to the ma)hina. Toether! we )ontrol it!=
There had been ser#itors! e#en in Sahaal-s time. Empty minded thins. human bodies with machines for brains!
controlled and o#erned by the chatterin loic enines inside. Such contri#ances left no room for personality or self
awareness6 renderin a ser#itor little more than a mobile tech,console. Their li#es ,such as they were , were a
se/uence of parameter and stimulus.
&ould it be that these three nothins! these human fools with more a#arice than sense! had found a way to
retain their minds , their ambitions , yet to foster the cold intellect of a ser#itor nonetheless;
-How is this possible;- Sahaal rasped! bladed claw tiht aainst the man-s laryn".
-3e paid9 3e chose it9 3e found... found a man who could do it9-
-%nd who!= Sahaal hissed! already uessin the answer! -was that;-
-2ah#ulti9 His name is 2ah#ulti9-
The conis loi. The information broker. The reneade tech,priest.
The bastard.
It was not a name welcome to Sahaal-s ears.
He lifted the shriekin capti#e in one reat claw! and carried him out into the shadows away from the tribe! to
/uestion him as only he could.
3HE* HE 3%S done with the man! who was one piece but not the whole of Slake! Sahaal brouht his head before the
Shadowkin and held it hih! blood snakin in lon chords alon his arm.
The man had known little! ultimately. Glimmers of memories! snatches of detail that fired reconition in his eyes but
could draw nothin new from the framents of his third of the Slake computer. It was as he said. alone! he was
pifitful. % moronic child! a nothin! a nobody.
He could recall meetins. He could limpse! in aonised flashes! the packae that Sahaal souht so desperately.
4)as it open;- Sahaal had raed. -3as it opened
0ut that detail was beyond him! as were any others! and the *iht 'ord had been /uick to succumb to the fury that
was buildin inside him with e#ery day6 the hunry #oices whisperin for blood in his mind.
Sahaal took the man-s head and left the body to the waters of the swamp! where luminous tendrils draed it down
to the depths.
The scouts were redeployed to find the remainin pieces of the collecti#e. The younster who had captured the man
went unthanked! chastised for his incomplete pri5e.
It was all Sahaal could do not to tear him to shreds.
Thus it was! with his blood boilin in his #eins! his heart hammerin in his ears! and the name -2ah#ulti- spinnin in
a slick of poison and piss throuh his mind! that two fawnin Shadowkin crept forth to tell him that finally the
capti#es he had taken from the starport were awake.
The sa#ae rin on his face left them ashen with terror.
I* % SH%&> at the camp-s ede , as sturdy and soundproofed a structure as the meare buildin materials had allowed
, he took deli#ery of the first hostae. The tribesmen dumped the moanin creature to the floor! faces twisted with
disust. He dismissed them and they left with relief! pausin only to spit at the blind worm on the floor.
Sahaal wondered #auely how they miht react if they knew the truth. that without such astropathic wretches as this
their mihty Imperium was a doomed iant! without eyes or ears or mouth.
He stepped towards the fiure , shi#erin and naked in the rustmud , and crooned with an eaerness that he could no
loner contain. His rae would not be restrained.
-3,who-s there;- the man /uailed! withered features crumplin further. His wrists and ankles were bound with sharp
cable and his eyes... his eyes had been
taken from him lon! lon ao. The tortured flesh at their edes was puffy with unhealed scars and infection.
-(ou cannot see me;- Sahaal teased! already knowin the answer.
-I... *,no9 +y visem dens... sweet! Emperor... It-s one9-
"h yes, Sahaal reflected. The se)ond sight. Such men as this did not need eyes to see.
D)hat ha#e you done to me;- the #oice rew loud! indination at the theft of its reatest sense puncturin its fear.
Sahaal allowed himself an indulent smile.
-It is lead!= he said! bendin to run finers across the thick strip of bent metal! powder,white! coiled across his
furrowed forehead like a circlet. Sahaal flicked it playfully. -It is anathema to your... ifts! yes; (ou may no more
penetrate it than a hawk may escape its hood!=
@3ho are you;- The astopath-s #oice became a whisper! an awestruck /uail that wrestled between curiosity and
horror. -How do you know so much about the ift; I... I am not afraid of you9-
Sahaal-s smile broadened.
-I know the astropath-s weakness! little man!= he said! -because at one time an army of your brothers was at my
disposal! throuh choice or not. %nd as for your fear...- He wet his lips! tremblin! -I think we both know you are
The Emperor-s faith is stron in my soul9 I am without sin9 3hate#er your aims I shall n,-
-$o you know of &haos;-
The man-s mouth opened and closed! all his bluster stolen from him6 a paro"ysm of re#ulsion wrackin him. -I...
(ou dare speak its name; Emperor preser#e m,-
-(ou shall know of &haos. (ou shall bathe in its fires! my friend. (ou shall know its #oice.-
-0lasphemy9 0,blasphemy9- The psyker tried to spit! to summon a obbet of rebellious spittle on his fle"in tonue!
but Sahaal was faster. % sinle talon snickered from its secret sheath! blurred in the air! and was one. The man spat
out his own tonue on the crest of a shriek.
-*ow you will be silent!= Sahaal said! backhandin the creature-s cheek until its screams were replaced only by the
wet urles of oo5in blood! -and you will listen closely. %nd you will strule! and writhe! and try to escape! and in
your mind you shall hurt harder than you ha#e e#er felt pain before! but you cannot switch off your ears! my friend.
(ou cannot help but listen. -%nd feel! of course. %lways feel.- %nd :so Sahaal bean to cut. To draw sli#ers of flesh
from arms and les. To lide artist-s strokes of tip and blade throuh unresistin skin and muscle. To se#er sinews at
knee and shoulder! at roin and ankle. To pluck arrowhead wounds across fatty chest meat! to scrape skin layer by
layer from the belly-s bule. To dra deep plouh,furrows across yieldin buttocks and meaty loins. To cut and cut
and cut and cut. %nd as he cut he spoke. He spoke across e#ery scream and couh! inorin inarticulate pleas and
wordless prayers.
He spoke of the darkness that haunts youth-s fears. 4f the horrors that only the imaination of a child may de#ise.
He spoke of boeymen and spider ods! of scissor,finered has and the writhin of snakes. He spoke of faces in
the sky and wet,eded lips! like the folds of a reat belly! pursin to suck the liht from the world.
He spoke of adolescent terror. 4f self,harm and reliious awakenin. 4f Imperial doma crashin the soul! of
familial re8ection or parental per#ersion. 4f youn pain.
There was always reference to pain.
%nd always the cut! cut! cut.
He spoke of the terrors of adulthood. 4f kni#es in the dark and rape in the liht. 4f butchers and marauders! of
aliens and mutants. He spoke of fires creepin nearer! of /uicksand cloin the luns! of nooses drawin tiht. He
spoke of death and torture and eyes in the niht.
%nd he cut and he cut and he cut.
He spoke of the warp! and when his #ictim-s laryn" burst from the rawness of its screams he spoke of the 1uinous
4nes! of the watchers in the #oid! of the Empyrean swarms. He spoke of prowlin madness! of insanity unleashed
upon a million worlds! of the Emperor-s wounds and the Traitor-s 8oy. He spoke of the Haunter-s palace. 4f the
blood of anels. 4f the tentacles in the warp. 4f the steel teeth bared in the echoes of eternity.
4f horror and nihtmare and terror and #enom.
He #ented himself. He raed aainst the astropath-s flesh. He diced and cut and ripped. He dis8ointed and 8ellified.
He lost himself to a ha5e of red and he spoke of the primal scream! the banshee howl that echoed in the earliest
ca#es of mankind! the feral simplicity of 0ear.
%nd the dam broke open! and the walls of the astropath-s resistance crumbled! and the chitterin in the warp filled
his ears and scratched petulant claws aainst the man-s mind! and as the tumult reached its unbearable clima" Sahaal
reached throuh the paste of blood and shit and tears and wrenched away the lead circlet upon the man-s brow.
For an instant! the astropath-s second siht was returned to him.
He saw a bloodslick daemon with black eyes and claws of lihtnin steel! that leaned close to his shattered senses
and hissed. -I am :so Sahaal! Talonmaster of the *iht 'ords! returned from the #eil of time to reclaim that which is
mine. Seek me! my brothers.-
%nd then the astropath was beheaded with a sinle stroke of the monster-s claws.
The swarms of the warp! baited close by such psychic terror as they had ne#er before tasted , an into"icatin fillip
that pulsed like a beacon across the ethereum ,rushed in to fren5y,feast upon the released soul.
%nd the warp rippled like a disturbed millpond! and in its clash of hues and fla#ours it was Sahaal-s face! Sahaal-s
#oice! Sahaal-s mind! that was borne upon the cusp of the astropath-s deathshriek.
0orne outwards! towards eternity.
SHE 3%S I* 4rodai-s empty office! wrestlin with indecision! when it hit.
It broke across her defences like a tsunami upon a beach! surin abo#e and throuh her! o#erwhelmin e#ery part
of her mind! lea#in her drownin and aspin for air.
It was a bloody,red daer! hooked beneath her ribs and risin! risin risin.
It was a brandin iron! smoulderin with red heat! that scorched her not with a word or symbol! but a #ision! an
imae! an event.
It was a psychic maelstrom that boiled the #ery air! undirected and all powerful! sent blastin into the #oid like the
cusp of Shockwa#e6 a telepathic e&terminatus warhead that swelled like a fattenin womb! in#isible and intanible
but terrible nonetheless. 'ost at its centre was a scream , a hidden #oice of pain and fear Aoh, :od(Emperor, su)h
fear*B ( that howled its horrors to the
warp e#en as it was consumed. s/uabbled o#er by hunry beasts! di#ided and shredded before its echoes had e#en
It shi#ered alon her spine! it fro5e her blood and sent her knees bucklin! hands raspin for support! and this
despite the unhappy truth. that the deathshriek was but a fraction of the sure. a moti#e force to propel it outwards! a
pilot liht upon which far reater! and more da55lin! #isions had been hun.
+ita fell to the floor with a asp and &o! who had not e#en been aware of the psychic Shockwa#e! let alone
assaulted by its ferocity! was left mumblin his moronic concerns and tryin! clumsily! to restrain her flailin limbs.
She bit her lip and bled! and frothed at the corner of her mouth! and in the punctured atria of her psychic mind she
suffocated beneath an a#alanche of sihts and sounds.
-I %+ :so Sahaal, Talonmaster of the 1ight ?ords, returned from the veil of time to re)laim that whi)h is mine. Seek
me, my brothers.'
The #oice was a fohorn! achin her ears Athouh it had no true soundB! announcin in a bla5e of liht and a chorus
of dark alarms the identity of her enemy. 0eyond the mind-s eye! in the ha5e of telepathy! senses became occluded
and intanible. sounds became #isible! imaes bore taste and scent! the cold touch of flesh rode a piyback upon a
musical discord. % synaes,thetic whirlwind. %n arco,mental ma5e. She stumbled throuh its corridors and clun to a
shred of chatterin lihtnin! holdin it fast.
:so Sahaal. % name.
%nd his imae , an incandescent pictoram! brihter and more terrible than any auspe"! sharper than the
reatest sensoria , was scratched upon the raw flesh of her flayed brain and scarred it fore#er. like an electoo within
her eyelids! impossible to escape! e#en in sleep.
It was him. The *iht 'ord. Her enemy.
She reconised him! despite the confusion and the whirlii tumult of conflictin senses. His face was rendered in
music and the soft scents of ash and incense! his midniht blue body a medley of bitter fla#ours! and his claws... his
claws were the touch of an artist-s brush upon can#as6 the ende caress of a lo#er-s finers. %ll this he was! beyond
mere #ision! but she reconised him nonetheless. The sallow eyes! with pupils so swollen they were black from ede
to ede! the furrowed brow! the hollow cheeks6 the pallid pate of a hairless skull. %ll of it encased in ceramite and
steel! fle"in plates hun with chains and barbs! marked all o#er with 'eion siils and dark scriptures.
:so Sahaal. *iht 'ord.
'Seek me, my brothers,' the #oice purred! and +ita found herself dimly aware of the messae swarmin past her
senses! e"pandin beyond and throuh her! climbin e#er outwards in a rowin sphere. It swept throuh the hi#e of
E/ui"us like a wall of steam! and then onwards and outwards! clamberin into the #oid! across the ulf of space.
Seekin those who cared to listen.
In the hi#e! the messae went all but unnoticed. 'ike &o beside her! most hi#ers remained as obli#ious to the
unseen maelstrom around them as if they were blind and strainin to see. Some shi#ered! or blinked in a momentary
discomfort they didn-t understand! and perhaps e#en paused to wonder at the meanin of it all , before settin their
shoulders and beratin themsel#es for such foolishness! and forin on with their small! empty li#es.
In their cots! in starports and %dministratum offices! uilder ne"us,points and tech,monasteries! astropaths cried out
and ibbered in their sleep. Identified in their youth as psykers of mediocre talent! such withered man,morsels
formed a communications network! ser#in and sustainin the Imperium that hated them. 3here tihtbeamed
transmissions would take an ae to cross the stellar ulf! an astropath could hurl his or her #oice into the warp!
relayin messaes and instructions upon their masters- behalf. %ll had underone the Soul 0indin ritual , fortifyin
their defences! meltin their eyes! meldin their #ery spirits with that of the Emperor himself , and as such had little
to fear from the predations of warp beins. Their susceptibility to such unfocused #isions as now plaued +ita was
all but neliible! and so in their cloistered cells their reactions were muffled! the preser#e of nihtmares and
troubled thouhts. Their patient minders! who had rown well used to such disturbed slumberin! calmly
administered soothin drus to their unstable
chares. %lone in all the city! +ita con#ulsed and screamed!
utterly e"posed.
E#en throuh her fear and pain she burned with outrae at nature of this psychic storm. Her enemy-s cunnin , and
cruelty , was beyond words! and she was as staered by her re#ulsion as by the aony of the storm itself.
The *iht 'ord had known he could not control an astropath. He could not for)e a psyker to dispatch a messae on
his behalf! nor could he be certain , if he found a willin dispatcher , that the messae had been sent at all. %lone
and hunted within an unfamiliar city! he could not place his trust in such uncertain! intanible thins.
%nd so he-d found the one way he could be sure his messae would be dispatched. The one way that it would blast
outwards in all directions! irrespecti#e of the crude directions of a strainin astropath.
The bastard. The )ruel, warp(damned bastard*
He-d deli#ered his messae in the psyker-s moment of death! in the blink of a psychic atrocity! at the heart of a
deathscream formed in the moments of a soul-s consumption.
The bastard, he fed the psyker to the warp, and made sure his fa)e and his words were the last things the poor
wret)h ever knew@ like e)hoes on the )usp of a dying Sho)kwave.
How far could such a messae tra#el; How deep into the warp would such a horrific end propel the psyker-s
%nd who miht be listenin! out amonst the stars! for 8ust such a thin;
F am >so Sahaal. Talonmaster of the...' 4#er and o#er aain.
&on#ulsin on the floor of 4rodai-s office! +ita clamped down hard with all her willpower and shielded herself
from the pain! reat mental defences risin in her mind like stormshields. %nd then! undis,tracted by the horror! she
shifted her perceptions of the pulsin sinal and coiled outwards from its rasp! turnin to reard it in a new and
disciplined perspecti#e. 1eleased from the pain! reco#ered from the shock and awe of its first bite! she sorted her
cluttered senses toether and was rewarded with order.
The warp was a pool of oil! now , at least! that was how her mind had chosen to rationalise it. The astropath-s death
had struck it hard6 concentric ripples bulin outwards from its centre. $rawin close! +ita saw clearly the process
the *iht 'ord had tapped into! and found herself morbidly impressed by its cunnin.
with secret fractal symmetry , each tiny component a replica of the whole , e#ery concentric ripple bore alon its
bow,wa#e the shadow! the e)ho, of the e#ent that had caused it. %nd throuh it! as it faded with each diminishin
rin! +ita found herself able to e"plore! to taste the host of the *iht 'ord-s mind where before she was unable
e#en to approach him. It was as if she had been presented with a pictoslate of her enemy. a transcendent snapshot
that had da55led her at first but that now! now that its brihtness had faded! now that she was accustomed to its flare!
she could use to study his aspect. %nd oh! what rae he held in his soul9 There was loss! beneath it all. % wisp of
colour hauntin the midniht whole! like a deep sea kraken swimmin an ocean of rae.
#e has lost something. Something he loves. Something he )ares for with holy pride. #e has lost it, and it angers
him. "nd he is alone. 3ith a precision that she struled to maintain! she peeled back the layers of this echo,enemy
, a perfect but fadin replica of the *iht 'ord-s mind , and found a forest of emotion! buried deep beneath layers of
time and denial! that shocked her. "mbition. $n)ertainty. 0rustration. ?oneliness. Suspi)ion. <aranoia. <ower.
She drew back from it with an inward asp! surfacin from the trance and into &o-s burly arms! wrapped around
her in a desperate embrace. the one thin his simple mind had presented as a solution to his mistress-s distress.
%nd as she pri5ed herself away and thanked him! and cauht her bearins! and wiped the blood from her lip! her
mind linered on what it had found! and pulsed with a shock that she could barely contain.
Starin at the *iht 'ord-s mind , e#en throuh the ha5e of shadow and echo , had been like starin at a mental map
of herself.
47TSI$E 414$%I-S 4FFI&E! pandemonium reined. 4beyin +ita-s instruction with empty de#otion! &o carried her
throuh the narrow door and into the antechamber beyond! where the commander-s ser#itor aides sat lifeless at their
desks! bereft of orders. Their human counterparts , acolytes and scribes in the employ of the )indictare! whose
taskmasters had deserted them in their march to war , clustered at the chamber-s ape"! where a rustin ci#ilian
worship #iewspe" limmered with a broken imae6 a breathless #oice barkin terse reports from horn,like speakers.
2eriodically the crowd cheered! fists punchin at the air! and +ita drew close to their swarm with a sinkin heart.
She could well imaine what they were watchin.
-.. .and onwards into the gulley known as Spit /un, where resistan)e was over)ome with mighty deeds and...'
2ropaanda. $amn 4rodai for his wounded pride ,he-d led the 2reafects on a crusade and he-d taken the Hi#ecasters
with him.
,amn, damn, damn.
The acolytes snapped to a uilty attention when they saw her! decorum returnin where e"citement had ruled. She
inored them and steered &o towards the screen! his bulk pushin cowls and autoscholars aside like a ship-s keel.
-.. .and ;ust re)eiving word from the se)ond wing , they're east of here in the 6halkmire territories , that a rebel
stronghold at 5rokepoint Town has fallen to the Emperor's warriors with a total loss of life...'
The presenter! who stood at a safe distance from the rowin maelstrom of tracer fire and sooty e"plosions behind
him! was clean and elaborately dressed6 his unassumin features betrayin not a sinle hint of mechanised
aumentation. +ita was hardly surprised. she-d seen broadcasts on other &i#ilian 3orship systems on other
populous worlds , 8oyous reports of the Emperor-s #ictories! lectures in reliious doma! upliftin sermons!
#ilification of captured criminals and heretics , and in e#ery case the chosen representati#e of the state embodied
pure! unthreatenin humanity. +ita had little doubt that beyond the a5e of the ser,#oskull trained upon him! the
small man sported a plethora of control articulators! autofocus diaphrams and self,#iewin #ambrances to
broadcast his own imae into his retina6 but such paraphernalia could hardly be considered photoenic.
'...seem to have routed insurre)tionists with , praise his glory , no reported )asualties* Truly an e&ample to us all...'
The little man wa#ed an arm randly at the scene behind him , some unnamed underhi#e township bein bombed to
dust by a circle of 2reafect tanks. Throuh the unclear flickers of pi"elated flames! if she concentrated hard! +ita
could make out the small silhouettes of staerin fiures6 writhin and dyin. &hildren and women! burned ali#e.
She wondered! distantly! how many millions of eyes were fi"ed upon communal hi#ecasters throuhout E/ui"us.
+ost worlds practised compulsory #iewin. at least an hour of e#ery day spent by each citi5en in passi#e absorption
of &3 doctrine! and from what +ita had seen of this hi#e its customs were no less riorous than elsewhere. She
prayed to the Emperor with what
small part of her mind remained untarnished by doubt and e"haustion that In/uisitor >austus was not amonst this
broadcast-s audience.
*ot that it would stop him from hearin about it! one way or another.
'...a surge of rebels, but in praise to #im(on(the(Throne(of(Earth , "ve Imperator* , heroes of the <reafe)tus
3indi)taire have broken through the barri)ades to dispat)h the filthy hereti)s...'
+ita clenched her teeth. 1ot hereti)s. Cust people. The worthless and the dispossessed6 the ones who fell throuh the
cracks. The ones bein slauhtered in the name of re#ene.
She could imaine the scene all too clearly. The windin column of 2reafect Salamanders! rindin across drifts of
waste and rust. 2erhaps their intentions were pure! at the start6 perhaps they really did intend to seek out those
responsible for the attack on the star,port! to hunt down the #illain behind it all. 0ut the underhi#e was a warren of
suspicion and paranoia! and it would not ha#e taken lon for the first shots to rin out! for the first anry outlaws to
panic at the siht of such a force and lash out.
The 2reafects had no idea who was responsible for the massacre at the starport. They had no clue as to the moti#e or
the oal. In the main theirs was a simple role! and at its cru" was an eleant assertion. /esistan)e implies guilt.
4rodai had led his warriors into the shadows to hunt and kill a monster. Instead they found themsel#es conductin
enocide , a lorious! wanton! bloody porom upon those who had slipped from the liht.
0lood ran thick throuh the streets of the underhi#e! and thouh its inhabitants beed the Emperor for mercy! wept
his name as they died! screamed in prayer
as their families burned , still the slauhter continued6 and it was conducted in the name of the same od to which its
#ictims cried out for help.
%s she left the room! feelin sick! a ser#itor twitched at her side and fi"ed its dead eyes on her face! a telescopic
array of circuitry and shattered bone creakin forwards from its shoulder! pushin a miniature hi#elink headset
towards her.
-% call!= it announced! luubrious mouth hanin slack around a #oicebo" embedded upon its lon,dead tonue. The
in/uisitor re/uests y,-
-I-m not here!- +ita said! hurryin past. -He-s missed
She left the chambers with bile in her throat! and tried to inore the sounds of cheerin from the #iewspe" ather,
halls she passed as she went.
':ive me a )hild to tea)h with aba)us and )halk and I shall give you a s)holar.
1one but knowledge is his master.
:ive me a )hild to mould with s)ripture and in)ense, and I shall give you a priest.
0or him divinity alone is worthy.
:ive me a )hild to train with sword and shield, and I shall give you a warrior.
#is obedien)e is as fi)kle as his )ourage.
5ut give me a )hild to form as I see fit, with dagger and blade, with the blood of strangers upon his hand, and I
shall give you a slave who will ask not for food nor wealth nor glory, and remain at your side throughout all his life.
1othing forges loyalty like guilt and )ompli)it bloodshed.'
,E"tract from Inquis Tiros
THE 7*$E1HI)E 0%1E$ its necrotic breast to the kni#es that assaulted it! and poured its blood out onto cold stone
The scouts were abroad6 creepin in stealthy corners with eyes peeled and curiosity pi/ued! reardin each act of
terror! each fiery calamity! each bloody attack! with insect fascination. %nd then one by one! slinkin thouh soot,
brick wastes! slidin silent feet alon rusted ducts where no 2reafect could see or hear! they turned back to their
deep! dark terrain to make report to their dark lord.
The porom had not yet reached the Shadowkin-s lair. Ensconced within their frail homes! castin briht eyes at the
#aulted roof of their watery island,ca#ern! they listened as the lihtless territories of the underworld tore themsel#es
apart! bone by brittle bone. The pulses of remote e"plosions , like the roar of a#alanches in the niht! echoin from
peak to peak ,
filtered in wa#es of disloded dust and shrapnel. The Shadowkin shi#ered and prayed! and threw stricken lances at
their dreadful lord! cloaked upon his throne once more.
Sahaal had not troubled himself to clean his armour. 3here once a host of sla#es would undress and bathe him ,
now he was left to fester. He could demand such a ser#ice from his tribe! of course! but in truth he did not care for
cleanliness in this place. In this anarchy! in the depths of the depression that ripped him! to adopt a feral
countenance seemed a fittin response. The tentacles of failure had returned6 the briht pincer,teeth of hopelessness.
How could he e#er know if his ruse with the astropath had succeeded; How would he e#er find the &orona now ,
whether it be throuh Slake! or 2ah#ulti! or by chance alone;
How could he e#er resume his #eneful crusade;
Such thouhts robbed him of all enery! imbuin his flesh with a broodin indolence. Far easier to sit and burn in
self,hatred! to consume his own mind with reproach and uilt! than to stir to acti#ity.
3hat else! ultimately! could he do;
He was! he knew! terrible to behold. The swirls of decoration on his helm-s swept,back crest were speckled now by a
frie5e of ore. The astropath-s fluids coated him head to foot! and where blood had pooled in the ulleys and 8oints
of his armour it clotted to a dirty brown powder! like an iron iant beset by rust.
The scouts came one by one! ferried across the swamp in makeshift bares! flickin away /uestin tentacles when
they crept too close. The rest of the tribe athered to hear their testimonies from the worlds abo#e! and with e#ery
fresh report they murmured and bit their lips. Their concerns were as palpable in their eyes as had they spoken them
aloud! and Sahaal
rearded them from the shadows of his helm with a shrewd eye.
How far would the 2reafects descend their faces asked; How deep would the massacres cut;
Had they not suffered enouh beneath their master-s fren5ied rule;
Guilt upon shame upon failure upon horror. Sahaal couldn-t berude them their fear.
The scouts spoke of death and blood and horror. 4f whole townships ripped to cinder! populations dri#en before the
clubs of riot,mobs! warriors round beneath tanktracks and booted feet. 4f 2reafects with electric shields! charin
down fleein townsfolk! breakin heads and snappin bones.
4ne spoke of a brothel! half collapsed! as its shriekin women were shot down one by one! soot and blood stainin
naked flesh! whilst they crawled to escape the flames.
4ne had watched an alliance between ri#al mobs , a friendship born in shared peril , only for both to fall to the last
man and woman6 sliced to sli#ers when #in,dictors bottled them in and killed and killed until none remained.
4ne saw a child throw a stone at the 2reafect column! and watched the youth-s #illae burn in retribution.
4ne saw the kutroaches pick the flesh clean from a riotin mob! assed in their do5ens when they turned on the
armoured aressors torchin their homes.
4ne saw blood runnin as thick as a stream.
%nd one... one saw the 2reafects reroup and confer! and finally , ore,drenched! e"hausted! spent , turn back for
the hi#e abo#e.
The Shadowkin shuddered with relief at this last mercy! embracin one another and praisin the God,Emperor!
and when the final scout had hurried from the circle of fireliht before Sahaal-s throne he stepped down from his
platform and addressed the crowd. The opportunity was too ood to inore.
-(ou see;- he told them! claws splayed. (ou see now; (ou see how the hi#e is corrupted; How the 2reafects
themsel#es are hunry for murder and blood; It is the taint, I tell you9- % shi#er raced across the crowd! like a
bree5e ripplin throuh withered trees. They reach out to crush the innocent! and we alone , we, the faithful! the
chosen ones , are spared9 3e alone! in this place that I led you.
(ou see now; 8ou see3
%nd oh! they praised him so hard that it all but cut throuh the bleakness! the loss! the aression! and for one
fraction of one moment :so Sahaal remembered what it had been to be adored without fear.
%nd then he asked the scouts if they brouht word of the Slake &ollecti#e! and that ancient terror came back into
their eyes! and the adoration was buried beneath a do5en layers of fear.
*one of them brouht news.
The crowd dispersed after that! when lon moments of silence had passed! when it was clear finally that the lord-s
displeasure would not o#er,boil with #iolence ,and there was hidden relief on their faces as they returned to their
homes to hunt and cook.
Silence settled in the swamplands.
Sahaal sat and brooded! and beside him &hianni fideted in her chair! castin anuished limpses in his direction!
His patience for her unspoken an"iety did not last lon.
(ou are troubled! sister!= he said! rateful , rudinly , for the distraction. -%nd yet we are spared. E"plain!=
She struled to find the riht words! crippled by awe at the closeness of his attention. The 2reafects! my lord...
Their... their aner is so mihty. They must hate you a reat deal.-
He sensed the curiosity behind her words and sihed! anticipatin yet more uly lies and false de#otions in the
Emperor-s name. The falsehood that had secured the Shadowkin-s loyalty had rown to a yoke around his neck! and
his ore rose at the thouht of strenthenin it further.
-It has e#er been thus!= he said! dismissi#e. The un8ust ha#e always despised the rihteous. Their loathin for me is
no reater than my disust for them!=
That! at least! was truth. #e was the rihteous one. 3as it not their -lorious- Emperor that had betrayed his master
so cruelly; 3as it not they who worshipped a weaklin! a coward! a traitor;
It was not enouh to sate &hianni-s thirst for answers.
-+y lord!= she /uailed! finers curlin toether. -How can we hope to... to pre#ail in the face of such aner;-
3ith focus!= he said! and realised as he said it that it was ad#ice for his own sake! as much as hers. -3ith con#iction
in the cause!= He twisted to stare down at her! hearin his master-s words echoed across the ulf of time. -$oubt
breeds fear, child. %nd fear is our weapon! not our flaw!=
3e stri#e towards our oals. 3e stri#e with e#ery ounce of our flesh! with e#ery bloody tear! e#ery bead of sweat.
%nd thouh we may fall in the tryin! we are undertakin the work of the righteous*
Fine words. Stirrin words. He felt a limmer of fire return to his belly.
-%nd... our oals! my lord; The oals we must stri#e to meet...- she lanced up at him! eyes brimmin with huner.
3,what are they;-
-I ha#e told you. To find the Slake &ollecti#e!=
-(,yes lord...- %ain a lance , first up then away! a sli#er of eye contact , and this time Sahaal could see a
danerous recklessness! a desire to comprehend at any )ost, that underpinned her fear. 3,what I meant was... why
He considered killin her! briefly.
Should I be angry
his mind mused. Should I suffer this )uriosity , this impetuosity ( in a )reature so frail as this
Should I )ut her in two4
His claws bean! so slowly that he barely e#en felt it! to slip from their sheaths. He had not consciously triered
5ut then... but then...
The priestess-s importance could not be understated. to lose her would be to risk losin once more the control of his
tribe , and that at this most critical of 8unctures. For all his miht and power he was no diplomat6 no empathetic
fiurehead to safeuard the hopes and fears of a population. His was a diplomacy of terror and carnae! not of words
and assurances.
He needed her.
% demonstration, then4
Some painful reprimand! perhaps! to punish her undue curiosity6 to teach her , and throuh her the tribe , that his
plans were his alone6 that he would not tolerate the pryin of peasants.
&hianni noticed the claws and asped in the silence! perhaps understandin! too late! her mistake.
8es. 8es, tea)h her a lesson. %ake her bleed. Cust a small )ut...
It was a #oice that came from somewhere deep in his subconscious! and as he focused on it! he saw that it was the
same #oice that had pushed forth his claws! the same #oice that had o#erwhelmed him as he slew the astropath! the
same #oice that had brouht red ha5e down across his #ision time and time aain since his arri#al on this blihted
6ut her. 6ut her, you fool*
3as he mad! then; 3as he succumbin to that same random insanity , a thin of brilliance and bitterness , that had
consumed his master;
He had lon ao forsaken the trust of any other creature. .. could he now no loner trust his own mind;
He snarled in the silence of his helmet and drowned the #oice in his mind! and retracted his claws with a silky rasp!
feelin foolish. The priestess swam before his eyes! pale with incomprehension! and it was with a sensation like
relief! like a clear water scourin the filth of his psyche! that he broke the silence! focused upon her /uestion! and
-3hy;... 0ecause throuh them I may find somethin that was stolen from me. +y inheritan)e.'
-I,inheritance; Somethin that will help you; Somethin that will help us
He smiled! althouh of course she could not see it.
(es. Somethin that will aid me!=
-%... fori#e me! my lord... a weapon
He settled back upon the throne and wet his lips! and was no loner irked by her /uestions. It felt ood to speak of
such thins! finally. It felt ood to lea#e the #acuum of solitude , howe#er momentary! howe#er falsely. , and
remember the lories of his past. 3hat harm could it do; 3hat harm in tellin the truth to this eaer creature , or at
least those parts that would strenthen her loyalty;
3hat harm in lea#in the shadows! for an instant;
-3hat do you know!= he asked! -of the primarchs; 4f the Emperor-s own sons;-
Her bulin eyes were all the answer he needed. He wa#ed away her astonishment and went on.
There were twenty. Twenty warrior infants! twenty child,ods. 2erhaps they were whelped! like human sons.
2erhaps he made them! as an artist fashions a masterpiece. 2erhaps he simply willed them to life ,who knows; 3hat
is known is that they were scattered! cast out into the stars like seeds on tilled earth. %nd in their absence from their
father they rew to manhood , each in reflection of the world that had claimed them! each shaped by the people who
took them in. The kindness and cruelty of straners!=
He paused! and in his mind he saw a snow,white baby! rushin throuh tortured skies! black eyes s/uintin aainst
clouds and wind! before bein swallowed ,consumed whole , by the dark.
There was one who fell further! and deeper! than the rest. He came to a world without dayliht! where cruelty
abounded abo#e compassion! where the only honour was a precarious thin shared amonst thie#es and murderers.
This child! this feral thin! was raised by no man. *o human kindness e#er tauht him mercy! no mother e#er
shushed his sleepin terrors. %nd alone of all the scattered primarchs! all those lost babes! no one tauht him wron
from riht. Custice from in8ustice.
-4h! the beliefs of the other primarchs #aried! of course. 3hat is @wron@! or @riht@! after all; 2oints of #iew. %s
each child rew their sense of rihteousness solidified! their concept of what to punish and what to encourae took
form! uided by the morality of their tutors or brothers,at,arms. 7ltimately the conclusion
they drew! whate#er their circumstance! was the same. that @riht@ was whatever they said was riht. That @wron@
was whatever they de)ided to punish.
-Cust children! priestess! but already ods to be lo#ed and feared!=
&hianni stirred! throwin off her ob#ious awe to rasp at the loose end left flailin.
-%nd the feral child; 3hat of him;-
Sahaal smiled aain! warmth flourishin in his chest. "h, my master...
-He had no tutors. *o one would take him in! so he rew wild and independent. *o one would feed him! so he
learned to hunt and feed himself. *o one would comfort him when he was taken by the nihtmares in his sleep! or
by the #isions that plaued his wakin hours! or by the fits that wracked his body , so he rew stron and wily! and
o#ercame the nihtmares! and deciphered the #isions! and repressed the fits.
-*o one would teach him what 8ustice was! and so ,like no child had e#er done before! and no child has e#er done
since , he tauht himself. He saw callousness and cruelty! and reconised them. He saw strenth bein abused6
producti#ity and pea)e bein surrendered to terror and #iolence. %nd do you know what he learned! child;-
-*,no! my lord!=
-He learned that 8ustice is strenth. He learned that if he wished to o#ercome the predators that haunted the darkness!
he need only become the stronest predator of them all. He learned that if he wished to punish a murderer! it
re/uired only that he be a more accomplished killer. He learned that if he wished to brin peace and e/uality to his
world , and oh, he wanted that so mu)h , he must hunt down those filth that stood in its way and use their weapons
aainst them.
-%nd he learned that there is only one weapon. Stroner than any un. Sharper than any blade!= Sahaal leaned close
to the priestess! her ashen face reflected with bulbous distortion in the crimson windows of his eyes. That weapon is
fear, child!=
She swallowed! eyes not lea#in him for an instant.
Sahaal went on! /uieter than before! #oice no more than a whisper. The thus and the thie#es! the rapists and the
murderers. they ripped that world tiht in their hands because e#ery man and woman was afraid of them. %nd so
the feral warrior became the one thin that would stop them.
-Somethin that e#en they would learn to fear. He became the *iht Haunter.
-He tauht them 8ustice throuh terror. He led that world into peace and efficiency! where before only #iolence and
anarchy had reined! and he did so unaided! alone in the dark! for the ood of them all.
-His name was >onrad &ur5e! and he was my master!=
He leaned away from the priestess and watched her closely! auin her response. She struled! of course , who
would not; , but aain the curiosity at her core o#ercame the awe6 an addict demandin more before e#en the dru,
rush has faded.
@four master...- she breathed. -3hat happened to him;-
-His father found him. The Emperor came to him and embraced him! and they went into the stars to lead the
mihtiest crusade that e#er was!=
-S,so he li#es; He li#es still;-
% bleak tableau erupted behind Sahaal-s eyes. a scene he had re#isited in his dreams a million times o#er! each one
cuttin him deeper than the last.
% pale fa)e@ awaiting the killer. 5la)k eyes , bottomless, pouring with angst , staring from the shadows of the
writhing room. Its fleshwalls and limb )arpets shift underfoot. .. and the hit)h draws near.
Sahaal had been there. He had seen it! hidin in the shadows like some child at play! honourin his #ow with tears
upon his cheeks. He would not inter#ene. He would not stop her. He would watch and nothin more. and it hurt him
like a cold fire in his uts that could ne#er be doused.
She steps )lose, horrified at her surroundings, entran)ed by the target's naked form.
#e has been e&pe)ting her. #e has foreseen this moment.
She sweeps towards him and is surprised. She has been e&pe)ting guards. She has anti)ipated violen)e. Instead the
#aunter smiles and be)kons her )lose, and he speaks.
4h! by the dark! his voi)e...
Such words of #enom and #eneance he spoke6 such heartbroken sentiments.
#e smiles throughout, and even as his voi)e breaks and the tears pun)ture their inertia and gather in streams along
his pallid )heeks, he is wel)oming. #e is warm. #e is )alm.
',eath is nothing )ompared to vindi)ation,' he finishes, sitting forwards on his mighty throne, '1ow do your ;ob and
be done with it*
"nd her hand rises, and the thing in her grip fli)kers bile(green, and...
Sahaal stared down at the priestess! blinkin throuh a film of water! and athered himself.
-*o!= he said. -He is dead. He was betrayed by one who should ha#e lo#ed him!=
The effect of this upon &hianni could hardly ha#e been more de#astatin. She rocked back in her chair and
scrabbled at her face! tears and spittle oo5in between finers! breath catchin in her throat.
Sahaal was unsurprised. To him! a #eteran of the Horus Heresy! the idea that the ods and anels of the Imperium
miht be capable of betrayal was nothin new. 0ut to the peasants amonst whom he walked ,people like this
woman , he was less a li#in bein than a myth made solid. 'ittle wonder their minds rebelled aainst his words.
%nd little wonder the priestess-s nausea. it is not often one is told their ods are 8ust as capable of misery! flaw and
e#il as any other bein.
-1estrain yourself!= he said! tirin of her fit. (ou /uestioned me reardin my master-s leacy! not the reason for his
She reco#ered her dinity by derees! straihtenin into her seat and smoothin her tanled hair. -%,apolo,ies!
lord!= she choked! wipin her face. -I... I had no idea...-
-He is dead!= Sahaal repeated! eaer to return to the story6 flushed with a ratification at speakin it aloud that he
hadn-t e"pected. It was as if the millennia of his dormancy had allowed the pain to fester in his soul! to e"pand like
some poisoned as! swellin his ribs with pressure he could no loner contain. +erely speakin of it! merely #entin
his memories! felt like openin a #al#e in his mind! e"pellin the #enom in a reat in#isible cloud. -He is dead and
that is an end to it. He had foreseen it! and for that was rateful! for he could prepare himself. He named an heir! he
be/ueathed his mihtiest treasure! and that heir was , is ( me!=
T,then this treasure is,;-
-Is the item I seek on this world!= He clenched his 8aw! rememberin. -It was stolen from me before I could e#en
claim it!=
The #aunter's head, so pla)id in its aspe)t, tumbles to the floor and rolls. There is no blood.
The killer stands thus poised, grisly mission )omplete, and perhaps she pauses to savour the moment. <erhaps she
refle)ts upon the ease with whi)h it was done.
r perhaps she has more still to do.
She bends to the body and plu)ks at its dead limbs. " ring, she steals, and a silver blade worn in a flesh s)abbard at
its shoulder. "nd then she turns, hun)hed low on the writhing floor, seeking something.
"nd then she straightens, and in her hand she holds it. ,islodged from his person at the moment of death, she finds
it and she takes it.
The pri.e.
The &orona *o".
In the shadows, Sahaal gapes. #is master had not foreseen this.
"nd then she is gone@ as qui)k as a )obra. "nd it is then, only then, with grief over)ome by sudden anger, with teeth
rasping together and hot tears turning to i)e on his )heeks, that Sahaal quits his vantage and ra)es in pursuit.
(es. 0y my master-s killer. I should ha#e known his enemies would try to take it...-
-H,he is here; That is who you pursue; This Slake ,he is the one who killed your master;-
-*o. *o! this happened... many years ao. She is dead now!=
The killer. The assassin!=
&hianni had the look of one who was drownin in a sea of surprises! and still had not e#en sihted the shore.
Then... my lord! why here
Sahaal hesitated. In truth the details of the subse/uent calamities were still unfocused in his mind! a amut of colour
and liht that no amount of mental
dissection could unra#el. He knew how it bean , in fire and blood aboard the assassin-s #essel! rapplin with claw
and fist aainst the bitch herself! wrestlin the &orona from her raspin finers then fleein to the $mbrea
He knew how it ended! crashin throuh the mists of E/ui"us! awakin in the #essel-s ruptured uts6 his pri5e stolen.
%nd between; % hundred centuries. 'iht. &olour. &aperin fiures of s#elte form and slanted eye! with fluted
helms and briht 8ewels! slippin between reality and warp! atherin around him.
The attack.
The fliht.
The trap.
The prison.
-It has reached this world alon... intricate pathways!= he said! clearin his mind of the 8umbled impressions. -It came
to the Glacier 1ats! and then to Slake. %nd from there...- he sihed! a blister of depression breakin apart!
o#erwhelmin e#en the freedom that had come from speakin with such candour! -...from there I do not know where
it has one!=
&hianni stared at him with wide eyes! and all around the silence of the underhi#e poured into the #acuum his story
had left.
H471S 2%SSE$! %*$ Sahaal slept! disenain the cyca,dian rhythms of his psyche! rela"in the catalapsean node at
the centre of his spine that could oscillate so casually between the domes of his brain.
True sleep. %nd with it! true dreams.
He saw the ice,liht of #oidfire! caperin and self,consumin as the $mbrea Insidior closed with the
assassin-s transport. He saw melta chares flare in the loom! and $readdaw assault craft punch into soft! yieldin
He saw the boardin action! and the slauhter. He saw his raptors make a charnel house of the bitch-s craft. He saw
her eyes! wide and fearful! as he sliced her hand from her wrist , a briht filiree of blood and oil shi#erin from the
rent , and with it reclaimed the &orona *o". He saw himself lift a claw for the killin blow. bittersweet #eneance
for his master-s death.
%nd then...
Screams upon the #o". His sereant-s #oice! fat with aner. -3arpspit9 Eldar, Talonmaster9 ?enoen s)um3
They came like a bloody sword from the sky6 breakin from dismal walls in liht and warpfire! skimmin realities
like a pebble across water. 'imbs wa#erin breathless uns couhin discs and coils. 'ike spiders! hatchin on webs
of Empyrean.
He saw the witch,lord. The dancin de#il! with antlered helm and sil#er staff! blue,old armour and feathered own6
a warlock,warrior! fro5en in his pathway! sword ali#e with wyrdfire.
He saw himself breakin free from the maelstrom! lea#in the assassin to cower! e#ery shred of his bein bent upon
the &orona. They wanted it. They had come to claim it! in his moment of triumph.
They would not have it.
He saw himself! alone! returnin to the $mbrea Insid(ior. He saw himself shuttin out the cries of his brothers. He
saw himself aboard his own #essel! fastenin his pri5e in its casket! sealin it aainst alien hands.
He saw himself tastin! for an instant! triumph.
%nd then the warp opened its mouth! prised wide by alien hands! and a bubble of nothing intumesced around his
ship. She shuddered! a protestin behemoth! a terrible beast flounderin into sticky tar to sink centimetre by
centimetre! shriekin as she drowned.
They pushed her deep into a timeless bubble! those "enoen spellsiners! and locked her from the warp. a water,
filled bell8ar! sealed with hot wa"! cast adrift in an ocean.
They could not enter. He could not lea#e.
He saw himself rae and roar for a full month. He saw his #assals lock themsel#es away from his wrath. He saw
himself succumb to insanity.
%nd then finally he saw himself tastin bitter acceptance! piece by piece! until he resined himself from reality! lost
all hope of escape! and entered the trance.
HE %34>E I* the Shadowkin encampment with the fla#our of resination and loss cloudin his mind! and found a
commotion in proress.
He found &hianni at the water-s ede! starin out across the un/uiet swamplands! shoutin orders and imprecations
at the flotilla of boatmen that approached.
She almost choked when he appeared silently behind her! and in the shallows two of the pus o#erturned as their
pilots limpsed the apparition on the shore.
7-hat,' Sahaal hissed! inorin the fearful splutters from the unctuous waters! -is the meanin of this;-
They had athered in their thousands. In makeshift shelters! beneath can#as bi#ouacs or else simply stretched upon
the hard round! with oily torches sputterin on rusted spars! waons and litters clustered in protecti#e circles!
an colours
flutterin , half,heartedly , side by side! all sense of territory abandoned. the rustmud swamp teemed.
E#en as he watched! Sahaal could see the human stream thickenin. He had chosen his acolytes- realm with care!
placin their encampment at the heart of a patchwork morass of bore,holes and smo #ents! but now the windin
path that led down from abo#e! snakin from the north! appeared impossibly choked. a flow of humanity like
sewae! blockin the pipe that carried it. They stepped from shattered irder to funal plateau! homin on the reat
drowned drillin ri like pilrims to a holy place.
Sahaal cast a brief lance to the south! workin his 8aw. There , set back from the swamp amidst a tanle of ineous
formations and massi#e funi , he knew there e"isted a second route from abo#e. a tunnel so tiht and twistin that
it could accept only a sinle body at a time. It was his e"it! his bolt,hole6 his means of a rapid escape if this
unfathomable territory was attacked! and he was pleased to see that its secrecy remained intact. He turned back to
the refuees! ratified.
They came with heads bowed and wounds unhealed. They came with the dyin carried on palettes behind them!
with their faces clouded and their eyes filled with tears. 3here once ans had spat upon the face of their enemies!
and died in the name of their totem! now they walked side by side! mutually inored! hostilities redundant in the face
of this harsher! more immediate e"odus.
They souht out a new totem! now , a new fiurehead , and in the pit of his heart an uly suspicion as to what it was
rolled o#er Sahaal like a breakin storm.
-3ho are they;- he asked &hianni! keepin ali#e the hopes that he miht be wron.
-C,8ust... 8ust people! my lord. From the underhi#e. The 2reafects ha#e destroyed half the settlements... They-#e ot
nowhere e,-
@3hat do they want3
&hianni bit her lip! percepti#e enouh to know the answer would not please her master.
-They ha#e heard of you!= she said! #oice /uiet. They think... they think you-re a myth! but... 0ut they know the
Shadowkin escaped unharmed. They know us as... Holy 5ealots! my lord. They-#e feared us for decades ,as lon as
the tribe has been here , but... but now we ha#e strenth! and they are weakened. They-re anry. They don-t know
what they did to warrant the 2reafects- #iolence. They-re dyin. They-re pitiful. %nd suddenly they ha#e seen the
error of their ways!=
-I did not ask you who they are, priestess. I asked what do they want3
He knew the answer already! of course.
&hianni-s lip trembled as she spoke.
-Sanctuary! lord. They come seekin sanctuary!=
SHE &47'$ *4T a#oid her master-s attempts at contact for lon. She left the precinct when the chirrupin of ad#ancin
ser#itors , snatchin at her attention with hi#elink comms clutched in piston knuckles , rew tedious! and her
e"cuses became untenable. She knew she was bein childish! but the swarm of uncertainties cloudin her mind!
coupled with the hosts of e"haustion rippin her! precluded e#en the most lacklustre of attempts to represent
herself intelliibly. For all that! she could tell sleep was not yet an option! so she took to wanderin the bustlin
streets of &uspseal like an eidolon! a lost spirit seekin absolution.
2reachers leaned from pulpits! holdin loosebound books in claw,like rasps! eyes ali#e with fire and piety. %round
them crowds accreted! and as she passed by +ita tasted the cocktail of their thouhts. the briht ember of the 5ealot!
the tepid mundanity of his flock AI
believe* their minds cried , but always the shackles of doubt! of shame! of sin! weihed their spirits downB6 and
always amonst the crowds she found inconruous minds. the strict focus of underco#er 2reafects! the dartin
intentions of pickpockets and outlaws! the fearful disust of whores! rudinly seekin custom. She walked on
/uickly! troubled to find so little purity! so little #irtue! amonst this ocean of thouht.
%t one intersection a knot of boys had athered around a militia post! recruitin sereants barkin false promises of
lory and ad#enture. The youths shouted and whisded as she passed! e#en the crudity of their catcalls unable to
break throuh the cae of her worries.
The /uestion that assailed her was as unanswerable as the uni#erse was #ast! and amonst its myriad strands of
uncertainty she found herself atherin it toether! kneadin into one shape6 one indiestible issue.
She paced across a hanin bride and paused to stare at the heads of e"ecuted criminals fi"ed upon each of its
stanchions! their eyes and tonues reedily de#oured by 8ewelled beetles and albino bats. The flocks chattered as she
passed! stabbin at her psychic senses with needles of ultrasonic sound! and she mo#ed on with only the most
cursory lance towards downtown &uspseal , the hulkin cube of the precinct dominatin her #iew! towerin abo#e
the mihty underhi#e chasm into the shadows below.
-hy does the inquisitor not a)t4
-hy does he restrain me with one hand and wave me forth with the other4
-hy does he request my presen)e then drug me, then lie that he did not4
-hy does his mood shift like a tide, ebbing and rising against all stimulus4
-hy does he sit day after day, ens)on)ed within the governor's pala)e4
His actions had hardly been heroic! and that in the face of his noble reputation. %nd whether he trusted her or not!
she would ha#e assumed the mere possibility of a &haos +arine lurkin in the dark would spur him to action. %nd
yet he smiled and sneered! and dismissed the issue! and told her it was bein dealt with.
$ealt with9 0y a sinle acolyte; % sinle cowled dis(simulus, whate#er that was. -hat if his plans fail 4
-hat if his plans... oh, Emperor, forgive me my doubt... what if his plans )annot be trusted4 -hat if he )annot be
She lurked in the shadows beneath a tannin factory chewin her lip! and watched as ser#itor,machines ,simian
monstrosities with arms like rablifters and thick chords of ser#omuscle tihtenin across copper pectorals , hefted
tall piles of ro" carcasses from uphi#e chutes into the ramblin buildin. The stench of smoke and tar and burnin
meat made her retch! and she mo#ed on aain. Is there nowhere to think in this damned hive4 3as that the problem!
perhaps; Had she forone the process of e"hausti#e consideration that the tutoria had encouraed; Had she been
slack! dumbly clouded by mistrust that had no basis! listenin too hard to instincts that had no place in a position of
obedience; -here has this paranoia )ome from4 She looped back towards the precinct! more troubled than e#er!
and when a muer slipped from the moist darkness of an icemelt,drenched alleyway! blade litterin in his hand!
she faced him with an almost
indecent 8oy. relie#ed to shut out the worries for an instant! rela"ed by the simple promise of #iolence.
The man approached with a sneer! knife wea#in mesmeric patterns! holdin her attention. It would ha#e been a
crude fein e#en had she not been a psyker! and when his partner! hidden behind her! took her ob#ious distraction as
his cue to attack! she spun a carefully aued kick into his face! his own momentum snappin the bones of his cheek
and rippin an uly tear across his lip.
The psychic feedback of his surprise and pain was deliciously ratifyin.
The first attacker waded in with his knife! all hope of surprise lost! and she ducked beneath his first clumsy swipe to
plant a balled fist in his stomach! knockin him down with the breath one from his luns.
She rolled aside to a#oid any desperate slashin and 8umped to her feet before he could roily arise! imainin
>austus-s tusked face in the place of the muer-s! and half turned with an eleant elbow! droppin him back for a
second time! thick ruby fluid ushin from his broken eyeball.
She returned to the first attacker! the broken,lipped nobody! a fraction too late! 8ust as he launched a throwin knife
at her head! urlin on the bloody soup slidin into his mouth. %ctin without thouht she screwed up her mind
and released an impetuous! undirected pulse of psychic enery! deflectin the spinnin blade with a clash of blue
The muers weren-t as stupid as they looked. Seein what manner of #ictim they-d chosen! yelpin the word
-witch9- with youthful terror! they fled into the shadows on a chorus of shrieks and moans. +ita huffed behind them!
irritated at the bre#ity of the workout. She hadn-t e#en broken a sweat.
Instinct had sa#ed her. Then! as now...
She realised with a start that it made little difference. The realisation o#ercame her like some prophetic epiphany!
and reduced all her confusions and an"ieties to a simple certainty.
3hether she thouht it throuh or listened to her heart! whether she applied the humourless fruality of loic or the
unfounded passion of instinct to her troubles! the result would remain the same.
She did not trust her master as far as she could spit him.
3HE* FI*%''( HIS messae reached her! upon her return to the precinct! it was a short! prerecorded affair. He stared
from a #iewspe" thick with distortion and white noise! and pointed a lo#ed finer down the lenth of the camera
-Stay where you are! interroator!= he said. -%llow no other attacks upon the underhi#e. (ou understand me; 1o
more failures.
-1emain in &uspseal. I am sendin a mutual friend to collect you!=
The imae died with a clipped whine! and +ita sat back from the #iewspe" with a yawn.
She could no loner brin herself to care.
SHE S'E2T 2441'( that niht.
4rodai and his 2reafects had returned from their subterranean predations with risly armour and sa#ae smiles6
satisfied for now that the iron heel of the 2rea,fectus )indictaire had crashed whate#er flames of rebellion still
fluttered at the underhi#e-s heart. She tried to /ui5 the commander personally , had he seen the *iht 'ord; Had
they killed the traitor; , but the man-s
e"hausted irritation at her continuin presence had earned her few answers! and only by skimmin his mind had she
tasted the seed of doubt that linered there.
They had seen nothin of the shadowed monster. 4h! 4rodai told himself that it was irrele#ant! that he barely
belie#ed it was real anyway! that the aim of the assault had been to pre#ent any further incursions into his territory
and to repay the horror of the starport massacre. He e#en bean to belie#e his own reassurances! but when he
ordered +ita out of his office it was with the look of a man who knew he was foolin himself! that his actions had
achie#ed nothin unless perhaps to e"acerbate the situation! and that the e"cesses of the day-s #iolence had all been
for nouht.
She left him only when he #owed there would be no more attacks! and commandeered a small 2reafect dormitory
for her and &o-s e"clusi#e use. She snapped at the iant-s moronic prattlin with more #enom than it warranted! and
fell into a shallow interrupted slumber to the sound of his suppressed sniffles.
She dreamed of embers , or eyes , burnin in the darkness around the edes of her #ision. She saw a reat shark
with blades for fins! cruise throuh inky water before turnin away! re8ectin her taste. %nd then the water was the
#oid! and the spectral currents were eddies in the warp! and a shoal! a school! a pod , a swarm , punctured the
nothinness6 not of fish nor s/uid but eales! sil#er and blue and black! swoopin and amblin in the updrafts of
% #oice said. 'Seek me, my brothers...'
%nd out in the dark! where no liht could fall! somethin heard the call. Somethin paid attention! and listened with
a keen ear! then turned and cried into the deeper depths! where some other remote listener waited.
%ain and aain the cry was repeated! circulated! echoed from ear to mouth to ear! across time and #oid and warp!
until it reached the eales themsel#es. 4ne by one they dipped their wins! fle"ed their steely claws! and raced
towards the liht.
Towards an island of pearly white. % planet. %n icy world! with its face turned from the sun.
She awoke in the small hours of the early mornin with the same old uncertainty. how much of a part had the ift
played in her nocturnal fantasies; How much was dream! and how much prediction;
She did not sleep aain after that.
THE F4''43I*G $%( found her huddled o#er the steerin pillar of an impeller bike! a reat plume of ash towerin
behind her like the tail of a dusty rooster. She had cast off indolence! washed clean her indecision! and decided to
%s she saw it! the distinction between obser#ation and interference ran deep. She had been e"pressly forbidden from
indulin in the latter. >austus-s messae had said nothin of the former.
In e#ery city! and especially in e#ery hi#e! +ita knew that there was a certain ni)he. Sometimes it was naturally
filled. 4ften it was a position to be s/uabbled o#er! traded between those who felt inclined to occupy it. Ine#itably
there would come to each of these conflicts a natural resolution6 a winner. Such characters were cunnin. They were
ruthless. They were scrupulous. They were )lever.
She had made her en/uiries discreetly! at the start. She had considered &uspseal from the perspecti#e of a social
8isaw! and had taken pains to direct her interest towards those pieces of a hiher calibre , the
uildhouse /uartermasters! the merchant tsars of the dockin /uarters! the madams of 3horetown and the
recruitment sereants of the small Fleet 7ltima offices ad8acent to the precinct. She had thouht such characters far
more likely to be familiar with the oal of her en/uiries than lesser souls.
She needn-t ha#e bothered to focus her attention so closely. In the minds of everyone she encountered! be they peon
or boureoisie or authority! the e"istence of an information broker! a spymaster! a watcher! was as firm as cold rock.
That none of them dared speak his name! or to be o#erseen in the act of betrayin his identity! merely confirmed to
+ita his monopoly.
His name was irrele#ant. His whereabouts were not. She plucked it , ultimately , from the mind of a bounty hunter!
drunk and leerin! in a saloon on the outskirts of &uspseal. He seemed to +ita to be a prime source of answers. such
mercenary scum as he could be uaranteed to ha#e had dealins with the broker! or at least his associates! at one
time or another. She-d pluned her astral tentacles into his unresistin consciousness without thouht for his safety!
relishin the shouts of dismay from his fellow drinkers. 1e#ulsion and disassociation were reactions to her mutation
to which she had rown all too familiar6 the ability to terrify was somethin she had had little chance to en8oy. 7ntil
To skim a mind for the #auest impressions of its inner workins was one thin6 to hunt for specific detail was
another! far more damain thin entirely.
She shattered his mind and left his brain haemor,rhain , blood pourin from eyes and nose. Her own ob8ecti#es
outweihed e#erythin now.
DIs this how 2austus feels, she wondered; This impunity
. This endless authority4B
%nd so she found herself ridin hard! impeller wheels rindin aainst litterflows and ashdunes! as she made her
way towards the broker-s home , deep in the teemin hab5ones of the eastern me55anines.
&o rode ahead! his primal instincts and hardwired reactions far superior to her own. 3hen he swer#ed to a#oid
some hidden cre#ice! or 8inked his impeller to one side 8ust as other traffic passed , a ca#alcade of bikes and trams!
scuttlin beetlemounts and arish ser#itor #ehicles! dead torsos welded to chasses like fleshy steerin columns , she
followed suit immediately. %llowin him to lead was a pramatic deference. on the off,chance that anyone was
foolish enouh to attempt an ambush! it would be he who absorbed the brant of the attack.
2racticality! e#en throuh affection. The stuff of the In/uisition.
They entered the 3arren throuh a loopin series of bridebacks and checkpoints! where /ueues of impatient
ci#ilians athered to pass. She kept her identity to herself at such times! slottin the cruciform T pendant of her
office into the tiny fleshholster on her shoulder! endurin the slea5y searches of militiamen with uncharacteristic
patience. It would not do to broadcast her presence ahead! and if the broker was as adept as his reputation suested
he would know they were comin lon before they arri#ed.
The 3arren was a honeycomb of stanant architecture. he"aonal block after he"aonal block! interlockin in drab
material harmonies! facets pressed toether for support like stifled teeth in a coed machine. Here the workers
li#ed6 the billion no ones. The antscum. Factory fodder! condemned to lifetimes of drudery! but thankful to their
Emperor for the same. Here the uncomplainin masses awoke! worked!
and slept. e#ery day! e#ery year! e#ery century. Termites in a concrete mound! as uni/ue as rains of sand upon an
endless island beach.
&o and +ita swept into a cul#ert at the base of a particular hab! the memory of its pitted surface and its de#otional
raffiti no less #i#id for bein stolen from the bounty hunter-s brain. 4nly on closer inspection was the sham
inherent to the construction made plain! and then only throuh a careful appraisal of tiny details. *o clothin
danled on fle"in poles from tiny slit,windows. *o shadows mo#ed behind blinds and drapes! as they did in
surroundin habs. *o preachers ranted in fiery oration from the stepped buttresses alon each corner! replaced on
this edifice by tail human fiures. ser#itors with lon shanks and countless eyes! which stood in silent #oyeurism of
all within their a5e.
It was a statement! of course.
8ou are being wat)hed.
They left their impeller bikes at the central entrance! and +ita could feel without e"tendin her psychic self the cold
intellect reardin them. Throuh numberless electric eyes! throuh a myriad of cameras , both hidden and o#ert ,
its perpetual interest bored into her from somewhere within.
This! then! was the information broker. %nd to her senses! which relied upon the whimsy of emotion as a retina
relies upon liht! his astral presence was a thin of 8aed edes and uly ambitions.
She stepped inside scant seconds behind &o. It sa#ed her life.
HE H%$ 7SE$ combat ser#itors! of course. &le#er.
$e#oid of emotion! lackin e#en a basic self awareness which miht ha#e betrayed them to her senses! they were as
in#isible to her astral a5e as any other
machine. They dropped from recesses abo#e the door and sprun from concealed pits in the rockcrete of the lobby
with only the whine of smooth hydraulics to betray their mo#ement. Four of them. sleek models with anly parts
and che/uerboards of surical scars! ramshackle homunculi with a danerous! raceful aesthetic. Two racked
unainly weapons from plastic holsters! deformed remnants of human flesh held toether by circuit wirin.
%utouns , multibarreled and undecorated , loomed in each cybermetallic paw.
The two others started forwards! bird,8ointed les endowin them with a predatory! hoppin ait! like reptiles
hybridised with 5ombie corpses. Each sported a shimmerin forceblade in the place of a left wrist ,flesh and
absorption coils interknitted like brambles ,and a three,diit powerfist to the riht.
Two to shoot the hell out of any trespasser, and two to get in )lose and finish them off. 6ute.
The autouns opened fire with a roar and +ita ducked on impulse! acknowledin e#en as she did so that it was a
futile esture. not a sinle part of the lead firestorm could find its way to her. 0ullets impacted on &o-s broad chest
like stones strikin the flanks of a tank , punchin raed holes in his robe and pluckin messy eruptions of blood
and flesh into the air , but appearin only to enrae him further. He stretched wide his tri,8ointed arms and roared
like a beast! reat fists clenchin in rae! bullets whinin as they ricocheted from steel knuckles. % obbet of his
flesh painted itself across +ita-s brow! snappin her awake from the ure to free5e up that had sei5ed her. She
dropped to her knees and rabbed for the holster at her waist.
She was an interroator of the 4rdo ?enos! warp,dammit. She wouldn-t be bested by a hi#etown
infomerchant and his metal cronies. She-d come prepared for this.
Her boltpistol was loaded and armed before conscious thouht e#en impelled her to seek tarets! and she s/uirreled
her way forwards to peer between &o-s les with the weapon supported in both hands. Throuh the oscillations of
his robe , now tattered and drippin ore , she cauht a brief limpse of the nearest undrone! wide eyes rollin in
metal sockets with whate#er #esties of machismo its human bioloy retained. She took her time drawin a bead!
recallin her trainin! shuttin out e#ery other element of the world! dissol#in peripheral threats on a wa#e of
focus! then fired.
The ser#itor 8erked backwards once! then spun at an impact upon its shoulder! then arched backwards with a sudden
snap as a third shell cauht it in the centre of its forehead. The warheads detonated one by one ,dancin their #ictim
like a hastly marionette , until its head burst apart on a cloud of shrapnel and brain flesh.
Towerin o#er her! &o-s li#in shield was /uickly losin its efficacy. His roar rew weaker with e#ery instant!
replaced all too often by anuished moans! and the fabric of his robe dri55led moist ore around his feet like a
saturated spone. $oin her best to stay behind him , and to shut out her shame at acceptin his unspoken sacrifice ,
+ita became aware of a blurrin shape to her left. The first of the combat ser#itors closed with an electric rattle! its
face a featureless mass of stretched skin! pulled taut around a sinle fish,eye lens. Its attack was as brutal as it was
efficient , a hori5ontal hack with the cracklin blade instants before a #ertical swipe with the powerfist , a combi,
nation impossible to dode. She backed away with a
wordless howl! aware already that she was as ood as dead.
&o sa#ed her yet aain! clawin with an e"hausted runt at the ser#itor-s head and throwin it! knife choppin
uselessly at his tree,like arm! across the room! bowlin o#er the remainin undrone in the process. +ita followed
his lead without hesitation! pumpin a lut of bolter shells into the knotted machines as they struled to
disentanle! watchin with enormous satisfaction as they blew apart with smoke and sparks dancin around them.
The inter#ention was one effort too reat for &o-s wrecked body. manled to the point of dissolution! eyes thick
with a film of blood and tears6 his massi#e les a#e way and he slumped to the round with a hiss! hands reachin
-$idn-t... didn-t sa#ed +ita!= he burbled! child,like. -Suh,sorry...-
-4h! &o...- she whispered.
%nd then it was 8ust her! and in a slow motion dream that had no business in#adin her reality! the second combat
ser#itor hopped aily from the plumes of smoke and ripped her boltpistol away! crumplin it in its powerfist.
It placed its blade to her neck and chirruped.
-Shit!= she announced.
-I wouldn-t o that far! dear!= said a #oice! startlin her. -I thouht you did rather well! considerin. #et(het(het'
The curious tone seemed to come from the ser#itor itself , or at least from the enamel speaker,mouth hooked abo#e
its raed ear , but its unctuous tones stood inconruous aainst the machine-s #apid mind. Someone speakin from
afar! then! usin this murderous machine as a mouth.
-(ou must be the information broker!= she said! feelin ridiculous.
'#et(het(het,' the #oice sounded positi#ely delirious! its weird lauhter ratin at her ears. )ery ood! yes! #ery
ood9 %nd you must be the in/uisitor-s witch! yes; (es; Heard so #ery much about you! het(het(het. 0linded one of
my aents earlier! e#en! poor little lamb!=
The muers; That was you;-
'#et(het(het. It pays to find out as much as possible about straners in my city!=
-@Find out@; They tried to murder me9-
Tes. #et(het(het. So I found out you can-t be killed by cretins. (ou see; Thus my metal friends! here!=
The ser#itor thumped itself on the chest with a hollow clan. 'ike a puppet! dancin to its master-s strins. %t its
feet! &o shifted his weiht and roaned! watchin e#ents throuh rheumy eyes. *ot dead! then. (et.
3ho are you;- +ita said! the forceblade-s chare pricklin at the skin of her throat.
That! my dear! is somethin you aren-t in any position to disco#er!= The ser#itor cast an eye , independent of its twin
, down to the bleedin iant on the floor. -*ot now that your pet oryn can-t /uite find his feet ,het(het(het.'
&o stiffened.
% warnin bell ran in +ita-s mind.
-3hat... 3hat did you call him;- she said! bracin herself.
-$idn-t you hear me; %n ogr('
Somethin blurred before her eyes.
The sounds of metal and flesh bein ripped apart went on for a lon time! e#en after &o stamped on the ser#itor-s
#oicebo" and silenced its curses.
-He doesn-t like bein called that!= +ita muttered! needlessly. She went to find the broker.
THE( &%+E SEE>I*G sanctuary. The underhi#e recoiled from its wounds! slinkin in the dark like a crippled fo"! and
where before its people had held the Shadowkin in contempt , fearin their #iilante strikes! deridin their 5ealotry ,
now their perceptions were chaned. *ow they saw strenth! fortification! protection.
There was not a sinle family untouched by the 2rea,fect-s porom! and without a spoken word! without #ocal
alliance or official consent! they athered themsel#es in meare packs! as best they could! and they trod the windin
path into the depths! to where the snakin road descended no further! and there! on the shores of the rustmud
swamps! they stopped.
In the heart of Sahaal-s domain.
They came seekin sanctuary! and amonst the hordes of their number they brouht with them their former masters!
their warriors and outlaws and leaders. Their heroes and their #illains.
%t the start of the second day followin the #indictor attack! when die stream had become a trickle! and then finally
cleared! Sahaal stared out from his throne across the sea of seethin refuees! tasted their stink upon the air! felt their
fear and dispossession and de8ection! and smiled his secret smile.
He would use them.
-3H%T $E&E2TI4* IS this;-
-&urse you! Shadowbitch9 I-ll not stand for,-
-0ack off9 4ne more9 4ne more push,9-
Snarls of aression 8ittered throuhout the Shad,owkin encampment6 a rin of torches and weapon,loss lints
tihtenin around twel#e strane , and furious ,fiures. They had come in ood faith. $e8ected at their fliht for
sanctuary! ashamed! e#en! of the e"odus from their own territories! they were proud nobles nonetheless. %nd now!
as they stepped from cobbled bares onto the russet,brown island of their former enemies! to find themsel#es
encircled by Shadowkin unsmen! they reacted with all the outrae of displeased royalty. -Slit your #ile litde throats!
by the frospirits,- -Suest you lower your weapons, Shadowscum,- %nd so on.
&ondemnitor &hianni directed their corrallin with the confidence of one born to lead! and as he watched the
unfoldin spectacle from the secret places of the island,drill-s moulderin carcass! Sahaal reflected ratefully upon
her transformation. She had come to him as a stammerin under,condemnitor6 a witness to her leader-s casual
slayin by a monstrosity from her nihtmares. %nd now; *ow she was a representati#e of di#inity! no less. He had
ordered her to ather their current uests in the Emperor-s name and she had oblied him without
complaint. In the unfamiliar waters of politics and diplomacy! she was his most #aluable tool. -2riestess9 (ou et
these uns out of my siht or,- -%nry9 >illin soon9 Hi#eshit Shadowkin bloodin9- The Shadowkin warriors
inored the threats with patience borne of confidence! dri#in their chares on up the flanks of the rusted heap6
towards the dark cul#ert at its heart where the #ast throne of bone and ra , accruin new risly pennants and
morbid trophies with e#ery day , stood empty. Its owner watched the #isitors from other! secret #antaes! and
relished the fear their indination concealed.
Since their arri#al in the Shadowkin territories the swarm of refuees had maintained a fearful distance from the
shade,slicked island with its black,raed deni5ens and rumours of li#in horrors. 'ike mice clamourin at the
entrance to a tier-s lair , rateful for its presence but too terrified to approach , they left their protectors well alone!
and went about the re,establishment of their feudal structures in new! miniaturised empires6 shanty towns and
can#as camps pushed aainst the shores of the swamp. Shadowkin spies watched it all! and throuh them Sahaal had
obser#ed and calculated! and followed their petty dominions with interest.
It was! he supposed! a natural process. In the world abo#e this dismal wasteland! before the 2reafects came and
chaned e#erythin! e#ery aspect of underhi#e life was o#erned by the anhouses. 7nderworld atristoc,racies!
each as assiduous of its heritae and racial purity as the Steepletown nobles themsel#es. Their number were
impossible to determine and their internecine s/uabbles! schisms and betrayals impossible to chronicle6 but what
was certain was this. of them all! se#en houses had risen to dominate the rest. se#en
reat clan,tribes of warriors and outlaws. %nd all , bar one , had swallowed pride and territory in the face of the
#indictor raids and fled into the silent deeps of the Shadowkin lair. %nd thus they now stood! tri#ial empires
scattered alon the shores of Sahaal-s domain.
First were the <uet5ai , a brood of nimble warriors whose audy suits of colour and feather slipped amonst the
refuees of the northern shore. tall totems mo#in abo#e the raedy shelters! each bearin a li#in kutroach with its
limbs and fans remo#ed.
Second! to the east! the towerin brutes of the %tla &lan. warriors ritually scarred from head to toe! poisoned /uills
worn at the tip of each finer! like the paws of reat bears. Their uttural commands ,demands for food and drink
from the dispossessed peoples o#er whom they had claimed stewardship ,resounded across the waters with irritatin
0eyond them! isolated from the refuee swarm where other houses minled Aand terrorisedB at will! the /uiet albinos
of the 2allor Steppes fashioned sturdy teepees and burnt strane herbs! soporific fumes mi"in with those of the
swamp. Their hunched forms , so frail! in appearance , belied a fierce martial tradition! and Sahaal found himself
reminded of the white,skinned people of *ostromo <uintus! his master-s ancient home.
To the south the e"iled underhi#ers found themsel#es beneath the custodianship of the House +arittha. enderless
warriors with lon limbs and hih,boned faces! tall rifles clutched in eleant hands! uncertain physi/ues tattooed and
naked! displayin their sacred androyny for all to see.
In the shallows of the southern shores! where the weakest of the refuees had been pushed by the unentle 0rownian
motions of the encampment! the shamanic
sa#aes of the Fro 2rinces had established their oleainous /uarters. &on#inced that the bloated amphibians of
their former territory were reincarnations of Imperial saints , throuh whom the Emperor could be contacted , their
priests dressed in moist skins! eyes bulin with luubrious scrutiny! demandin tithes from the hi#ers beneath their
rule not of credits nor food! but unpleasant oranic curios. hair from the head of a child! an old man-s spittle6
inredients for their rituals of worship.
%nd finally! to the west! the hauhty uards of the S5tak &hai 3arlord mo#ed amonst the thron! demandin
respect and ta"ation in e/ual amounts. Their plain robes disuised bodies honed to teak hardness by decades of
martial -meditation-! and their dawn e"ercises had captured Sahaal-s attention , and his appreciation , from across the
The se#enth noble house! un,represented in all of the rustmud ca#erns! was the Glacier 1at scum. piratical #ermin
wiped from the face of the hi#e in the blink of an eye.
0efore the e"odus these families! these wolf,pack brotherhoods! had ruled the underhi#e with a clench of iron and
blood. and woe betide the settlement that nelected its ta"es! or disrespected its territorial o#erlords.
%nd now this.
They found themsel#es reduced to framentary slices of shoreline6 di#isions of power that encircled the drill island
like a moat of shiftin la#a , creepin and insidious! but ultimately slow and unthreatenin. They had lost the respect
of the underhi#e. They had e"isted for centuries as protection merchants. e"tortin -their- peasants for the riht to
stewardship6 and when at last their protection was re/uired! when the armoured fist of the 2reafects smashed aainst
the underhi#e-s
unprotected belly , they had failed. They had fallen from race. They had come to Sahaal-s tribe with bein bowls
outstretched and now , the insolence! the all9 , they were resumin their old ways. formulatin petty hierarchies
amonst the dispossessed camps! demandin fealty and wealth from those with neither to offer.
Sahaal could not stand for that. There was one authority in this rustin hinterland! and one authority alone. He would
not be challened! whether they knew of his e"istence or not.
%nd so to each noble family! throuh scouts that he sent to each camp! he offered an in#itation , a communion with
the condemnitor of the Shad,owkin , and true to form! blusterin! face,keepin! puffed with misplaced pride! each
was accepted. The head of e#ery house! and his or her finest warrior! summoned to meet with those whose sanctuary
they had claimed. That was the deal. That was the bait.
They arri#ed like #isitin princes! of course! and now... now they snarled like caed beasts at e#ery unentle prod of
a lasun mu55le in their ribs! e#ery hand,heel push towards the centre of the island.
#ow the mighty are fallen...
The *iht Haunter-s words! rinin in Sahaal-s mind.
-,demand to know the meaning of this! warp-s piss9-
-,be repercussions9 The S5tak &hai does not tolerate,-
-,kill9 &ut slice,and,dice , kill all9-
%nd then there was a new #oice! neither raised nor strained! which cut throuh the ob8ections like a ra5or and left
8aws apin.
-0e silent!= it said! from abo#e their heads. -0e silent and bow to your new lord!=
He dropped from the stain of darkness that co#ered the ca#ern-s ceilin without a noise6 a lon,shanked #ision of
black and blue! de#il,red eyes larin from a pall of shadow! strikin the brown earth and straihtenin! black cloak
of feather and ra settlin across him like a funeral shroud. To their minds! ali#e with such terror that they had ne#er
before known! he was not real. He could not be real. This anle,limbed beast , this filth,slicked spider , that had
broached the walls of nihtmare and found form in corporeal flesh. Towerin o#er them! a half,seen houl! #eiled
by darkness and desin! his respirator steamed unctuous coils of #apour like a daemon-s breath! and as he tilted his
head throuh liht,dappled chinks of shadow he fle"ed his claws from their sheaths! slicin the awe,fro5en moment
in half.
The #isitors came to their senses all at once. Some screamed.
Some tried to run. Some fell to their knees.
They had heard the rumours! perhaps. They had heard that the madmen of the Shadowkin , those 5ealous fools who
had shut themsel#es away from the rest of the underhi#e! eschewin contact and wealth! concerned only with their
morbid deathcult! dedicated to the Emperor-s purity , had a new master. They had shrued and spat! untroubled by
the machinations of that which did not concern them.
They had heard tales! e#en! of somethin new in the underhi#e! some dark presence that prowled in the niht and
killed without compunction. They had heard of mutilations and bloody atrocities6 of bodies dis8ointed and #iolated!
of eyes put out and finers stolen.
They had heard rumours of terrors and abominations! and dismissed them as idle tales to scare the children.
They were rerettin their flippancy now.
The leaders will approach!= Sahaal said! #oice a mere hiss.
*one seemed prepared to obey6 each -noble- hidin behind his or her accompanyin warrior! faces drawn! mouths
aape! refusin still to belie#e what their eyes were tellin them.
Sahaal hissed and estured at &hianni6 a half,flick of his claws that he knew she would translate accordinly. 4n cue
the condemintor wa#ed forwards the Shad,owkin warriors! o#erseein their rouh ad#ance. pullin apart nobles and
protectors like clinin lo#ers! threatenin and clubbin when resistance was offered! pushin forwards the an
leaders to stumble! alone and unprotected! in a ale at Sahaal-s feet.
Si" little pis! /ui#erin in their fat.
-(ou came to this place!= Sahaal said! a5e sweepin across them! arm esturin out across the smo of the swamps!
-in terror. (ou fled before your enemies like vermin, and you ran here. Into my arms. To me*
He took a step forwards! liht smearin itself a fraction further across his armour.
(ou came to me for sanctuary , unin#ited! unwanted , but ha#e I turned you away; *o. I ha#e tolerated your
presence. I ha#e let you slip amon the shores of my domain like snakes in tall rass... and how ha#e you repaid my
%nother step! claws flashin across flickerin torchliht! eyes burnin. The nobles crined in their places.
-Ha#e you #isited me! to bow; Ha#e you offered fealty! to the Emperor-s own warrior; Ha#e you yielded to me; 1o.
*o! you ha#e said nothin. (ou ha#e waited until you were )alled*
%nother step! and this time the roup-s cohesion splintered. the frail head of the 2allor House fell onto
his knees with a moan! the feathered priestess of the <uet5ai fumbled for a weapon at her belt , lon since taken by
her captors , and the Fro 2riest turned his bloated body and tried to flee! eyes spinnin! only to,be thrust forwards
aain by the Shadowkin circle.
Sahaal did not pause at the interruption.
The hi#e has fallen from the Emperor-s liht and turned aainst the 7nderworld! and like children runnin for their
mother you ha#e e"pected from the Shadowkin protection! sanctuary! comfort... %nd at what price; 1one
. (ou
ha#e offered me nothingE.'
His #oice echoed across the silent wastes! stron and shrill and terrible.
-I shall tolerate the disrespect no loner. If you are to stay! if you are to plaue my territory like wol#es! then it shall
be at my pleasure!=
He leaned down! helmed countenance sheddin shadows like oil! eyes burnin with ruby fires. (ou are the uests of
Holy 3arriors!= he hissed! breath steamin! -and if you are to remain so it is fair that you should share their burden!=
He straihtened abruptly! cloaks ripplin! and e"tended his hands towards the roup! each fan of ra5or,liht claws
snickerin away to its secret sheath! lea#in only lo#ed fists.
-3hich of you will accept my rule;- he asked. 3hich of you will taste di#inity! and 8oin my crusade; 3hich of you
will surrender his house to the Emperor-s mercy;-
4ne by one the nobles swallowed their terror! licked dry lips and forced down the shi#erin in their limbs! and
stepped forwards to kiss the hands of the beast.
-Good!= he said! when they had finished. He lanced up towards the waitin Shadowkin! and the si" champions of
the anhouses restrained amonst them!
watchin e#ents with earnest eyes. They had witnessed their own masters sinin away their autonomy! and their
e"pression told Sahaal e#erythin he needed to know. They would ha#e done e"actly the same. %s he returned his
a5e to his newest sla#es he stole a lance towards &hianni! notin without surprise her e"pression of unconcealed
disdain. She had spent all her life despisin the underhi#e-s other ans! punishin their ini/uity when the Emperor-s
will allowed! protectin her tribe from their predations when it did not. It was a mark of her utter obedience to
Sahaal that! as he claimed their strenth as his own! she did not raise her #oice in protest.
He had a pleasin surprise for her! yet.
-$o you know!= he said! lowerin at the nobles! -of lions;-
They stared! bewildered.
-Great predators of ancient Terra!- he e"plained! -pack beasts , loyal to their clan! and obedient. %lways obedient to
their stronest member!= He paused! en8oyin the drama of the moment despite himself. -%nd when a new leader
arose! a blooded,daw ready to assume command! his first action was always the same.
-He could not tolerate disloyalty. He could not risk challene to his authority. He could not spare any rem,r.ant of
the old reime! the old order.
-$o you know what he did! little nobles;-
Their eyes were wide. Their lips trembled. 2erhaps some knew what was comin.
-He killed all the cubs!=
Sahaal beheaded the si" nobles with two strokes of his claws.
The champions of the an houses! who had witnessed the transferral of power and could no more
deny it to their brothers and sisters than they could rail aainst it! were returned to their petty empires with a sinle
messae! to spread amonst the dispossessed masses of the underhi#e. 8ou belong to the Shadowkin now. <repare
for war.
@3hy do you disturb our lord-s sacred slumber;-
)oices flourished on the cusp of Sahaal-s hearin6 prickin at his sleepin mind like an itch! drawin him up from
the depths of his dreams to an intanible! half,awake plateau.
-S,somethin-s happened! condemnitor9- a man /uailed! directin his stammerins! Sahaal assumed! to &hianni ,
seated as e#er beside him. -3e... we thouht that... that h(he... w,would wish to know.
They )an't even speak my name...
-E"plain!= &hianni runted! soundin unimpressed.
-It-s the prisoner. From the starport...-
The warp,seer;-
Sahaal was fully awake in a second. He rose to his feet and 8abbed a finer towards the cowerin man! prostrated
before the throne.
-3hat is it; 3hat-s happened to the prisoner;-
-S,sweet Emperor9-
Tell me9-
-3e... we think he-s dyin! lord9-
047*$ I* &H%I*S at his wrists and les! the second astropath , a prisoner in a s/ualid Shadowkin hut since his capture
, drooled a thick paste of spittle and bile from his mouth! tonue snain aainst his teeth! runnin red with his
own blood. %t irreular inter#als his body stiffened as if electrified! each narrow,corded
muscle standin out from his emaciated frame! withered face crumpled in wordless aony.
He had soiled himself! and coupled with the strands of dryin blood and #omit that pooled around him! streakin his
pieon chest! his cell stank like a madhouse6 an impression his shrieks did little to dispel.
'ike his dead comrade before him he wore across his brow a twisted strip of lead! and it was to this that Sahaal-s
attention immediately flew. It lowed red hot! faint clouds of steam boilin abo#e it! scorchin the man-s flesh like a
cattle brand.
-+y lord9- &hianni cried out from his side! horrified by what! to her! must seem some cruel form of witchcraft.
If only she knew...
-Get out!= Sahaal ordered! wa#in her and the cowerin messener away! inorin the flash,flicker of
disappointment that crossed her features. -*ow!=
He closed the door , such as it was , behind them! listenin carefully at its corruated frame! enhanced senses
outstretched! to ensure neither were ea#esdroppin.
%nd then he turned back to the writhin astropath! rollin and moanin! shatterin his own teeth at the strenth of
his nashin! and bent down close to watch.
%nd yes! there it was... at the ede of his perception6 a ratin presence... whisperin... promisin! teasin! cursin...
The warp swarms! atherin around! scratchin with immaterial claws! fihtin to break throuh the lead shield.
-Someone!= Sahaal said! wipin a tender finer across the man-s sweaty brow! -is tryin to say hello!=
3orkin with an abruptness that drew a stranled asp from the psyker! he hooked a talon beneath the metal coronet
and snipped it away! e"posin the man-s sined forehead. 4penin the way.
He did not need psychic senses to know what happened ne"t. It was like an indescribable sound , some ultrasonic
pitch that went unheard! but felt nonetheless , dwindlin away to nothin. It was like a pressure bein released! like
a faucet openin in the sky to pour away all the psychic waste! all the #ile shit that clamoured beyond perception.
%nd the waste pipe! the reser#oir into which it all flushed clear! was the psyker-s head.
He 8erked upriht! like a meat puppet! body mo#in in strane unbalanced steps that were not its own. 0lood poured
from his mouth. The warp beasts tore at his soul! a fren5ied feast beyond the #eil of reality.
Sahaal backed away! heart racin. Had it worked; Had someone heard his call; Had the predators of the empyrean
stretched out their shapeless tonues at the arisal of a beacon; % messae! tryin to et throuh;
The psyker-s head twisted around! muscles manipulated by a mind that was not his own! until he faced Sahaal!
empty eye sockets larin into him.
%nd then he spoke , falterinly at first! like a marionette uided by an ine"pert hand , but with rowin confidence!
and clear intention.
-3,we..! we... we are c,comin... fun... for you...-
Sahaal dropped to his knees! o#ercome.
3G are comin for you! Talonmaster. 2repare the way. "ve dominus no&.'
The psyker-s head e"ploded like a burstin bubble! scatterin framents of skull and shredded brain across
his cell! and in some distant dimension his soul sobbed as the swarms fouht for their feast.
Sahaal remo#ed his helm and! unashamed! wept with 8oy.
THE *E?T $%( Shadowkin scouts mo#ed amonst the refuee camps with a messae! atherin crowds at e#ery
8unction! fillin the air with shouts and protests.
In e#ery part of the shanty town the messae was the same.
:o now into the hive, they read! parchment sheets held in tremblin hands. /ise now in the )orrupted world above
us, and gather for your new masters your tithe.
The Emperor's "ngel is among us, friends, and he ta&es not our wealth, nor our food, nor our blood. #e demands
payment in ;usti)e.
Every able man, every able woman. Ea)h shall present to the Emperor's "ngel the head of a sinner, or else
themselves he branded so , and )ulled a))ordingly.
Those below the age of fifteen years are e&empted. They shall be overseen by the Shadowkin in their parents'
8ou have two days.
There was outrae! at first. 4utrae and horror and disbelief. 0ut the story of the nobles- e"ecutions had circulated!
the uncertain presence of some terrible Holy Thin lurkin upon the island had athered weiht with each retellin!
and beyond the outrae and the horror! abo#e all else! there was terror.
The Shadowkin were stron where all other tribes had been crippled. The reprisals for failure were no idle threat.
The refuees could not flee. They could not hide. They could not desert their children.
It did not take lon for small roups , faces set! teeth clenched! fists curled around blunt,eded machetes
and crude blades , to set off on the lon! tortuous trek into the hi#e itself. E/ui"us faced a bloody niht.
3HE* SHE 3%S finished with the )ognis mer)ator , the information broker she-d risked so much to find , +ita
returned to &uspseal feelin uncomfortably pleased with herself. She hadn-t broken the rules her master had
imposed! hadn-t prosecuted her own attack aainst the nihtmare lurkin in the underhi#e! hadn-t sanctioned such an
attack from any other source! and certainly hadn-t interfered with the in/uisitor-s own plans. 3hate#er they were.
%ll she had secured was an element of... insurance. >austus need ne#er know.
%t the secondary tiercluster! alonside the %rbites precinct! she paused to lead &o into a hospice of the 4rder
2anacear. The iant had fared well despite his wounds! stalwart physioloy seeminly imper#ious to the pain his
in8uries looked likely to cause.
4r perhaps! +ita reflected cruelly! he was simply too stupid to know when he should ha#e been dead.
Either way! she found herself /uietly affected by his pliht. His defence of her safety had been selfless! his loyalty
utterly beyond reproach! and in some emoti#e comer of her mind she found herself sharin his pain! empathic senses
indulin her shame with masochistic relish.
It could not be inored! of course! that &o-s loyalty to her was a far purer! more successful thin than her loyalty to
her master. Had &o e#er /uestioned her orders; Had he e#er doubted her! or mistrusted her! or souht to disobey;
4f course not.
"nd look where it got him...
He was a mess. Great raed holes bled freely all across him6 the #ast musculature beneath re#ealed in all its risly
lory. 4ne of his cheeks was ripped , a #acant chasm that e"posed ums and molars to the #ery back of his mouth!
lea#in a tortured flap of flesh trailin from his 8awline. His eyes were bloodshot and swollen! his knuckles ra5ed
of almost all their skin! and his lon arms punctured with more holes than a cratered asteroid. E#en the sisters of the
4rder! flutterin from bed to bed in cassocks and starched wimples! with a /uiet prayer and a dispensoria of arcane
drus for e#ery occasion! did not seem o#erly optimistic at his chances of reco#ery.
%fter! that is! +ita had bullied them into acceptin -the abomination- as a patient. The authority of the In/uisition
remained unsullied in some /uarters at least.
She left her loyal iant in their care for a scant hour! returnin to the precinct to chane her clothes and steal a short
moment-s soothin meditation! before returnin to o#ersee his care. She walked between the 2reafect fortress and
the hospice with an irrepressible sprin in her stride! satisfied that
whate#er the mo#ements of the thing prowlin the shadows below her feet! whate#er clandestine actions it
undertook! she would be fully aware of it.
%nd then she stepped into &o-s cramped healin cell and recalled! with a 8olt! >austus-s words.
F am sending a mutual friend to )olle)t you'.
There was someone waitin for her.
HE 3%S THE sort of man! +ita had decided durin the tedious minutes that followed! whose petty affection for
authority had come to dominate e#ery part of his persona! to the e"tent that any story! any piece of unshared
information! was deli#ered with tremblin relish. != know something you don't, his imlet eyes said! and I'll take my
damned time in telling you.
-It was on the se#enth tier that we found them!- he e"pounded! wa#in an arm for emphasis. % small fleck of froth
had athered in the corner of his mouth as he talked , an unpleasant detail that +ita found herself unable to inore.
-3retched creatures. Totally disoranised! of course , their kind always are. So pitifully earnest.-
He locked his lips around the tip of the hookah he wore in a strap aainst his chest! dislodin the bead of spittle!
and drew bubbles throuh the bulb at its base.
... buglbuglbuglbugl...
He breathed out cherry,scented smoke! lips curled in a feline smile6 a set of ony",black false teeth twinklin like a
starry #oid within. +ita repressed the temptation to apply a fist to their loomy surface.
@3e killed them all! of course!- he droned! -bar the leader. 3e thouht you miht appreciate an interroation. #eh.
3hen you-re ready.-
He was a priest , or at least that-s what he called himself. His ob#ious self,adoration was hardly in keepin
with the selflessness that came with de#otion! and were it not for the wined a/uila burned abo#e his riht eye he
would look no different to any other member of >austus-s retinue. She wondered why the in/uisitor had chosen him
as his errand boy.
Tauists!= he blurted! red smo spillin from his nostrils like some hastly draon. -Got hold of a tau propaanda
#idslu , we-re lookin into how. Heretical howash. 7:reater good7 this! 7mutual benefit7, that. %nd the idiots
belie#e it , can you imae; *o place in the Emperor-s liht for fools like that!=
+ita kneaded her temples! e"hausted and headachey. That >austus had dispatched this man to fetch her , to rein her
in , was ob#ious! and that he had thus far occupied his time with meanderin anecdotes and tales of inconse/uence
was not helpin her mood. She miht as well ha#e been talkin to the in/uisitor himself.
Her patience for her master-s obli/ueness was rapidly reachin its end.
.. .buglbuglbuglbugl...
%nd to make matters worse! it was becomin increasinly difficult to imaine a more irritatin sound than the
hookah-s incessant watery mussitation.
-3hy!= she asked! diplomatic to the end! -are you tellin me all this;-
He scowled at her o#er the ride of &o-s chest , risin and fallin with the shallow sleep into which he had slipped
, as if affronted by her inorance. His mind told a different story6 an unsubtle blend of smu superiority and false
piety. He was en8oyin himself! talkin down to his supposed superior like a parent patronises a child.
-0ecause!= he sniffed! -last time I checked you were an interroator of the 4rdo ?enos! and , hah , an affiliate
of the team that conducted the raid. I thouht you-d appreciate the successes of your comrades.-
-4h! spare me!= she snapped! patience e"pirin. @3e-re on the Eastern Frines! you fool. The chances are there are
Tauist cells on e#ery warpdamned tier. (ou didn-t come all the way from Steepletown to boast about shootin up a
bunch of bored idealists!= She crossed her arms and slumped! inwardly annoyed at the ease with which her temper
had broken.
The priest-s thouht patterns chaned with frihtenin speed. &old! boundless distaste flooded her senses. 0riefly!
she wished &o was still awake.
That sounds an awful lot like rebel sympathy!= he hissed! e#ery word a barb. -(ou should ha#e a care! interroator...-
-I seem to be manain fine so far!=
That is a matter of some... debate! amonst our lord-s disciples!=
I'll bet it is, she snarled internally. ?ast time I saw the obtuse bastards I killed one of them. She kept the sentiment to
herself! this time. %n uncomfortable silence settled! broken only by the incessant thouht,destroyin buglbuglbugl,
and as she drummed her finers aainst the ede of &o-s sleepin pallet a sli#er of en/uiry arose in her mind. She
knew she should repress it! should control her insolence in the presence of this hastly little man , who would! of
course! relay this encounter word,for,word to the in/uisitor , but her curiosity was enored and! as e#er in its
implacable face! her ob8ections were bulldo5ed as if insubstantial.
Tell me! father!= she said! raisin an ironic eyebrow. -$urin this... heroi)... attack...-
He met her a5e undaunted! her sarcasm wasted. 3hat of it;-
3hat part did the in/uisitor play;-
The priest narrowed his eyes. -3hy do you ask;-
-Indule me!=
The man worked his 8aw! finers tappin at the pipe-s stem. -He led from afar!=
-He wasn-t there;-
-His duties with the o#ernor absented him. He planned the raid beforehand and 8uded that it didn-t re/uire his
personal attention. 3hat is your point;-
-%nd his absence didn-t trouble you;-
He lared! mind fi55in with disust. -3hy should it;-
0ut deep down! beneath layers of obedience and doma! throuh thick walls of blinkered de#otion and
preconception! +ita could taste it. like a host of a fla#our! playin across the man-s mind.
She had touched a ner#e.
2austus brought us to this world to un)over &enophile )ells, to purge the hereti)s who had pla)ed the word of the
alien above the light of the Emperor. That's why we're here!
"nd finally he has the opportunity to perform his sa)red duty, to maintain the mantle of heroism he's been so keen to
foster ( and he sends his thugs in his stead4
It makes no sense.
-hat are you doing up there, 2austus4 Sneaking about with >agrif, as thi)k as thieves, prowling through treasure(
galleries and an)ient ar)hives4
-hat are you up to, you bastard4
-*o reason!= she said. -*o reason at all!=
The priest runted! uncon#inced! and +ita smirked6 that tiny particle of uncertainty in his mind feedin her distrust6
her con#iction that all was not well.
(Hu don-t like me #ery much! do you;- she smiled! confidence renewed! deliberately pro#ocati#e.
The priest raised his eyebrows. -I-m hardly alone in that respect!=
-Is that a fact;-
-4h yes!= %nother smile! hostlit by crimson smo ,black teeth makin her s/uirm. The in/uisitor... struled! when
seekin a messener willin to find you!=
-0ut you o#ercame your personal dislike in the name of the Emperor; 2oor! burnin little martyr!=
-Such hostility! interroator. It does not become you!=
Her 8aw tihtened! fists clenchin. -'et me show you what be)omes me!= she snarled! half standin.
The man seemed infuriatinly unperturbed by the threat! drawin puffy clouds of rosy smoke from his pipe! its
buglbuglbuglbugl rindin further aainst her ner#es. 3hen finally he spoke he lared from beneath hea#y,lidded
eyes! makin no attempt to disuise his contempt.
The in/uisitor is displeased!= he said! sausae,finers caressin the pipe-s mouthpiece. -Furious! you miht say!=
+ita-s mouth was openin before she could stop herself. -*ow there-s a surprise!=
The man made a show of shakin his head! eyes rollin in their lidded orbits. 1ed #apours coiled around the ede of
his cassock.
-He had hoped your... resentment... your sarcasm... miht be tempered by your time away from the retinue!= The
spittle athered aain beside his mouth! like froth on a to"ic shore. -It seems not!=
She threw a pointed lare at the door. -Is that it;- she demanded! impatient. -Is that the messae; $on-t let me keep
-4h! there-s more. +uch more!= .. .buglbuglbuglbugl...
-&ould you stop that;-
The smokin! It-s annoyin!=
He leered.
The in/uisitor has re/uested that I put to you a /uestion. % #ery simple /uestion!=
-He re/uests your counsel. He asks... @3hat would you do;@-
+ita frowned. The round had been swept from beneath her.
-(ou heard me. The situation! as it stands. 1umours of "enophilia in the hi#e! a boeyman stalkin the underworld.
In our lord-s place! interroator! what would you do3
-Is this a test;-
-(ou know #ery well that it is!=
Her mind raced.
<assivity or aggression. Submission or )hallenge.
E#ery time she had tried to toe the in/uisitor-s line! e#ery time she had kept her head down! played by his rules!
obeyed him without /uestion! she had found herself marinalised! disrespected! held in contempt for some imained
weakness. %nd e#ery time the fires of rebellion had coiled in her stomach! e#ery time she-d dared to challene
>austus-s lead directly! to stand up to his bullish ways! she-d enendered a curious sort of respect from him. 3as
that the way;
,o I swallow my pride and lie ( T would have done e&a)tly as he has done'4 r do I remain true to my heart4 True
to my instin)ts4
There was no contest.
-I would di#ert all my attention towards the threat in the underhi#e!= she said! flatly. -I would prioritise the
possibility of a &haotic incursion far abo#e the e"istence of "enophile cells. I would commission e#ery force at my
disposal , the 2reafects! the retinue! the warpdamned militia! if need be , to find and utterly crush the monster in the
shadows.- She nodded! as if reassurin herself. That is what I would do! priest! in the in/uisitor-s place!= The man
pursed his lips! the hookah forotten. -I see!= he said! presently. -That is... a shame!= -% shame; I don-t unders,-
%brupt aner blossomed across the priest-s mind! shockin her /uestin senses! his face cloudin like a
thunderstruck sky.
-How many times;- he barked! black teeth flashin like oil. -7nderstandin is not a re/uirement9 The in/uisitor
demands obedience , that is all9 *o /uestions. *o warp-s,piss assumptions. %nd no initiative*
-0ut you asked what I would do9 How can I answer without initiati#e;-
'#a.' He settled into his chair! a cruel rin curlin his face. -Indeed! yes. 2erhaps you are not entirely stupid!=
-I... 3hat; How dare y,-
-I asked you a /uestion! interroator. There is only one correct answer!=
-3hat answer! damn you;-
The priest steepled his finers. That you are not in the in/uisitor-s place! and not pri#y to the information at his
disposal! and therefore unable to 8ude. The only correct answer! interroator! is that it is an unanswerable /uestion!=
That-s ridiculous9 1iddles and warpshit tricks9-
@3hat is ridiculous!= he hissed! coldness fillin his a5e! -is for a chit of a witch to think she knows e#erythin.
There are forces beyond your siht! irl9 There are details which only the in/uisitor may know. The
retinue understands that. $o we assume that we may o#errule his 8udement without knowin all the facts; %re we
so colossally arroant; *o9 *o! that is a position occupied by you alone!=
She blustered! tryin to muster an indinant reply ,but his words had cut! and he knew it.
#e's right. Emperor's blood, he's right*
The priest leaned forwards! acrid breath washin across her! as if to rub astrinent into an already apin wound.
The in/uisitor hopes you would ha#e learned! durin your time alone. There is always more than meets the eye!=
%s if to demonstrate he lifted the hookah pipe in one withered hand! thumb caressin the beads of sil#er filiree at
its root.
% blade snapped from its tip like a launchin missile6 a concealed stiletto spine lurchin to a halt and 8udderin!
lancin the air.
-3hat are you d,- +ita stammered! reactions made sluish by the priest-s accusin words! warnin bells chimin
slowly , too slow* , in her mind. 0ut e#en as the threat flourished across her senses a lut of self assurance steeled
her muscles. He was 8ust an old man! armed only with a blade.
% #oice deep in her subconscious snarled in the shadows. /ip him to shreds*
%nd then letharically , like a #iewspe" display crippled by faulty lihtcells! renderin its sanctified imae in lacial
slow motion , the priest reached out not for her! but for &o.
-4h! God,Emperor! no...-
The blade punched into the meat of the iant-s throat with a wet thump.
0racin himself! black teeth bared! the priest sliced outwards! cuttin throuh 8uular and windpipe! openin a
fleshy cre#ice in &o-s neck. To +ita-s horror he awoke for an instant! and the burst of innocent bewilderment! the
flash of contact with her own eyes , /uestionin! pleadin! trustin , would haunt her for as lon as she li#ed.
Time returned to normal with the hot spray of released blood aainst her face! a eyser of scaldin mama!
patternin walls and ceilin. She cried out! senses tumblin! thrashin to escape from the sticky eruption.
-(our loyalty should be to your in/uisitor alone!= the priest hissed into the dyin warrior-s ear! harsh #oice thick with
triumph! eyes flickin up to lower at +ita throuh the crimson dri55le. -*ot this creature!=
&o died with a urle.
Somethin snapped behind +ita-s eyes.
-*o9- she screamed! psychic claws boilin outwards! all self,control one! slash,stabbin into the ether to shred the
priest-s thouhts like paper. 1ed #enom co#ered her #ision! rae slipped between her defences like sand pourin
throuh finers! and she reached out for his brain like a hunry wolf! relishin the terror on his face.
%nd then corded muscles closed around her shoulders! a auntleted hand swatted at the back of her head! and the
retinue of In/uisitor Ipo/r >austus ripped throuh the connectin wall of the ne"t cell in a riot of dust and fabric!
hollerin prayers and warcries! shoutin for her blood.
She should ha#e known better.
4f )ourse the in/uisitor would send backup.
4f )ourse he wouldn-t lea#e it to a withered priest.
She-d failed his test. She should ha#e known that wouldn-t be the end of it.
%s power swords flickered in the dust and uidance optics shimmered from hooded bino" headsets! +ita
realised it was probably the last o#ersiht she would e#er make.
% IJK,+ET%' blade burned itself across her #ision! its wielder shoutin wordlessly as his stroke descended.
Somewhere nearby the sisters of the 4rder 2anacear were screamin! the hooded fiures of the retinue pushin past
them! inorin their protests! boilin from the shattered wall hollerin curses and orders. all of them impressions of
a chaotic en#ironment that swirled into +ita-s o#erloaded senses.
She ducked beneath the swordstroke and spun inside the acolyte-s uard! elbowin him in the uts then dri#in the
heel of her hand into his nose as he stumbled! feelin it crackle and puncture his brain somewhere within. % ra5or,
stab of premonition , a fro5en imae of scorchin contrails streakin towards her! like toothy,mouthed maots ,
cauht behind her eyes! and without conscious thouht she sei5ed the tumblin corpse beneath its shoulders and
pulled it upriht.
0olter fire e"ploded across her senses! true to the premonition. throbbin at the air and da55lin her with its
phosphor briht mu55leflash. The corpse shuddered beneath her rip! clotted lumps of fat and bloodpaste tumblin
forwards like a waterfall! sheddin its weiht , and its shieldin , with e#ery moment. The force of each percussi#e
blow forced her backwards! les strainin! crumplin into a ball. L She was bein caed. 4#erborne. ,estroyed.
%nd whilst the unser#itor pinned her down! kept her sprawled aainst her risly co#er! she could uarantee that the
rest of the In/uistor-s loyal warriors had split! sneakin alon ad8acent corridors! surroundin her like wol#es around
a lamb.
:et up.
That danerous #oice aain! whisperin its incautious counsel into her heart.
:et up, fool* 8ou're better than this*
The ser#itor paused to reload , whisperin columns of metal slidin a fresh clip into place! smooth actuators e8ectin
its predecessor on a tide of unsmoke. +ita sei5ed the opportunity to assess her surroundins! a5e flashin left and
riht as her head crept abo#e the manled body-s charred shoulder.
,on't die here, %ita. ,on't die on the floor.
8ou're better than this*
E#erywhere was smoke6 a thick blanket of bittersweet stench that itched at her eyes and clouded her nostrils. The
ser#itor stood fores/uare in the doorway6 hunched back risin from hea#y un8ointed les! head a sunken battery of
optics and twitchin sensoria that danled! like a #ulture-s beak! between and below the line of its shoulders. 0eyond
it the #eiled shapes of the retinue capered in the ad8acent room! e#ery action underwritten by the dull tone of a
conis loi! assessin tactics and possibilities aloud. *earer still! crinin in a corner beside the bloodslicked bed
with his robe dishe#elled and a stranled prayer on his breath! was the priest.
The split,second of eye,contact was all it took +ita to acknowlede he hadn-t intended on findin himself trapped in
a room with her.
Footsteps echoed throuh thin walls at her back6 other warriors! takin up position! preparin to close the iron claw
around her. 8ou're better than this* The #oice was riht.
The bolterfire resumed! and now with e#ery impact and subse/uent detonation the corpse that co#ered her
unra#elled more! hammerin at her les! dri#in the breath from her body! hurtin her.
The priest. /emember the priest*
She closed herself down. She wiped away the world from her senses. She rose up from her body and slid like a
harpoon into the priest-s head. He tried to resist! for all the ood it did him.
$own! down! down... Throuh layers of character and bubble,slick tiers of memory! past instincts and dreams!
slidin between secret desires and repressed raes like a rip,blade! aimed at a heart. She closed astral finers around
that slumberin pearl! that black beacon of uncertainty and disloyally she had felt before. % tiny seed! perhaps! the
faintest of rebellious sentiments! but fully formed nonetheless. She pricked at his neuroses! swelled his paranoia
with an artist-s hand! and suddenly , like breakin an e , she cracked it open and released it.
In his mind! clenchin upon itself! protestin at the in#ader within its bounds! e#ery certainty the priest had e#er felt
collapsed beneath him. E#ery faith! e#ery trust! e#ery loyalty. all of them dissol#ed! turnin inwards! burnin at his
He could trust nothin.
He could tolerate no one.
The world was aainst him.
The instinct! of course! was to flee.
He leapt upriht with a startled shriek! hookah clatterin free of its straps and shatterin at his feet. His chare
propelled him out from his corner! robes flutterin! and into the path of the ser#itor. He crashed into its hulkin
frame e#en as he crossed the stream of its firestorm6 bolter shells shredded him! pickin clean his bones. His frail
form was one within
instants! reduced to 8elly and bonepowder! but it was enouh.
+ita arose behind the wailin man from her moist co#er with a shriek! hand closin around the discarded
powersword as she mo#ed! lidin to one side and lunin with all her miht.
E#en as the ser#itor-s field of fire cleared! the une"pected obstacle blasted to wet framents as /uickly as it had
arisen! a cautionary alorithm chattered aainst its enine,brain. It was nowhere near fast enouh.
+ita clea#ed the massi#e beast in two with a sinle stroke! punched throuh the shocked crowd of non,combatant
retainers still lurkin beyond the door! and was one.
%s she sprinted throuh the clamourin wastes of &uspseal! breath catchin in her throat! muscles achin! clothes
slick with &o-s blood6 a sinle word swam in her thouhts like a le#iathan! risin from some twiliht realm!
absorbin e#ery iota of her mind.
SHE 3E*T I*T4 the shadow.
Two $%(S SEE2E$ by as if captured in amber! strulin aainst #iscous time to claw their way free6 to taste liberation
for one endless! impossible moment. Sahaal counted each second with truculent impatience! finers drummin at the
arms of his throne! mind adrift with possibilities! plans! frustrations.
Still no word of the &orona.
Two days in the shadow! in the foliht of the rust,mud ca#erns. Two days of torpid nothin! with only the
flickerin of fireliht to indicate life6 like the hi#e,hosts themsel#es! athered where the nihtmares became flesh!
swirlin about their new kin.
Sahaal stared across the water and #iewed his domain! and nodded his /uiet pleasure. In the north! aainst the ede
of the lappin waters! a tall mound was takin shape! risin up like some swollen stalamite to challene the ca#ern
ceilin. The rushin fiures at its base had no inklin of his scrutiny! and
when , as he had now taken to doin with spirallin fre/uency , he /uit his tattered seat to scuttle across the beams
and stanchions of the swamplands! play,stalkin the Shadowkin and their refuee uests without their knowlede!
still his presence remained secret. He burned with the desire to act! but had no outlet for his enery.
He was e#erywhere and nowhere. Free to roam! cursed to wait.
He did not need the preysight of his helm! nor the nocturnal #ision that was his birthriht! to know what the rowin
mound was built from. Two days! he had i#en them. %fter that they would be his.
His master would be proud of him.
In moments of indulence! when he slipped beneath the waters of meditation! he fancied that he could see >onrad
&ur5e-s face. In litterin ha5es of pallor and shape! he fancied he could #isit the *iht Haunter! could speak with
him as he had once done! could seek comfort and counsel in his master-s #oice.
It was all an illusion. The primarch was one fore#er6 his leacy was all that remained.
In life >onrad &ur5e had been a tortured soul. 2laued by the wildness of his childhood! haunted by #isions of his
own demise! he struled with e#ery fibre of his bein to earn the respect and admiration of his brothers! and ,
abo#e all else , to pro#e himself worthy of his father-s affection. In adulthood as in youth he struck from the
shadows! he waed war with fear and steel in the Emperor-s name! and he raised his own sons! his *iht 'ords! with
a martial pride unmatched in all the ala"y.
There was little lory in his aspect! if truth be known.
3here other primarchs wrestled for heroic deeds and the fa#our of their God,Emperor! Sahaal-s master
pursued only results. He would ne#er be as charismatic as 'ion El-Cohnson! as articulate as 1oboute Guilliman! as
demaoic as Horns the Fa#oured... but he could be stron. He could shatter any enemy. He could be pramatic. He
could be terrifying.
In a uni#erse of terror he robbed the Emperor-s enemies of their horrific mantle. He o#ercame sa#aery by
outstrippin it. He pured the brutal by outdoin their brutality. He sacrificed what scant charm he had and took up
the crown of scapeoat , the foulest of the primarchs! the dirtiest of fihters! the Emperor-s own de#il , so that none!
none, would stand before him.
1ebels surrendered at the mere suestion of his inter#ention. 1aiders fled with his name upon their lips! swords
unbloodied. Those that were feared were made to fear him. Those that were hated were made to hate him.
4bedience throuh terror.
He had ne#er been human! but like all the primarchs there lurked in some deep corner of his luminous heart a
fla#our , a bitter taste , of humanity.
>onrad &ur5e sacrificed it. He wiped tears of insanity from snowy cheeks and cast his warmth to the wol#es! and he
did it in the Emperor-s name. He lost e#erythin.
He became what he had always been destined to6 what the ala"y demanded he become6 what the Emperor himself
sanctioned! moulded! needed' He became a loyal monster.
%nd when he turned to his father for succour! for affection! for the merest glimmer of ratitude,
,he recei#ed only contempt.
Sahaal surfaced from his musins to find that his rip had splintered the arm of his throne to dust! lon shards of
bone and iron cuttin his hand. He-d bitten
his tonue without realisin it! and his mouth was filled with the metal tan of his own blood.
That was the *iht Haunter-s leacy. The contempt of a betrayed son for his father.
%nd the need for re#ene.
h, how the mighty are fallen.
-I #ow it...- he whispered! unheard. -+aster! I #ow it to you. 3e shall be mihty yet.
7-fe shall make him pay for what he did.-
THE HE%2 G1E3 massi#e. From humble beinnins , a cluster! a clutch , it swelled upwards. layer upon layer!
compacted.toether! sho#elled one upon the ne"t in imitation of the hi#e itself.
The stench! by the second day-s end! when the camps teemed with life once more and Sahaal slipped across the
swamps in secret to #iew the results of their labours! was an almost physical force.
+en and women! old and youn6 mouths wide! a rheumy film coatin dead eyes. Tonues limp. Flies scuttlin and
tastin slack skin. From a heap to a hillock! and thence to a mountain6 blood spattered! bruised! cold.
% multitude of dead heads lared upwards in mute accusation! and Sahaal met their a5e with a tiny smile.
+ost had been taken messily. In distant alleys! he uessed! in ma5e,like habsprawls and secret places ,necks se#ered
with untidy force. +achetes and domestic kni#es! swinin and bludeonin6 notched daers and anti/ue blades.
The damae to some spoke of sawin! of blow after blow! of hackin without precision throuh ristle and
#ertebrae. 4f strules in darkened places6 of hands clutchin and pushin6 strainin to defend.
-How many failed to return;- Sahaal murmured! flickin a esture towards his condemnitor. She alone had 8oined
him before the pile , flickerin torches ara#atin their shadows.
-*ot many!= &hianni said! her #oice low. The ones who refused to partake were soon... har#ested! by those who did
not.- Sahaal had at first mistaken her hush for re#ulsion! but no... no! the Shadowkin were ade/uately familiar with
the tokens of mortality. Her /uiet was instead a thin of awe and de#otion! centred about the monument before her.
E3e think perhaps si"ty are unaccounted. 3hether they-#e fled or been captured we don-t know!=
E3e ha#e their children;-
-4f course!=
He turned to face her! unhelmeted eyes listenin. Then you know what to do!=
She nodded. Sahaal was impressed. e#en the notion of infanticide could not perturb her. *ot she. the fa#ourite of a
Space +arine.
(es! it had been wise to confide in her.
Sahaal turned back to his pri5e and cleared his mind! appreciatin its ma8esty anew6 a cone of scattered shapes! an
altar to terror.
It was a har#est worthy of the 0lood God himself. a mountain of ristle and ore! of ap,toothed rins and se#ered
spines! befittin the brass throne of >horne.
*ot that Sahaal would e#er offer it as such. *o! these stolen skulls would be ifted to no deity! pleded to no
metaphysical spirit.
There was! after all! no God of Fear.
To the memory of the *iht Haunter...- he whispered.
It had been a masterful plan! he knew! to dispatch the refuees on such a hastly errand. %t its most base
le#el it had secured their loyalty. they became com,plicit to his crusade! bloody,handed allies whether they liked it
or not. Few had relished the prospect of murder , fewer still had achie#ed it with precision and clean conscience ,
but now... now! with their morbid tithe paid and the faces of their #ictims hauntin their nihtmares! now their
minds were his to mould.
He had tasked them with taretin sinners , the ini/uitous! the mercenary! the impure , and they had made their
solemn way into the hi#e! dispersin like a cloud of flies alon ele#ator shafts and unknown duct crawls! to do that
#ery thin. The hi#ers were fools if they thouht the &uspseal floor,rents were the only way up from the underhi#e!
and the refuees had scattered across the city in defiance of the their so,called -containment-. From the lowest to the
hihest tiers! in e#ery shadowed recess and crowded street. a cry! a shout! the wet retort of metal findin flesh! and
then only pumpin blood and sprintin feet.
Had each and e#ery #ictim been a sinner; 3as e#ery last head the fittin trophy of a slain delin/uent who deser#ed
his fate; *o.
4f course not , no more so than any bein may be considered uilty for the raft of petty e#ils for which! e#ery day!
e#ery human was accountable. Here were the heads of the innocent mi"ed with the stolen skulls of scum! but he-d
waer that each murderer would now )onvin)e his or herself! for the sake of their conscience! that their #ictim had
been an abomination worthy of e"ecution. That their brutality had been undertaken in the name of the Emperor. That
no matter what #iolence they had committed! what horror they had seen! it was all e"cusable as part of their new
lord-s Holy &ampain.
Sahaal owned them all! now. Truly! the human mind was a wonderful thin.
0ut more important still! in the act of chainin themsel#es to his will! this horde of #iilantes! these thousand,stron
killers! had in8ured the hi#e more than he could e#er hope to ha#e achie#ed alone.
The number of li#es taken was irrele#ant. %lonside the city-s millions this mountain of skulls was a tawdry
fraction! and yet... and yet in e#ery le#el! in e#ery township and city! the fear would be felt. He knew it! as a
conitor knows numbers and a poet knows words.
'et the &i#ilian 3orship &hannel deny it. 'et the 2reafects shake their heads and rin their bells! and claim that all
is well. The more it was refuted! the more the rumours would spread. % wa#e of murders , insidious! moti#eless!
random. % slinkin tide of death.
In a sinle disparate swoop! more punishin than any spectacle! more in#idious than any audy massacre that could
claim a million li#es! fear would blossom on a tsunami of rumour and suspicion. He could well imaine the
whispers! the frihtened lances! the /uestions raised in e#ery home.
-ho is responsible4 -hat do they want4
-hat had the vi)tims done to in)ur su)h wrath4
The hi#e would become a restrained place. $oors would lock. *eihbours would cast troubled lances across
cramped habways and a#oid con#ersation. Families would huddle in the dark and whisper of houls in the niht.
2ill a thousand men and they will hate you.
His master-s #oice! slippin upon runnels of hostly memory.
2ill a million men and they will queue to fa)e you. 5ut kill a single man and they will see monsters and devils in
every shadow. 2ill a do.en men and they will s)ream and wail in the night, and they shall feel not hatred, but fear.
Sahaal nodded! pleased.
He had taken the first step. His brothers were comin for him! and he would be damned for a weaklin and a fool if
he was unready.
-Summon the captains!= he said to &hianni , and for an instant he fancied that he was back upon Tsaualsa!
commandin his raptors! directin the *iht 'ords with the focus they re/uired.
-4f course! my lord!= &hianni trilled! shatterin the illusion. -In respect of what;-
Sahaal runted! eyein the skulls with half a smile.
-In respect of war, condemnitor. 3hat else;-
%*4THE1 +4+E*T-S I*T14S2E&TI4*! as he paused for his warriors to ather6 another slip back in time. once more to the
reat halls of the 3astitas 3i)tris and the *iht 'ords fleet6 once more to the side of his master! black,feathered and
#eiled! leanin upon the )ulture 'ectern to address the brothers. Such reminiscin ripped Sahaal more and more
often! and at times the #i#idity of the #isions scared him , so con#incin was their colour! so remarkable their detail.
%t times he feared he was oin mad.
0ut always he relished the opportunity to re#isit his master-s lifetime! and with each occurrence he immersed
himself further in the words! treatin each as a messae intended for him alone. His master-s leacy lay with him
now. He must be true to the primarch-s teachins.
'To kill an enemy, strike you in three pla)es.'
That was how the lecture bean6 initiates and #eterans side by side , +arine and 1aptor and Scout and Terminator ,
each an e/ual in their lord-s eyes! each dwellin upon e#ery word with fe#ered concentration.
'Strike you at his hands, and he shall not )ut you.
'Strike you at his heart, and his life shall wane.
'Strike you at his mind, and his )ourage shall fail@ his faith shall leave him@ his defeat is assured.'
Sahaal-s enemy was the hi#e. He a#e thanks to his master-s host and! when finally his captains scurried to 8oin
him! he sent si" s/uads to remo#e the city-s finers! one by one.
Surface to air batteries. 4rbital defences. 4#erwhelmed by sudden coordinated attacks! sabotaed beyond the point
of rapid reconstruction. Strike you at his hands, and he shall not )ut you.
Four roups he sent outwards into the edes of the underhi#e! where the pulsin hearts of the city stood and
2ower stations. Geothermal #ents. Great melta chares and 8ury,ried bombs tihtened aainst churnin pumps!
depri#in the hi#e of its power and heat. Strike you at his heart, and his life shall wane.
%nd the mind... The onslauht upon the city-s mind! he led himself.
HE H%$ E?2E&TE$ militiamen! or perhaps 2$F reiments6 skulkin and morose in the "anthic lihts at the compound-s
entrance! passin bacsticks and hipflasks to fend off the cold. %s it was! he was not alone in acknowledin the
supreme importance of propaanda! and it would not be so easy to ain entry. &learly he had underestimated the
#indictors- commander.
The city-s population was 8umpy , the murders had seen to that , and with citi5ens lockin themsel#es away in their
habs! mumblin prayers to keep the monsters away from their doors! Sahaal-s small war,band had little trouble
reachin its destination undisco#ered. sneakin throuh secret streets! forotten shafts! desolate tramways. %t
the midtier
intersection his scouts had indicated! they pulled themsel#es from a disused duct and prowled towards the industrial
arcade that was their destination6 only to find no fewer than si" 2reafects rinin its hea#y ates.
Glutted by the success of their stealth! Sahaal cursed himself for not anticipatin that their oal would be better
uarded. The Shadowkin melted into the ad8acent alleyways! awaitin his command. He si5ed,up the enemy with a
practiced eye.
Two dervishi, hea#y carapace armour marked with red stripes! hefted actuator,stabilised lascannons at either ede!
with a /uartet of shotuns , no less danerous for their lihter armament , prowlin between. In the wake of the
attack upon the starport! clearly! the 2reafects were takin no chances.
Sahaal rinned despite himself. He had spent too lon on his throne! too lon broodin and sulkin in the loom! to
be dispirited by the odds. It felt ood to be acti#e aain.
He took them from abo#e! ululatin as he dropped into their midst. The first dervishi he had clea#ed apart before the
s/uad was e#en aware of his presence! and before they could ather their instincts and round their weapons he-d
stepped throuh the bloodspray to find a second #ictim6 punchin claws throuh lossy #isor and skull alike!
twistin throuh meat and bone. % shotun pulsed to his left! a panicky blast that barely scratched him! and e#en as
he disloded the shattered face from his claws he was raisin his bolter with his free hand! plantin a round in the
assailant-s face and duckin beneath his thrashin rasp like a host6 a blue and bron5e streak! too fast to follow. 0y
the time the shell detonated in the muffled confines of the dead man-s helmet! far behind him! Sahaal had closed
with the remainin men. The
hiss of a charin lascannon pricked at his senses and he bounded across the shotunners with a precise burst of his
8ump pack , snatchin at their heads with his talons and drain them behind him! flinin them with a final shriek
, diced by the blades that released them , at the remainin dervishi. The lascannon dischared into their tumblin
bodies and #aporised itself , and much of its wielder , in an orb of incandescence! scatterin ash and fluid.
Sahaal settled beside the lowin debris and applied his claws to what few scraps of flesh remained! disappointed to
find nothin left to kill.
The attack had lasted no more than fi#e seconds.
-3e mo#e!= Sahaal announced! beckonin the awestruck Shadowkin from their co#er! tearin at the ate with his
The leend abo#e the portal! smoulderin now where the lascannon had sined it! mottled with the slurpin
remnants of the s/uad that had been intended to protect it from in#asion! read.
6I3I?I"1 -/S#I< 5/",6"ST ST"TI1
Sahaal smiled as his miniature army slipped within! the echoes of his master-s ad#ice warmin him.
'...Strike you at his mind, and his )ourage shall fail@ his faith shall leave him@ his defeat is assured...'
4*&E 3ITHI*! THE task he had taken upon himself took little time to complete.
It went without sayin that the tech,priests made poor tarets for his attentions. In his need for technical e"pertise
they miht ha#e ser#ed him well! but he knew from bitter e"perience that such de#oted , and inhuman , stalwarts
were difficult to persuade. 3ith time
he could ha#e broken their minds and forced them to do his biddin , there was litde doubt of mat , but time was the
one resource he was without.
Instead he slew them all! athered toether where the priests made their daily broadcasts! and with his Shad,owkin
holdin weapons in clammy palms aainst their backs! he forced the leion of acolytes! retainers and no#itiates to
watch. Stripped of their masters! unuarded by the surical!=mechanical paraphernalia that kept the 4mnissiah-s
brood faithful and unafraid! these youths were /uick to accede to his demands. %nd after decades of conductin their
masters- orders! of undertakin e#ery tedious duty! e#ery minor maintenance! they were more than adept at
From entry to completion! it took no loner than twenty minutes. The consoles were blessed , clumsily! falterinly ,
by the capti#e no#ices! the ser#itors chattered with relayed orders and data packaes! the bunched cables that led
from studio to chapel! to sanctification,nodes and then upwards to all parts of the hi#e! crackled to life.
Sahaal killed the unwillin partisans who had helped him , /uickly and disinterestedly , and rushed to re#iew the
security. Twenty minutes was a worthy time. but more than enouh for the #indictors to ather.
2erhaps the uards at the doorway! cut down like #ermin in his first assault! had missed a scheduled #o" report.
2erhaps a routine patrol had chanced upon the de#astation at the broadcast,station-s ates. The truth hardly mattered
, only the situation. leanin from a narrow window he could clearly see the armoured fiures below! slippin from
co#er to co#er! releasin thick red smoke to co#er their ad#ance. From elsewhere in the buildin Sahaal-s
Shadowkin traded opportunistic
shots with the attackers! briht laserbolts flickin from windows into the smokepall6 helluns rattlin without any
reat effect! spatterin the facade with lead.
'<reysight,' he murmured! more interested than concerned. His enhanced a5e stripped away layers of ruby smo!
confirmin what he-d suspected. The rattle of unfire was a distraction , and a crude one , for the phalan" of hea#ily
armoured dervishi assemblin in the co#er of the shattered ates. an assault s/uad! preparin to enter. &learly the
ministorum had little patience for protracted unbattles. They wanted their station back. Qui)kly.
Sahaal shrued to himself! siht returnin to normal. %s he draed himself onto the rocky lede of the window he
wondered #auely whether the Shadowkin , spread throuhout the buildin by now! strainin beneath the weiht of
weapons and renades , had secretly suspected they were ne#er intended to escape ali#e. &ertainly it would take a
fool to think he could run the bottleneck auntlet of the main ates as they now were. Had they known; Had they
followed his lead Athrouh loyalty or terrorB anyway;
He told himself with a sih that he didn-t care one way or another! that such worms were fit only for sacrifice! and as
he poised himself aainst the ede of the lede he almost manaed to con#ince himself. %nother tiny twine of
uilt! of shared pain! pricked at him! and he struled to shake it off.
There was no escape from this buildin! he knew! unless one happened to ha#e the ift of fliht.
He launched himself into the smoke! unseen by friend or foe! and as he bounded across the abyss towards the safety
of the shadow beyond! he hoped that his tribesmen would sell their li#es dearly! and commended them to a peaceful
The sounds of unfire echoed at his back for a lon time.
IT 3%S %S he returned to the safety of the underhi#e! pushin throuh cobweb,choked kilometres of inter,wall
ductin slippin between steel bulkheads like a host within a recess! that it happened. He hopped from a tall
plateau of coolant bulbs! macerated by rust and time! onto the scorched remains of a factorial chimney! lon since
stunted! when the noise arose from the loom6 an unctuous retort that sent shi#ers of reconition , and rae , up and
down his spine.
'#et(het(het...- it went! risin on dryair fhermals! scatterin flocks of white bats. '#et(het(het*
It was 2ha#ulti! the conis mercator. He sat and leant aainst a drippin oil#ent! e"udin e#ery impression of sedate
rela"ation! and wa#ed aily as Sahaal inched from the blackness of the tunnel ceilin. 3hate#er damae Sahaal had
done to him before was lon one! replaced without thouht for eleance by mechanical contri#ances. It had
become more difficult still to detect where! if at all! human flesh remained.
-See you! up there! het(het(het. 0een waitin for you. Heard about the attack on the &3... 3alls ha#e ears! yes.
Thouht you-d probably come this way. 3hat kept you;-
Sahaal backed into the shadows! teeth ratin.
-hat to do4 -hat to do4
He was! ultimately! a warrior. He understood conflict. He breathed uerrilla war and terrorism. In such simple
pursuits there was little comple"ity! little uncertainty. It was a thin of #ictory and defeat. he that was stronest! he
that was cle#erest! he that was most terrible, would win.
He was also a lord. He was used to obedience. He had rown accustomed to swimmin an ocean of
terror6 to bein feared and worshipped by those around him. That was as it should be.
0ut 2ah#ulti-s familiarity6 his infuriatin lauhter! his intractable inability to feel fear. these were thins that Sahaal
could neither understand nor tackle.
%s e#er in such instants! instinct took o#er.
-Scum9- he roared! /uittin the shadows like a bolt of darkness! claws raspin from their sheaths mid,fliht. He
thumped into the robed man like a meteor! shreddin cable and sinew! and whooped aloud! yratin on streamers of
superheated air! twistin for another strike.
2ah#ulti stood and stared at him , both his arms torn away , and shook his head.
-$ear! dear! dear!= he rinned. ',e;a vu. #et(het(het'
There was little point in prolonin the attack! after that. Sahaal felt himself deflate. how could one terrorise a fool
intent only upon ridicule; He set down in the loom near to the smilin creature! restrainin himself as best he
could! and crossed his arms.
It didn-t work. 2atience was not a #irtue that could contend with his rae.
He took an abrupt step forwards! headbutted the information broker with the deathmask,crest of his helm! dropped
an armoured knee onto the fool-s chest! and pressed his claws aainst what little flesh remained of the man-s neck.
-'ook at me! worm!= he hissed. -'ook at me as I kill you!=
'#et(het(het. 3hy would you want to do that, by Terra-s teats;-
(ou-#e insulted my honour. (ou-#e played ames with forces beyond your comprehension!= He leaned down! so
close that the curlin #apours of his rebreather wafted around the broker-s mechanised
face. He would not tolerate this disrespect any loner. The fool had nothin to offer. -I shall eat your heart! broker! if
you ha#e such a thin. (our skull shall adorn my throne!=
-*o! no... *ot 2ah#ulti. *ot when he-s been sent for such a task.-
Sahaal paused. 3hat task;-
For the first time the broker-s face clouded , losin its contemptible rin. For the first time! Sahaal fancied! the man
was takin him seriously. -I was sent as a spy!= he said! optics chatterin in the place of his cheeks! -by a witch of the
3arnin bells shrieked in Sahaal-s mind.
2ill him* 2ill him*
The In/uisition; (ou admit to it freely; 3hat madness is this;-
'#et(het(het. She thinks to make a fool of me! friend. She thinks to threaten and ca8ole! to ha#e me tell tales. I ha#e
chosen to confound her!=
-I ha#e chosen to help you instead!=
-Help;- Sahaal forced a bitter lauh. -How could you help me;-
Still the man a#e no indication of bein put off! lips twitchin apart. ->nowlede!= he said! simply. -*othin is
beyond 2ah#ulti. *othin escapes him. He sees all...-
/iddles and delays. 2ill the worm. 5e on your way.
5ut if he sees all...
Sahaal wet his lips! an uncomfortable thouht swimmin into focus.
-Such as;-
-2laces! people... *ames... I know you understand! +arine. I know there-s a name you want to hear!=
#e's lying. #e's )rawling to save his life. 2ill him*
5ut what if...
-3hat name;-
-Slake. 'ittle collecti#e Slake. Hidin from you. &owerin in the dark. #et(het(het*
Sahaal-s blood ran white hot.
(ou... you know where he is; Tell me9- He pushed a claw throuh the man-s chest! snappin throuh layers of
rubber and steel as it went6 an irritable! truculent esture , #entin his spleen. It had little effect.
-*ot he. They. 4f course I know. I built them. #et(het(het'
Tell me9 Tell me where they are or I-ll rip you to shreds9-
-*o! no... *ot 2ah#ulti. *ot when he knows so much!=
-3hat do you think you know! fool;-
-I know what you-re doin! yes. I know who you-re doin it with. 3here your little empire festers6 I know. I-#e seen
it. Eyes e#erywhere. #et(het(het* He blinked! a lanuid affair! like a crocodile nictitatin its eyes. -I know what you
Sahaal rocked back on his haunches. -%nd what am I! little worm;-
'#et(het(het. Traitor +arine. &hild of the 1ebellion. %lly to the Great 0etrayer. 1ight ?ord* He rinned.
-1econised your markins the instant I saw you!=
Sahaal forced down the surprise in his belly. He had not e"pected this. -%nd;-
-%nd I-#e been listenin to rumours. Gossip in the dark!=
-3hat ossip; &onfound your tonue9-
% holy warrior , that-s what you-re callin yourself! yes; (our litde tribe! you-#e told them , het(het(het ( you-#e
told them you-re here to deliver them. (ou-#e told them you-re a lo#ely little candle! a rose of purity in the darkness
of corruption. That your brothers are comin to help you. (es; I hear such thins! such lies... (ou told them! didn-t
you; (ou told them you must prepare for your brothers. (es; That is what you-#e said! isn-t it;-
-3hat of it;-
#e knows so mu)h*
-3e both know it-s a lie! *iht 'ord. 3e both know they-re not comin to sa#e the hi#e. #et(het(het. <uite the
(ou threaten to e"pose my falsehoods; Is that it; Is that your best threat;-
-*o threat! *iht 'ord. 4nly confirmation of my suspicions!=
Then what do you want; 3hy should I spare you; Tell me9-
-Slake. (ou should spare me for Slake.-
Tell me where he is!= Sahaal struled with the words. Til spare you. I-ll #ow it!=
I'll kill him* I'll )ut his fa)e from his skull*
'#et(het(het. *o! no... last time... last time I helped you! what was the price;-
There was no price9 I spared your life. That is all9-
-(es. *o price. First one is always free! I told you. This time... this time 2ah#ulti-s e"penses are far reater!=
For the first time in his life Sahaal found himself speechless.
-(... you...- he stammered! oceans of rae and astonishment pummellin aainst his restraint. (ou don-t et to... to
make demands of me! worm9 (ou-re nothin9 I-m the Talonmaster9 I-m the chosen of the Haunter9 I-ll cut you into a
thousand p,-
@(ou will do nothin. *ot if you want Slake!=
%nd that was the cru".
The &orona was e#erythin. The &orona was mihtier than his esteem! mihtier than his rae! mihtier than his
Throuh Slake! it would be his.
%nd throuh 2ah#ulti! he could find Slake.
2ill him* /ip him to shreds* Sli)e him apart*
Still anry6 those inner #oices! but rowin fainter. swallowed by the cold slude of his pramatism. That &haotic
part of his soul! tainted indelibly by the in#itation of the $ark Gods- patronisation! raed and stormed e#er one! but
slowly! strulin with each word! he blotted out its tumult and swallowed his pride.
-3hat... 3hat is your price! broker;-
'<ower, *iht 'ord. The witch will o without the reports she e"pects me to make. I shall i#e you Slake. (our
brothers will come! the city will fall. 3ho will rein in their wake;-
He smiled! steely teeth sparklin.
-+e. 2ah#ulti will rein!=
+IT% %34>E MH the sound of screamin. She was on her feet and poised for combat before e#en her dreams had
receded! and she stood in addled bewilderment for lon seconds! blinkin in the liht! before reality distinuished
itself from fantasy.
:od(Emperor, it's
The in#idious cold of E/ui"us had been in#adin the hi#e in disparate tiers for days. thermal conditioners sputterin
and fallin silent! power flickerin and dyin in random /uadrants. Such interruptions were! of course! temporary!
but as teams of techpriests and armies of acolytes ro#ed from switchboard to rid,centre! chantin and blessin!
di#ertin power from here! there! anywhere, still the tremulous #aaries of heatin ducts and silent fans couldn-t
hold the frost at bay. +ita wondered what the power failures sinified and who was responsible. She felt she could
take a pretty ood uess.
She shi#ered! not entirely from the cold! and peered around.
The alleyway where she-d slept was unchaned. filthy walls co#ered with oil and rust. *o snarlin #indictors
loomed o#er her with power mauls flarin! no hi#e,mobs threw bottles and swore in the loom! and no fiery
puratists poked at her raedy form with barbed rods! hollerin imprecations and 5ealous damnation. For two days
she-d li#ed thus. a streetsleeper! an outlaw , free5in by niht! star#in by day. She-d e"chaned the audy threads of
her In/uisitorial robes for thick ras! and had cut her hair short and raed! uided only by the reflection in a sump,
puddle. There were more than enouh aents of hostility aainst #arants! without encourain reconition at the
hands of >aus,tus-s aents. Gi#en the fierceness of the en#ironment and the apathy of its population! she supposed it
was little wonder that she hadn-t thus far encountered a sinle other #aabond. Such unfortunates had two choices.
to descend into the bosom of the underhi#e where their status allowed acceptance , but not affection , or to die.
She uessed it was a touh decision.
For her part! she had no intention of doin either. Homeless she may be! hunted by the Emperor-s own In/uisition!
but she at least had a purpose. She at least had straws to clutch. She had the information broker...
*one of which was especially rele#ant to the fact that someone! nearby! had screamed. It was hardly an e"ceptional
thin. the &uspseal en#irons could hardly be e/uated with the anarchy of the underhi#e! but it was still a society far
from 7topian. +uins! murders! rapes6 such were the lifeblood of the hi#e-s darker /uarters! and i#en the strane
e#ents of recent days ,the beheadins that had thrown the streets into such
fearful discord , a cry in the niht was 8ust another backround sonata.
0ut the scream that had awoken her had not been alone. % chorus of #oices had called out toether , and continued
in their distress. She hurried from her concealment! pullin her cloak tiht aainst the cold! and aued the sound-s
That! perhaps! was the one remainin distinction between +ita %shyn and any other &uspseal transient. anyone else
would ha#e run from the sounds of terror.
She headed directly for them.
It was a ather,hall. Such low,rise huts , fre/uently domed! often decorated with holy tableau" Aine#itably of such
poor /uality that saint ? was indistinuishable from Ecclesiarch (B and de#otional raffiti , were a common siht
throuhout the hi#e. bulin chambers s/uee5ed into opportunistic aps like rubber iloos. In their loomy little
bellies! packed with row upon row of uncomfortable plasteen pews and staffed , in the more uptown districts , by a
/ui#erin maintenance ser#itor! the local populace flocked to diest their daily dose of &iti5en 3orship
broadcastin. Such places were ne#er empty and rarely /uiet! disparate factory shifts staered to allow a fraction of
the locality to #isit! each in turn. From these communal indo)tria arose the sounds of wa#erin hymns! chanted
chate,chistic responses! cheers and e"clamations at the fiery words of whate#er domatist was picked out in the
cracklin ha5e of the #iewspe" screen.
%nd now! it would seem! screams.
+ita hurried inside! prepared for a fiht! and stopped dead in her tracks. It was not the audience that snaed at her
attention! rockin back as they were in their seats6 some co#erin their eyes! others clutchin at one another like
infants seekin comfort! but rather the
focus of their horrified a5es. the reat #iewspe" screen! hanin on optic cables and bundles of datawire like a
reat luminous spider! wreathed in the incense of de#otional thuribles suspended around it.
2icked out in its flickerin liht was a cardinal , the cardinal! she uessed! who fronted whiche#er rousin show was
scheduled for this early hour , and he had been crucified.
Set aainst a dark backround! the broadcast optics 5oomed upon his meaty frame. stripped naked! beaten across
face and chest! cut in a multitude of places by small! ra5or incisions. He had been lifted bodily upon a weird ri , a
thin of draped umbilici and sinister outcrops! multifaceted lenses larin from its trunk like the boles of a plastic
tree , which +ita reconised as a photoseer. a camera ser#itor similar! no doubt! to that which had filmed this risly
tableau. Held aainst the tall machine! arms splayed! les bound toether! the priest had been stapled down. 7p and
down each arm! punched throuh the fleshy crutch betwi"t fibia and tibia! throuh shoulders and collar,sections!
throuh the fat of his thihs and the tense elastic of his heels6 a do5en or more uly! rusty pins had been dri#en.
%t the foot of the unmo#in photoseer! now briht with his blood! other bodies lay heaped. black robed and
aumented! lon,nailed hands and ser#o manipuli arms clutchin emptily at awkward anles. Tech,priests! +ita
uessed , de#oted ser#ants of the Emperor in his aspect as the +achine God. E#ery last one beheaded.
The cardinal was still ali#e! somehow. The slow suffocation of the spread eale had i#en him a deathly rey pallor!
and e#en were it not for the a pushed hard between his 8aws she doubted he would ha#e
been able to scream , but still he eyed the lens of the photoseer! throat wobblin to whate#er pleas he was tryin to
3orse yet! suckin at her #ision as if ali#e and hunry! writhin in some hellish eoraphy of the eye! was the
sinle word that had been cut into the &ardinal-s chest! scrawled in incision and blood.
+ita felt her knees weaken. 'ittle wonder the crowd-s distress.
The imae 5oomed towards the hateful word! pinpricks of bloody sweat thrown into sharp detail on the #iewscreen!
and 8ust as the audience felt sure the horrors were o#er! a #oice bean to speak.
It tore at +ita-s soul like a hunry wraith. She knew it. She reconised it.
The 1ight ?ord.
-0ehold!- it whispered! not so much spoken as insinuated upon the air! like the breath of the wind i#en form! -the
price of false 5eal!=
The audience asped and ibbered amonst itself! tradin prayers.
-% corrupt little cardinal! I found , fat with the wealth of his flock! soiled by luttony and decadence. It was a mercy
to spill his blood.-
Someone in the audience #omited. *obody looked around! all eyes wide! brimmin with tears of terror. The sheer
force of their an"iety pushed at +ita-s senses! threatenin to o#erwhelm her.
-It was a mercy to hear his screams!=
The imae 8umped abruptly. Still pushed to its hihest manification! the photoseer swept its a5e to the side. a blur
of nonsensical shapes! flittin one across the ne"t. Formless dark and flickerin liht a#e way to panoramas of blue
and bron5e! of red,tainted confusion and
lossy tones6 all of it chipped and hardened by harsh shadows. It found its taret in a flash of nauseous focus and ,
with an instant-s pause for swirlin minds to decipher what they were seein , the crowd erupted anew.
$e#il,red slits! burnin from a field of shadow! swept up and backwards in arrowhead slants! tickled by a wreath of
misted breath.
-So shall perish all who ha#e fallen from the liht!= their owner hissed. The Emperor-s a5e has fallen upon this
world,- Ashrieks and faintin amidst the audienceB -,and he has found it wantin. &orruption is all he sees. % city of
ini/uity and in8ustice! ruled by the weak and the selfish!=
The imae bean to loosen! pullin away from those eyes! smoulderin with malice. 3hate#er form held them
remained indistinct! bathed in shadow! hinted only in flashes of blue and bron5e6 in hulkin dimensions that fooled
the eye and mauled the senses.
NHO ha#e seen the deaths amonst you. The sinners cut down. I took their heads to clean their corruption. They are
the first amon many. They will not be the last.
-1epent! sinners. Fear your Emperor-s wrath. Fear his anel of #eneance!=
%t its widest anle! the #iewspe" was a poor interface for the horror of its sub8ect. This shape! this unseen thing,
leaned from the lihtless #oid! eyes afire! breath steamin. Spines and chains cauht at flickerin fireliht6 half,seen
allusion to its si5e and shape. *either were ob#ious. it was a presen)e first and a solid bein second6 an ethereal
de#il6 a raceful silhouette. The audience clothed its faceless hulk with whate#er nihtmare,flesh their minds
con8ured! and all alon they suspected that whate#er terrors their
imainations supplied! the reality was sure to be far! far worse.
It hissed at the photoseer! and claws like bolts of lihtnin snapped into #iew from nowhere. Shrieks ran out in the
cramped ather,hall.
-Cudement is comin!= the beast said. -$o not resist it.-
%nd then the broadcast ended! and the fi55in snowstorm of white noise was all that lit the loomy ca#ern.
There was a moment of silence.
-He-s lyin9- +ita cried! heart poundin. -He-s lyin9 He wants us to fear him9 He-s no child of the Emperor9-
She miht as well ha#e tried to whisper in the face of a hurricane. *o one was listenin to her.
They were too busy screamin.
IT 3%S THE same all across the city. 3here#er she went! wanderin unseen , as only the #arant can truly be ,the
sobbin and screams ran out in the dark. In the frantic colours of the klub5ones! in the srnoy wastes where the
factories clamoured with downmarket habs! in e#ery street and e#ery stairway. unbridled horror. 3hispers.
The &iti5en 3orship broadcasts were resumed /uickly6 control of the station clearly reained. The stammerin
denials and assurances , -%ll is well! all is well- , did little to /uell the storm. Indeed each authority that attempted
placation and denied the corruption of the hi#e merely fed the dissent! brandin themsel#es as partisans to the
ini/uity by attemptin to conceal its e"istence. 4nly a sli#er of the teemin masses had been present to see the
broadcast! but it hardly mattered. The mouth,to,ear machine worked its cos to nothinness as the story
was told and retold! mutatin and rowin with each hour.
&hapels roaned with bodies. cryin out for fori#eness! demandin mercy from unprepared priests! themsel#es
shaken to the core of their faith by the threat of di#ine 8ustice. 4n streets the puratists found themsel#es outdone by
the sudden 5eal of those seekin absolution6 wailin and nashin! strikin themsel#es with thorny canes until e#ery
tramway and stairwell was moist with the blood of flaellants.
0ut most... most of the hi#e did not resort to such e"cesses. +ost slunk home with faces pale! desertin the factories
in their dro#es! lockin doors and boltin shutters! whisperin fearful reassurances to sobbin infants and tellin
spouses o#er and o#er! -I lo#e you! I lo#e you...-
Cust in case.
The Emperor-s anel was abroad! and in his path all sin would burn! all unrihteousness would bleed itself dry! all
mercy would be denied.
%nd not a sinle thin that +ita said could con#ince the city otherwise. The *iht 'ord had outmanoeu#red her.
-here is your 'It is being dealt with' now, 2austus4
Skulkin in the loom of a frihtened city! she realised with her heart sinkin that the time had come to deploy the
one ace she still held. She found a secluded spot in the dark beneath the struts of a me55anine stairwell! and sat with
her les crossed! clearin her mind.
This was oin to hurt.
3HE* SHE H%$ #isited the information broker! days before! when his ser#itors had come so close to finishin her and
&o! she had watched it dawn upon him
with amusin slowness that all the arroant bluster in the world would do him little ood.
She plucked his secrets from his mind.
She-d found him enmeshed at the heart of a reat room!=machine! cursin the destruction of his cybernetic warriors.
'ike a fat spider in its web! the cords of his data,empire snaked from e#ery corner6 a morass of sensoria consoles!
augaria readouts! clatterin loic enines! auspe" monitors! flutterin dials and bank upon bank of #iewspe"
screens. meetin in a knot! a tanle! a halo of rubber and metal! at his head. From here he controlled photo,optics!
cameras! ser#itors and communicators hi#e,wide. From here he intercepted transmissions! he ea#esdropped like
some diital od! he watched a thousand transactions in a thousand places! and he stored it all away like a bee!
hoardin its honey.
He had thouht himself implacable. He had tamed a Space +arine! by the hi#ehosts! how could a mere woman
hope to hold any sway o#er him
In his world of computations and loic! of bitter numbers and black!=white di#isions! of strenth and weakness! there
was of course one parameter he could ne#er hope to calculate. the realm of the psyker.
%nd yes! he may ha#e spent his life se#erin his ties with humanity! rebuildin his body time and time aain!
aumentin and reshapin his mind like a sculptor workin clay , but he could not escape from the raw bioloy of
his brain. It was an emoti#e oran! and if his media were metal and mathematics! then +ita-s were thouhts
She had slid into his consciousness before his smuness could e#en take fliht! and he had been powerless to stop
her. He-d told her e#erythin. who he was! how he had been created! the e"tents of his empire. He-d
told her about his meetin with the Space +arine! about the creature-s /uest for the Glacier 1ats! about the onoin
hunt , spreadin rumours across the entire underhi#e , for the Slake collecti#e. always in pursuit of some unknown
packae. He had bared his steely soul before the scalpel of her astral self! until she-d had him e"actly where she-d
wanted him.
She-d threatened him with the one thin that was uaranteed to scare him , informin his former masters at the
%deptus +echanicus of his e"istence and whereabouts! remindin him that it wasn-t too late to undero the puritens
lobotomy a second time , and he had capitulated like the unctuous little worm he so clearly was.
He would find the *iht 'ord! she-d insisted. He would report e#ery mo#ement , e#ery orkspoor word ,back to her.
She arraned times and places! and then she let him o.
He would betray her! of course. It was ine#itable ,that was 8ust the sort of mind he had. She imained he would
wrile his way into the *iht 'ord-s debt! seekin protection and power from the beast she had sent him to spy
upon. It was of little conse/uence. She had taken... other precautions.
The tutoria of the Scholastia 2sykana called the procedure in)ul)ati. It in#ol#ed depositin a frament , a parsus ,
of one-s own astral self! like a sou#enir! within the subconscious of another human. 4nce detached! the psyker could
form a brief link with their taret , location and distance notwithstandin , and ride! like some insidious piyback
sinal! upon their #ery senses. It was a poor alternati#e to remote #iewin at the best of times! but , i#en her
difficulty with that discipline! and the *iht 'ord-s uardian warpthings , that was no loner an option.
The in)ul)ati was difficult. It was painful. %nd it allowed only one chance.
3hen she-d pushed her way inside 2ah#ulti-s mind! re#olted at his cold ambition! acknowledin the probability of
his betrayal from the start! she had screwed up her courae! braced herself! and cut away a piece of her soul! pushin
it down into the efficient columns of his brain. If she could no loner spy on the *iht 'ord herself! she-d decided!
she-d send this fool on her behalf. to stare throuh his eyes and hear throuh his ears.
3hich! seated beneath the me55anine! sweat prickin her brow! moanin with effort and aony as if on some secret
childbirth! she did.
P%*$ HIS E?TE1*%' temperature at FG.HI6' the result, no doubt, of )oolants within his armour. #is throne is built of
rusted iron and bone, de)orated in feathers, and stands at F.! metres from base to tip.
2ah#ulti-s clipped thouhts! spirallin around her like a ri#er. She fi"ed her finers into the rush and concentrated!
o#erwhelmed by alien impressions and thouhts. To see throuh 2a#hulti-s eyes was to be immersed in a sensory
ocean! rided by tsunamis of detail and analysis.
"t a depth of !.Jkm below i)e(level, the ro)k is warm. #e is the lord of the underhive ( undisputed ( and I am at his
left. To his right sits his )ondemnitor. I re)ognise her from my surveillan)e lo)us as "visette 6hianni. She is one of
the Shadowkin.
I have no arms.
I have seen two hundred and si& Shadowkin sin)e I )ame to this pla)e. I have seen many more refugees.
Ea)h )arries a weapon. #e has built an army.
Far abo#e! seated in the boilin heart of the trance! +ita was staered. The in)ul)ati link was not
stron , remainin sapient in the delue of another bein-s thouhts was far harder than she had imained! and the
conflictin inputs of 2ah#ulti-s body with her own had all but se#ered the connection at its start , but still she was
o#erwhelmed by the broker-s secret admiration for the domain the *iht 'ord had built.
ne point two metres above me, to my right, #e says'
'5ring them forwards.'
I have given him Slake. "ll is well.
The s)outs ( three of them, all men, though one is an albino of the <allor #ouse ( push their pri.e forwards. 1o
doubt the 1ight ?ord is mi&ing the resour)es at his )ontrol, forging links between those who serve him voluntarily,
and those who have dis)overed themselves dominated. It is a salient ta)ti)' There is no shortage of loyalty in this
The s)outs found the )olle)tive in the safehouse I revealed. The Slake members seem bewildered at the heart of the
Shadowkin )amp' there are two remaining, and with a third of their effi)ien)y )ompromised their situation )onfuses
them. They are rendered )hildren@ summoned before an elder. -hen the male stumbles his )ompanion falters with
him' linked to his temple by a )ord of )opper umbili)us.
The woman was on)e Si))a 8issen@ aspiring heiress to the 8issen :uildhouse. The man, at one time, was "polus
Caque, illegitimate )hild of the /ogue Trader 6orleoni. "nd their missing member was 2ulo)h Sven(,ow, whose
puts)h of the -est#ab trading )onsortium failed so spe)ta)ularly.
I know their names be)ause I )reated them. They )ame to me, disgra)ed by guild and gold, ea)h hungry for a
se)ond )han)e. They needed an edge above their )ompetitors, and so I )reated the gestalim. I fused their memories
together, I gave them the power of the )ognitor but preserved their personalities. They have e&isted for three years,
four months and si&teen days. In that time they have be)ome ;unkies.
Information(nar)oti)s. %iddlemen desired and sought(after all over the hive, but indebted only to me.
$ntil today I have patronised their )ustom with paternal pride. I have allowed them autonomy Aat the pri)e only of
their loyaltyB and even hidden them, in this time of peril. I have been like a father to them.
"nd now the 1ight ?ord has demanded them, and I have provided.
<oor, poor little Slake.
Something lands in the mud at their feet, )ast down from above and behind me. It is a skull, polished )lean@ shining
so)kets above ea)h eye trailing useless )ables like antennae.
2ulo)h Sven(,ow. /est in pea)e, fool.
The Slake )olle)tive is reunited in a tangle of s)rabbling grasps and piteous groans. Its living members need no
prompt@ they ;a)k into the dead skull like starving slaves presented with a meal, lolling and mewling in pleasure at
the surge of data.
The )olle)tive is reunited, and whatever )hildish an&iety they had suffered is e)lipsed in an instant. -hen the initial
rush has passed they fa)e the 1ight ?ord with disinterested eyes and say'
'8ou are going to kill us, then4'
They speak together, perfe)tly in harmony. It is an amusing effe)t.
If their straightforwardness is of )onsternation to my new master, he does not show it.
T will,' he says. '5ut there are a thousand deaths at my disposal. Some are slower than others. 8ou understand'
The )olle)tive trades glan)es. I know they are dis)ussing within the )onfines of their se)ret union, unheard voi)es
)ra)kling ba)k and forth. They display no outward signs of fear.
7-e a))ept,' they say. 'It will be painless4' The 1ight ?ord shrugs. 'It will be fast.'
They were a fine )reation, the gestalim. I shall be disappointed to see them gone, but we are all of us made slaves in
the 1ight ?ord's presen)e, and to a))ept his dominion is the )learest, easiest path.
7There was a pa)kage,' he hisses, and I fan)y that one pont three se)onds into his pause there )omes a quiet sigh,
unheard by all but me, and I wonder what thoughts )ir)ulate in his mind. '8ou )ommissioned the :la)ier /ats to
steal it'
'-e did.'
'#ow did you know it was )oming4'
'ur buyer anti)ipated its arrival. #e employed us as middlemen. -e would lo)ate and hire agents to retrieve the
item. Their fee, as was ours, was generous.'
#e hisses behind me. #e is eager.
'-here is the pa)kage now4 -as it opened4 -as the seal broken4'
'It was not opened by us. It has been delivered to the )ustomer.'
In the throne, the monster leans forwards. #e deploys his most pertinent query like a pi)t(gambler presenting an
a)e of )ups.
'-ho,' he said, unable to disguise the hunger in his voi)e, 'is the )ustomer4'
In the world abo#e! throuh pain and sweat! +ita cleared her consciousness and focused! strulin to hold the
in)ul)ati connection. This! her senses told her! was a critical moment.
The pa)kage...
Somethin stolen from the $mbrea Insidior.
Somethin worth a thousand deaths to pursue.
The packae was at the cru" of it all.
She pushed further into 2ah#ulti-s consciousness! strainin to hear.
'-e do not know,' the )olle)tive says.
There is no hiss from the 1ight ?ord, no e&plosion of temper and )arnage. I wonder, perhaps, if he has )ome to
anti)ipate disappointment.
7-e have only a lo)ation,' Slake )ontinues, harmonious voi)e unwavering. " meeting pla)e and a signal )ode, to
summon the )ustomer's agents. They )ome to )olle)t, and to make payment*
'"nd where,' the 1ight ?ord says, voi)e a whisper, 'is that4'
THE +%&H%1I7S G%TE9 The +acharius Gate9-
% cowled scribe , who had made a spirited attempt at tacklin her les , recei#ed a heel in his face for his troubles.
She sprinted on! past bemused acolytes and obli#ious ser#itors! shoutin as she went. -4rodai9 4rodai! you bastard9
The +acharius Gate9- The &uspseal 2reafect,precinct was busy! e#en for the insanity that passed as the norm in
these parts. She leapt o#er a scrum of off,duty ,ervishi ( too slow to intercept her , and pounded up alabaster stairs
to the ne"t le#el. -4rodai9 rodai*'
4bstruction to her hurtlin proress was certainly rowin now. She-d bolted past the fat desk sereant at the
precinct-s entrance with a discourteous ripple of psychic enery , not enouh to kill! but plenty to lea#e him sain
and corpulent in his chair. 0y now alarms would be rinin in hiher le#els! s/uads would be closin like black,
lossed claws upon her hellish ad#ance! and perhaps someone! some unctuous little aide! was informin 4rodai that
a madwoman was indulin in a lauhable attempt to deli#er an unsanctioned messae. She 8ust hoped the news
pricked his curiosity. 1othing's ever easy.
-4rodai9 The +acharius Gate9 $amn your eyes! man9 &an you hear me; The +acharius Gate9-
% youn 2reafect went down behind her! an elbow catchin him s/uarely in the face. His partner , an older #indictor
with a well,polished punctiliousness about him , decided to foro the non,lethal approach and raised his shotun.
She blasted him with a messy crackle of astral enery and resisted the ure to rab for his un as she passed. 0ein
armed was a sure way to et oneself shot.
%t the penultimate le#el! lea#in behind her a scattered trail of bewildered aides and psychically,battered 2reafects!
whiche#er security,ser#itor was coordinatin the -emerency- presented the result of its labours. a ten,stron block
of 2reafects! fully armoured! which let rip with a sal#o of shotun fire in the tiht confines of the stairwell at the
#ery instant she rounded the corner. It was only the premonitionary flicker of imminent obliteration that flashed
throuh her secret senses that compelled her to skid to a halt! leapin back in the direction she-d come! and e#en that
wasn-t /uite fast enouh. % thick wall of leadshot snaed at the ede of her shoulder as she #anished! spinnin her
in her place and droppin her to the floor! cryin out.
Hot blood warmed her arm.
Hea#y footsteps clumped down towards the corner and she mustered what little enery she still had to prepare
another psychic strike. 0ut then shouted commands and the hea#y clankin of armoured bodies rose up the stairwell
from below! the first of many #indictors pounced around the corner with un bared! and she realised with a
particularly foul curse that she was utterly outnumbered.
-+acharius Gate...- she mumbled! unable to think of anythin else to say! as the first of se#eral do5en shotun
mu55les nuded aainst her skin. -+acharius Gate! you bastards...-
-3hat about the +acharius Gate;- a #oice said! from
abo#e. She felt a flutter of reconition at the dry tones!
and looked up with the first stirrins of hope. The 2rea,
fects inched aside to allow a plainly dressed fiure past.
-4rodai9- she e"claimed.
'6ommander 4rodai!- he corrected! e"pression none,too,impressed to see her. -3hat are you doin here! irl;-
-$eli#erin #ital information on behalf of the In/uisition!= He sihed.
-+iss %shyn! the last I heard was that you had been e8ected from that body for ross insubordination. (our former
colleaues #isited me. They were #ery keen to impress upon me what to do if you were found!= I'll bet they were,
the bastards. 4ne of the 2reafects racked his shotun! pointedly. -&ommander!= she hissed! heart throbbin so hard
she could barely hear her own #oice. (ou know as well as I do that >austus is makin a mistake!=
-Ha#e a care! irl. %n outlaw is hardly in the position to disparae an in/uisitor!=
-For the Emperor-s sake! 4rodai9 The in/uisitor-s a fool9 % warp,damned fop more troubled by the o#ernor-s
treasures than the daner in this hi#e9- 4rodai lared at her! workin his 8aw. -hi)h way will you go, you effi)ient
little bastard4 Slowly! eyes narrowed! 4rodai reached into his belt and lifted his pistol! trainin it upon +ita-s head.
Her heart fell.
-$ismissed!= he barked to the 2reafects. -I can handle this whelp!=
The #indictors #anished without complaint. 4rodai waited until they had all one! until the echoes of their
clatterin strides had faded! before re,holsterin the pistol.
+ita frowned. -I... I don-t understand...-
-It does not do to discuss politics in public! irl. 3alls ha#e ears!=
-I... I...-
-I-m assumin you-#e come to me for a reason. I-m no more a fan of the In/uisitorial bastard than you! but then the
enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. 2articularly when she-s a warp,piss witch who lost a s/uad of my
best men!=
+ita suffered the chide with ood race! refusin to rise.
-I know where you can find him!=
@(ou know who. The *iht 'ord. The &haos +arine. The beast that-s made a mess of your pretty litrie city!=
He shook his head. -Still you insist upon that notio,-
Her mouth fell open. -How can you doubt it;- she stormed! outraed. @(ou must ha#e seen the hi8acked broadcast9-
-I did. %ll I saw was a pair of red eyes!=
-$on-t be a fool9 3hy deny it to yourself; There-s a warp,damned Traitor +arine loose in your city! 4rodai! and I
can tell you where it is9 %re you so thick,skulled that you-ll refuse to hear it;-
He sihed! and when he spoke his #oice was calmer! /uieter. thick with e"hausted frustration.
-&hild! whether the creature is real or not is irrele#ant. %ll we know is that someone , something ,has formed an
army in the underhi#e!= He raised an eyebrow at her stunned e"pression and half,smiled. -The In/uisition isn-t the
only body that has its spies! irl. So you see! you really ha#e nothin to offer me. 3e already know where your...
resides! whate#er it is. 0ut to attack it in its own lair would be fo,-
-*ot there!=
She allowed a smile to curl her lips! the throbbin of her bloody shoulder rescindin to nothin.
-He-s lea#in his lair!= she said. -He has an appointment. The +acharius Gate! 4rodai. That-s where we slay the
Q should like to know who it was that first said 72now thine Enemy.7 It has always stru)k me as the sentiment of an
unrepentant hereti)'
,'ast recorded words of &ommissar Cai-m 0aelstus!
hours before his death at the hands of rebel
insurents Alater postulated to ha#e been
concealed within his own &ommand 7nit.B
THE +%&H%1I7S G%TE was a place of unlikely amalamations. where the trappins of the rich punctured the realm of
the poor6 a 8ewelled knife sinkin throuh tumorous flesh.
2ressed aainst the inner shell of the hi#e at its southernmost point! risin and fallin no further than a sinle tier! it
was! to the city-s aristocracy! a means of escape. 4h! there were starports elsewhere in the hi#e! and other doors
leadin to the fro5en e"terior pocked its rim like airholes6 but such outlets were the remit of peasants and workers ,
ineleant drawbrides and sphincter,portals leadin to loadin bays and #ehicle silos. They were rarely used. who!
after all! would )hoose to #enture into the fro5en wastes;
0ut the +acharius Gate , that was a more ci#ilised affair. Slippin into its cambered ceilin! descendin in the
shadow of the colossal snowate doors! a tanle of stairwells and pluneshafts tumbled from abo#e! thick
with ancient ele#ators and earlifters. % sinle broad illuminator! affi"ed to the ceilin by a steel cord! smeared its
unkind luminosity across all below! flickerin with whate#er tenuous enery fed it. Here the aristocrats could slip
down from their distant pinnacles! unburdened by the unpleasant need to minle with lesser populations as their
descent proressed.
To each noble house its own shaft! and to each the opportunity to tra#el secretly to this seedy place! as desire
dictated. Here the opulence of Steepletown collided with the filth of the first tier. tapestry,hun reception booths
moulderin6 eleant brass instrumentation pilfered and sold on down the years! lea#in now a hotchpotch of
e"/uisite craftsmanship and impro#ised s/ualor. Staffed only by a s/uad of militia au"iliaries , fat part,timers
recruited from the local habs who lolled uncomfortably! unsha#en faces inconruous with the briht uniforms they-d
been i#en to wear , the ateroom could hardly be considered imprenable. 2erhaps! bored and pampered in their
spires! the nobles who fre/uented this peculiar place en8oyed the fact of its relati#e unsafety; 2erhaps they thouht it
+ore likely! they knew that no attacker was stupid enouh to try ainin access to the upper hi#e without the call,
codes to which each ele#ator responded6 the sheaf of access papers re/uired to placate the militia elite who patrolled
Steepletown! and a si5eable army to rely,upon when thins went sour.
The E/ui"us aristocrats had little to worry about.
The nobles descended here to hunt! primarily. To snort and uffaw amonst themsel#es! to enender upon their
pri#ileed! empty little li#es a measure of e"citement. They slipped out throuh the massi#e snowates to the
#ehicle bay beyond! croonin their
inflated machismo. They wore heated mouldsuits to shield them from the weather! dro#e #ast 8uerkraft loaded
with fine wines and sweetmeats! carried decorous weapons of such hih calibre that the rare yokkrothi bears they
tracked Aor! rather! their ser#itors trackedB would literally #aporise in the unlikely e#ent of a direct hit6 and still they
somehow manaed to slap one another across the back and pronounce themsel#es bra#e! manly citi5ens. Sahaal took
one look at it and felt himself anered. This bloated pretend,bra#ery! this decadent waste of space. it was e#erythin
he had come to despise about the Imperium. )ast. Gaudy. 4#erconfident. Spiritually empty. See how the mighty are
fallen... He would chane all of that.
The Slake collecti#e had been true to its word. 4n bundles of parchment its members had scrawled maps to reach
this place. descriptions of its interior! directions upon which ele#ator to approach! what runecodes to enter into its
ancient control panel. It would summon their customers- representati#es! they assured him. It would lead him to the
ones who had purchased his stolen pri5e.
He-d left them ali#e! for now. chained to a 8aed wall down in the uts of the rustmud ca#erns. They would recei#e
their swift deaths! as promised! when ,if , their assurances were borne out.
The militiamen uardin the ateroom did not pose too reat a strule. Sahaal killed all si" without a sinle shot
fired! and wa#ed his rata troops past their shattered bodies with a 8erk of his bloody claws. %s e#er! it felt
danerously ood to kill aain.
He had brouht with him a colourful menaerie of warriors , at least one from each sub8uated anhouse!
a selection whose eclecticism he owed entirely to &hi,anni. Still reco#erin from her wounds! she-d been unable to
8oin his e"pedition herself6 but her ad#ice had been more than pertinent.
%#oid infihtin. %#oid fa#ouritism. Take warriors from each tribe. Show them e/ual respect! and e/ual contempt.
+ake them partisan to your strules! and to one another. Temper their resentment with inclusion and lory.
%nd it had worked. Such was their awe for the beast that ro#ed ahead of them! such was their terror of the sleek
de#il that drew them on throuh shadow and shade! that their mutual loathin was forotten. Former enemies
became allies in fear and de#otion. they were aners no loner. They were &hildren of the *iht.
She was /uite the de#ious diplomat! his condemni,tor.
He-d also brouht with him the conis mercator. 2ah#ulti. the crinin little bastard. Sahaal had conspicuously
refused to trust the rinnin creature! despite his successful deli#ery of the Slake collecti#e! and to lea#e him alone
amonst the Shadowkin was not somethin he cared to countenance. The man knew too much.
That the armless fiure , stumblin with a 'het(het(het' and an endless barrae of useless chatter , had enraed
Sahaal was a i#en. That he had loated and sneered where he should ha#e bowed and offered obeisance had not
helped his case. That Sahaal had #owed aain and aain that he would repay the cacklin worm-s insolence with
death should ha#e sealed his fate...
%nd yet...
%nd yet his information had pro#ed flawless. He had helped plan the onoin attacks upon the hi#e.
its finers and its heart! in accordance with the *iht Haunter-s lessons. 2ah#ulti-s knowlede of the city was
unmatched! and when orderin his warriors to strike at power stations! orbital armaments! 2$F armouries and
eotherm ducts! Sahaal had found 2ah#ulti-s input fre/uently useful. He was a resource that should not be
s/uandered too /uickly.
0ut! more so! the man-s huner for power , as crude as it was , allowed Sahaal at least a measure of dominance o#er
him. The ift of rulership! if and when his brother *iht 'ords arri#ed! would be Sahaal's to confer. 2ah#ulti was no
loner in control of their union. *ow it was Sahaal who had somethin the broker wanted6 and that was a situation
he was keen to en8oy.
%nd... (es... yes! he must admit it to himself...
>eepin the bastard ali#e a#e Sahaal somethin to look forward to.
3ithin the ateroom! when his mob had entered and swept the place for security and sur#eillance de#ices! Sahaal
found himself /uietly disappointed. The ele#ator door to which the instructions directed him was an inferior thin.
plain and unadorned where others sported intricate frescoes and colourful records of their owner-s e"ploits.
*aturally such pomposity re#olted Sahaal! but in some strane way he felt that anythin connected to the &orona
*o" , e#en the warpshit who had stolen it , should represent a le#el of... superiority compared to all around it.
%monst a society of princes! he felt as thouh he-d been mued by a bear. It anered him! without him fully
bein able to e"plain way.
These days! the aner needed little e"cuse to arise. The #oices rustled and hissed in his mind! tentacles of &haotic
warpstuff playin across his soul! pluckin and needlin it to e#er reater peaks of sa#aery. For the
hundredth time he drew a breath and calmed himself! seekin in #ain the focus that his master had always preached.
He entered Slake-s code with a steady hand , ratified at the apparent efficiency of the unfussy console ,and stepped
back to wait.
0ehind him the ranks of warriors shifted in their places. % brute of the %tla &lan scratched at his /uilled scalp with a
moronic runt! and behind him a pair of androynous unners of House +arittha e"chaned lances throuh hea#y
The warband was edy. Sahaal wondered #auely whether it was the result of the situation! or their pro"imity to
He hoped it was the latter.
-+y lord;- asked one! an impressi#e female of the S5tak &hai whose chain,lai#e was as tall as Sahaal himself. -Has
it worked;-
He inored the interruption and lowered at the console. % small brass dial shifted slowly! inchin from one side to
the other.
!JF, it read. The label at the head of the dial was marked! simply. TIE/.
It took a little o#er one minute to reach !JK.
The +acharius Gate was! of course! on Tier 1.
This may take a while!= Sahaal sihed.
The warriors silently took up positions at the ate,room-s entrance! perhaps detectin the impatience in their lord-s
#o",distorted #oice! thankful for the opportunity to stay out of his way. 2ah#ulti slumped into a corner! crossin his
knees and chatterin /uietly to himself.
3ith the huner for #iolence nawin at his mind! Sahaal anticipated the wait for his /uarry-s arri#al as if preparin
to be tortured. In some /uiet sli#er of his
soul he reconised that this bureonin fury was a far from useful state of mind! but it linered nonetheless. as if a
fire had been stoked inside him which no amount of dousin could e"tinuish.
1esol#in instead to contain the bla5e , to let it burn slow and steady! without fiery impulse or cracklin e"plosion ,
he knelt at the ele#ator-s dull entrance and emptied his mind! pushin himself deep into a trance.
He was so )lose. He could feel it...
He could afford to wait a while loner.
His past called him back! and he slipped into a dream with a sih.
4* TS%G7%'S%! F14+ the shifting flesh of the S)reaming :allery, the 1ight #aunter )alled forth his )aptains and rose
to address them...
The #eresy was ended. The other Traitors had fled. 6haos owned them, now.
1ot so the 1ight ?ords. $nsedu)able, their hate. In)orruptible, their fo)us. In their hearts 6haos )ould find little
fuel to ignite its insidious fires.
Their hearts burned already! with hate and in;ury@ with the need for vengean)e.
2onrad 6ur.e, the 1ight #aunter, gathered his )aptains as a father gathers his sons, and he filled them with pride
and ;oy in the 5itter 6rusade they would undertake in his name. They )hanted his name and praised his wisdom,
and he a))epted their devotion with a melan)holy smile.
"nd then he told them that he was soon to die, and everything )rumbled to dust.
Sahaal was there. #e saw it all.
"nd as the )aptains raged and boiled, as outrage bred denial, he wat)hed his lord with a sad eye and knew it was
The 1ight #aunter would die ( not be)ause he would be powerless to over)ome his atta)ker@ not be)ause he would
be slain like some )ommon foe(
(but be)ause in death he would find vindi)ation, of sorts. "nd, perhaps, pea)e.
The 1ight #aunter silen)ed his )aptains with a word, and told them that he would sele)t an heir. #e told them that
he would take from among them a son to lead in his stead.
Sahaal had felt, at that instant, the first stirrings of an unquen)hable ambition. #e ga.ed from fa)e to fa)e of his
brother )aptains, and wondered if they shared his hunger. If they wanted what he wanted.
1ot power.
1ot blood.
%ost avoided his stare. %ost remained flushed with sadness and rage at the news of their master's death. %ost
)rumbled from his regard ( from his )on)erns ( like salt before a torrent of blood.
nly one met Sahaal's eye. nly one gloated with flushed )heeks and teeth brandished@ pale lips ringed with tribal
s)ars@ bright eyes unrepentant for the aspirations worn within them' a bra.en lust for the offered position that he
did nothing to )on)eal.
2rieg ")erbus. The giant. The #ead(taker. The "&emas(ter.
The 5rute.
2onrad 6ur.e )losed bla)k(gla.ed eyes and opened his mouth, and the name on his lips was >so Sahaal.
S4+ETHI*G 17+0'E$ %T the ede of Sahaal-s perceptions6 dredin his mind from its reminiscence and pullin him
back into the liht. He /uit the trance as if castin off a cloak! his master-s #oice echoin in his
ears! and was troubled to disco#er the meditation had done little to cure his nascent rae. The #ision of %cer,bus! in
particular! had merely stoked the fires hiher.
There had been litde lo#e lost between 0atde,brothers :so and >rie.
The ele#ator was on the #ere of arri#al. The dial on the console read TIE/' F, and Sahaal calculated /uickly that
somethin in the reion of two and a half hours had elapsed since his meditation , and the carriae-s descent , had
beun. %s the capsule neared the end of its 8ourney , its diaonal proress hampered by the chanin radient of the
hi#e-s walls , the shaft into which it was deli#ered bean to ramble! protestin at the #ertical stresses placed upon it.
4ne by one Sahaal-s accompanyin warriors slipped from their places at the ateroom entrance! sensin the arri#al
of their taret. They athered at the ele#ator-s doors! rackin weapons with a professional disinterest that did nothin
to hide their curiosity! trainin loaded mu55les upon the unadorned surface of the hea#y portal.
-Stay to the side!= Sahaal commanded! unsheathin his claws with a rasp. -%nd kill nothin. I want prisoners!=
The warriors eded aside! clearin the space before the ele#ator. If the siht that reeted whoe#er was within was a
posse of scowlin oudaws and deephi#e aners with more uns than sense! Sahaal was confident their first act
upon openin the doors would be to immediately close them aain.
He turned to face 2ah#ulti , still seated in the corner! watchin with eyes and optics narrowed , and crooked a finer
to beckon him o#er. His uncertain e"pression filled Sahaal-s heart with infantile 8oy.
#e knows I don't need him any more, he thouht. #e knows he's e&pendable.
-(ou stand in front of the doors!= he said! loomin
o#er the broker. NHO reet them. (ou draw them out.
(ou draw them out so we can take them. 7nderstand;-
2ah#ulti nodded! mute. There was little else he could
Sahaal slipped into the darkness beside the ele#ator doors where his warriors lurked! and slowed his breathin!
fihtin the an"iety.
So )lose... so )lose.
4ut of his #iew! around the corner of the shaft-s terminus! the doors opened. Sahaal watched 2ah#ulti-s face
assiduously! tryin to ascertain what manner of person , or people , was within by auin his responses. It did him
litde ood. 2ah#ulti-s face was a mass of twitches and arcane mechanical mo#ements!none of them ob#iously
connected to his emotions.
% cautious #oice ebbed from within the ele#ator.
NHO aren-t Slake...- it said. RSTH are you; 3here did you et the codes;-
Somethin cold and metal racked out of siht. Sahaal could hear the heartbeat of his warriors acceleratin. 3hoe#er
was within the ele#ator had a weapon.
-Friend of Slake-s!= 2ah#ulti said! noddin and scrapin. '#et(het(het, yes! yes... Friend!=
(ou-#e ot no arms!=
(es! het(het(het. *o arms! no uns. *o need to be alarmed!=
3hat do want! raedy man; %nswer me9-
-Slake! yes; Sent me to discuss more... ac/uisitions!=
-$on-t be ridiculous. 3e-#e ot what we wanted. The three,headed freak has nothin else to offer us. (ou hear me;-
Footsteps clattered aainst the floor. 3hoe#er occupied the lift , still beyond Sahaal-s #ision , was marchin
forwards to confront 2ah#ulti up close.
Se#eral thins happened at once.
%t the ede of Sahaal-s siht! creepin past the corner of the ele#ator! he cauht his first limpse of the man he had
come to sei5e. It was an official of some sort. colourfully robed! holdin a small pistol in his manicured rip. %
ma8or,domo! Sahaal uessed. a personal ser#ant of whiche#er noble house owned the ele#ator. % sla#e of whiche#er
bastard had purchased the &orona *o".
Sahaal leaped from his concealment with a shriek to free5e the fires of hell. a banshee,wail that stunned the wi5ened
fiure as if electrified. 2anickin! the fool-s finer tihtened on the trier of his pistol! and at the heart of the
thunder,peal that followed 2ah#ulti-s head burst like a bubble! metallic waste and brain,flesh detonatin outwards.
Sahaal eclipsed the death from his mind and reached out talons to snatch the ma8or,domo up! to lift him on plumes
of air away from this uly little chamber,
The liht spillin in from the doorway , the entrance his warriors had left unattended in their rush to confront the
ele#ator , was blotted out! and the thud of marchin feet filled the world.
The 2reafects had arri#ed. % lot of 2reafects.
They were led by the witch.
THE FI1ST SH4TG7* sal#o decimated Sahaal-s warriors lurkin to the left of the ele#ator. Flesh left bone like 8elly!
pul#erised beyond reconition. Thick slabs of paste scrawled themsel#es across rusted walls. powdered bone and
stranled cries lost to the air. Hands clutched at nothin and were shredded! faces dissol#ed beneath an e"pandin
cloud of lead shot! screams died in lacerated throats and wardin arms! held across faces in primal protection!
detonated like ripe fruit.
The echoes of the blast circled the ateroom like a capti#e bat.
In the course of a sinle second the *iht 'ord had lost half of his troops. The feathered headdress of a <uet5ai
clansman! still affi"ed to the ruptured clumps of scalp and hair of its former owner! slapped across his shoulder with
a moist report. He inored it and sured onwards! stretchin out for the ma8or,domo. *othin else mattered.
The #indictors poured into the room like a tide of black,coated crabs! perfectly in step6 ranks punctuated by the red
stripes of an occasional hea#y,weapons dervishi, or the unhelmeted snarl of a shoutin sereant. %nd the noise... the
noise shook the room to its foundations and left dust curlin from its distant ceilin. %rmour clashin toether! feet
poundin the terracrete in robotic unison! #oices raised in a sonorous chant.
'?e& Imperator... ?e& Imperator... ?e& Imperator...'
It was like an army. E#en from the midst of his memories! dreded from the days of the Great &rusade! when
litterin hosts without number swept across alien plains! Sahaal could not recall seein its like. 2erfectly precise
mo#ements. E#ery man dressed alike. 0lack. Shinin. Hundreds upon hundreds of them! spillin into the room like
oil from a drum.
% per#erse part of his soul was ratified. "ll this, ;ust forme...
Somewhere behind it all! throuh the tiht spaces of the ateroom entrance , immo#ably blocked by the onrushin
troops , a trio of Salamander tanks lurked. &ommand stations! Sahaal uessed! leadin from the rear. &owards.
He tried in #ain to find the witch aain6 he had seen her enter at the forefront! dressed in ras! but had lost
her amidst the swarm. She! at least! had dared to face him. He would en8oy rippin her to shreds.
Somewhere beyond his focused #ision he reistered a retort like the splinterin of a thousand trees. Shotuns bein
racked! lo#ed arms pumpin fresh shells into place.
The second sal#o! en route6 all conducted with machine efficiency. There was no cunnin trap here! no subtle
ad#ance and flankin manoeu#re. Sahaal and his warriors were outnumbered twenty times o#er. bottled in a dead
end! enulfed by a wall of black loss carapace that seeped forwards like tar.
There was no hope of #ictory. *o hope of defeatin them. *o hope of escape.
*ot on the round! at any rate.
%nd then he was upon the shriekin ma8or,domo! wrappin racile limbs around the man-s midriff! lockin claws
toether like the teeth of two ears. He spun as he went! turnin his back towards the #indictors! shieldin his pri5e
from their pernicious attentions and kickin off6 8ump pack flarin behind him! deli#erin him into the air.
For an instant he considered leapin for the open ele#ator! ridin its slow carriae up to the domain of whate#er
pompous noble had stolen his treasure. 0ut before he could e#en twist towards it! dippin his risin body to bank
The second sal#o. 1iht on time.
The blast swept the world from beneath him like a tidal wa#e of lead. His launch skewed! his les flared with pain
and 8inked out to one side! spinnin him backwards e#en as his feet left the round. The ancient armour held its
cohesion , its spirit moanin in the static of his #o" , but where his rea#es met his
thihuards the metal storm peppered his 8oints and found his flesh. He shut out the pain! clearin his mind! and put
his faith in the larriman coaulators hauntin his blood. 7nconcerned by the wounds he concentrated on restorin
his tra8ectory , twistin with a furious roar , before his disastrous launch could deli#er him into a wall or! worse! the
floor. a reasy smear of flesh and armour. The 8ump pack protested at his unentle contortions! the spirit that fused it
to his true armour hissin deep in his psyche like a part of his own body. Its spirallin ascent smoothed! liftin him
now at a shallow anle! fi55lin and spittin as it went. It wasn-t enouh. The reat snowates! locked tiht! loomed
massi#ely before him.
+usterin an effort that sent adrenaline burstin in his brain! cursin the weiht of his capti#e! he rolled onto his
front and banked hard! streakin across the heads of the astonished 2reafects! silencin the ma8or,domo-s shrieks
with a deft backhand across the man-s face. 3ith balance reained and aility restored! he whooped aloud and
resouht the ele#ator. It was too late. the black ranks had closed across it like a lead shield! and he dipped down in
fury to rake a sinle claw across the 2reafects- heads! shatterin helmets and clea#in skulls like a plouhshare
throuh their midst.
+ore blasts followed in his wake , no loner disciplined sal#oes but panicky! opportunistic shots ,thumpin at the
air like flak chares. 0ut Sahaal was too fast. streakin across #indictor helmets like a round,huin missile!
e#ery careless dischare had little effect other than to scatter lead shot amonst the shooter-s comrades.
In the blink of an eye the implacable ad#ance collapsed. There was somethin in their midst! now.
somethin that mo#ed faster than they could see6 somethin that shrieked like a child and lashed out with briht
claws! cuttin and hewin. Somethin that could dance between raindrops.
Somewhere behind Sahaal the poundin of a hell,un 8oined the acoustic maelstrom! re#erberatin like a drum
between the breathless asps of lasuns. His remainin warriors! he uessed! cornered in their tiny alco#e! fihtin
for their li#es.
?et them die. ?et them take as many of the fa)eless fools as they )an. ?et them sell their lives for me.
The prospect was stranely in#ioratin.
He ripped a dervishi's head from its body with a casual sideswipe! brinin up his les to claw at another man-s face
as he did so. % fist cauht the ede of his helm and he lauhed at the futility of the attacker-s blow! lost in a #icious
world of madness and blood. He turned and crouched! initin the 8ump pack with a spoken command! chucklin at
the screams of aony from behind him as its blue,fire backwash incinerated a knot of scramblin #indictors! pushin
him hih into the air.
This* This is life* To kill and re;oi)e*
Immortal* Superhuman* S)ion of the #aunter*
0eel their fear* Taste their terror*
It was... into"icatin.
%nd then somethin #ast and black! like a reat fist reachin out to sei5e him! slipped up into the air and buled. He
mo#ed on instinct! swoopin with the a#ian race that was the ift of the 1aptor! and doded the unfurlin #eil with
scant centimetres to spare.
He had not anticipated this. In the air he was immortal , or! at least! felt immortal. These swarmin
maots souht to brin him down! to earthbind him. to tanle his claws and crush his life.
The iddyin rush of sublime power crumbled beneath humility and an"iety. He-d been swept up in his own
manificence. How could he ha#e been so foolish; How could he ha#e allowed himself such arroance as to belie#e
he could o#ercome this... this sea of enemies;
It was the rae! he knew. That uly #oice in his head. That cold wisp of sa#aery! foolin him! makin him reckless
and unbalanced.
3hat had the *iht Haunter said; Somethin... somethin about a flaw...
'It festers in our blood... It makes us fools, my heir... ,o you know what it is4'
0o)us, Sahaal* 0o)us*
Somewhere in the shadows the hellun stuttered and fell silent! the last of his colourful warriors torn from their
concealment by a #eneful plume of lascannon fire.
&ursin himself! #iilant for the ne"t unfoldin net to come billowin up towards him! he ululated and spiralled
hiher! feelin his hopes crumblin around him! claws sinkin into malleable iron. 7pside down! he scuttled across
the 8umbled beams and awkward buttresses of the ceilin! the ma8or,domo still clutched to his chest. Shotun blasts
raked his back6 ineffectual at this distance! stones cast aainst a mountainside. 0ut there was little respite here. e#en
now he could imaine the dervishi tiltin lascannons towards him! bracin themsel#es aainst ferocious recoil.
<uellin the panic in his heart! he raced across the in#erted toporaphy of the ceilin like a fleein spider! dartin
into e#ery cre#ice6 e#ery lihtless nook in his search for safety. Flashlihts snapped to life beneath
him! da55lin him like the wash of a miniature superno#a. Horror coiled into his mind. a whirlwind of loss and
shame. He was e"posed6 he was defeated. To a creature of the dark! such as he! the liht was an acid en#elope!
scourin not only his eyes but his confidence! his dreams! his courae. $epri#ed of the shadows! stripped bare of his
armour of darkness! he felt as frail as any human worm! and he clun there to the ceilin like a roostin bat! waitin
to be picked,off.
% failure.
7-e shall not rest. -e shall not flee. -e shall not su))umb.'
His master-s #oice. $reded from memories! aain. &irclin in his mind! now as always.
'1o relief until the insult is repaid. 1o satisfa)tion until the traitor(Emperor is dead. 1o rest until the gala&y )ries
aloud with one voi)e, one shriek, one howl of terror'
'"ve ,ominus 1o&*'
Sahaal threw back his head! cursed the doubts that had e#en dared to enter his mind! and shrieked with the hate that
had sustained him for one hundred centuries.
'et him die9 'et him be torn to shreds9 0ut let him die with fire in his heart and blood on his claws.
He reached out to the sinle massi#e illuminator! danlin like an anchor from a cord at his side! and he sliced apart
the steel cable with a contemptuous flick.
The ri tumbled earthwards. He would teach these human scum the meanin of fear.
-$eath to the False Emperor9- he roared! drawin his bolter. '"ve ,ominus 1o&*'
%nd he dropped down in the wake of the illuminator! clun to the ma8or,domo with e#ery last shred of his strenth!
and smiled a feral smile.
THE FI1ST TH%T +ita knew of any daner! the first that any of the #indictor party knew! was a sound like the planet
splittin itself open. rumblin from its uts to its skin.
The illuminator landed amidst the 2reafects like an asteroid! splinterin the rock floor and enulfin a section of the
black,clad ranks in fire and shrapnel. Twenty men died in an instant! and like all those around her +ita sured
outwards on the crest of a wa#e. a tide of broken metal and whirlii sparks. %t its heart a sooty fireball rolled and
blackened! tumblin upwards into a tall plume of black smoke! plucked,throuh by rushin fiures and shoutin
%nd from the ulf abo#e them! before they could reroup! before their da55led senses could reco#er! throaty shots
ran out throuh the shrill whoop of an airborne howl. +ita reconised the roar of a bolter. barkin o#er and o#er!
mu55leflash flickerin on hih.
2icked out in the haloes of the #indictors- flashlihts! burnin like phosphor in the sudden storm! the plummetin
*iht 'ord rushed towards them , a thin of midniht skies and lihtnin bolts6 able somehow to e"ude an
impression of shadowed male#olence despite the brihtness around it.
Its shriek cut the air keener than any knife.
0olter shells struck each flashliht dead in its centre. unerrin accuracy from a creature mo#in so fast. %nry
eruptions shuffled shadows and shrapnel into the air! warheads blastin each torch to shredded metal! slicin
e"posed skin all around.
%nd then there was only darkness.
Total. &omplete.
Endless niht.
0ut not silent. The shrieks of the *iht 'ord became the whole world. a sonic #ista of fro5en screams and blood,
chillin yelps. 4thers rose to 8oin it , the moans of terrified #indictors6 the shouts of confused and panicky men!
corralled toether with finers on uns6 the pained runts of those who imained themsel#es slashed! ripped and
torn by the unseen monster...
It was chaos.
Here a 2reafect would cry out. the sharp tu of an impact aainst shoulder or thih precedin a hot burst of fluid! a
slow swell of creepin pain! and then the piece,by,piece re#ulsion as the amputated limb failed to respond. +ost
ne#er e#en felt the cut.
Here a sereant-s head thumped into the ruck like a moist bomb! parted from its body on the other side of the room!
deposited from abo#e by the unseen de#il.
Here a un hand was abruptly missin6 here a slice of armour and skin was peeled back and one in an instant6 here
a man hollered as his scalp was taken and
his eyes filled with his own blood. Here a man tripped on his own uts.
Here a man tried to shout! and found his 8aw and tonue ripped away.
+ita felt it all closin around her6 a di55yin kaleidoscope.
The *iht 'ord was e#erywhere all at once. circlin abo#e! swoopin to cut and kill with delihted impunity. He
dipped down here and there6 he sliced and he slashed and he shrieked. 0lood splattered like rain6 warm dri55le
without direction or colour.
In the blackness! e#ery shape was a threat! e#ery #oice a scream.
The rational core of +ita-s brain understood all too well what was happenin. The beast was not indulin in
enocide! nor establishin a massacre. The odds were aainst it! and yet it had refuted the threat! stared it down! and
turned it on its head.
It had coa"ed forth panic from disciplined minds! and like a dam burstin its banks6 like a stampede that could not
be contained! those same minds turned in upon themsel#es! cut away any bonds of comradeship that they felt to
those around them! and de#ol#ed! in an instant! into self,concerned! self,protectin! self,trustin beasts. They
became molecules at the heart of a storm. packed toether! chafin to be free! and yet repellin e#ery other particle ,
be it friend or foe.
Shotuns ran out in the dark. 1andomly fired! aimed at nothin but the niht. They were killin one another.
There were too many of them! +ita understood with a 8olt. +ustered from the precincts of &uspseal and its
surroundin cities alike! the #indictor force had been presented with simple orders. enter the ateroom. >ill anythin
that mo#es. %llow nothin to escape.
They had followed the commands with commendable efficiency! but in his haste to destroy the monster hauntin his
city 4rodai had o#erlooked a simple factor. He had poured his ranks into the narrow chamber like sand fillin a
rail. pilin throuh the narrow doorway! packin tihtly toether as they assumed firin positions. It was true that
their /uarry could ne#er hope to escape this sea of aressors! but the realisation that was rapidly stealin o#er each
and e#ery 2reafect! marooned in a world of lihtless fear! pushed forwards from the rear e#en as they turned and
fored back towards the entrance! was that they were as incapable of e"it as was their prey.
They were stuck inside their own trap! with a maddened de#il.
It was not a pleasin re#elation.
Their panic all but o#ercame +ita! then. 3allowin in its emoti#e backlash! blastin throuh her empatbic senses
like a flamer-s kiss! u55led by the completeness of the dark! the crowd-s disharmony scorched her mind. left her
shi#erin and afraid. She fell to her knees! pushed aside and trampled by the rushin fiures! and all but lost control!
bile risin in her throat. %nd always abo#e it! like the host of a fla#our! circlin at the ape" of the cloud of fear and
terror that it had enerated! the mind of the *iht 'ord tinled aainst her senses.
She would not approach it. She would not try to del#e inside it! not now that she knew what manner of force
protected its astral presence. *ot since the creature-s warp,uardians had come so close to o#erwhelmin her
0ut e#en so! e#en without the benefit of careful scrutiny! e#en without the need to look dose! to push inside and
e"plore! she could sense the shape of mat
ancient! awful psyche! and oh... oh! God,Emperor... once more... 8ust as it had been before.
It was like lookin into a mirror.
The doubt... the power... the suspicion...
She surfaced from her horror at the sound of a firm #oice6 tentacles of psychic thouht disco#erin an authoritati#e
mind. a sereant! she uessed! hollerin orders from nearby.
-0ino"9- he rowled. -*iht #ision9 %ll men9 2ut on your Throne,damned bino"! )andire-s piss9-
It was like a beacon. 'ike a tiny shaft of liht in an endless wasteland. That one sli#er of order punctured the panic,
spell the *iht 'ord had cast! and all around it the shoutin 2reafects paused in their directionless fliht and took
stock! drew breath! fumbled for their oles.
+ita made a mental node to find out the sereant-s name. If e#er she escaped from this killin,room ali#e she-d be
sure to commend the man to 4rodai.
She fumbled around her until she found an armoured body! sticky with blood. 3hether cut down by the *iht 'ord
or blown apart by friendly fire! it didn-t matter. the 2reafect was dead. She scrabbled at its belt until her /uestin
finers found a bino" strap! and pulled the blocky de#ice o#er her eyes.
The world opened up in lurid shades of reen and rey.
-1eroup! damn you9- the sereant roared! and she swi#elled to face him as if snatchin for a lifeline6 a solitary mote
of warmth in a place of endless winter. He was nothin! she supposed , 8ust one man amonst hundreds , but already
she could see a circle of calmness spreadin around him6 #indictors pullin on niht #ision oles! a5in around
to see what damae they had done.
-%rm your weapons9- he cried! swept up on the flames of his own leadership. -Shoot the Throne,damned shit9 Shoot
to ki,-
His head left his body.
+ita felt herself roan. a primal shock of horror and understandin6 anticipatin already what this would mean.
% pulse of blood 8ack,knifed o#er the tumblin corpse6 a blur of something crossed o#erhead! blades outstretched.
Somethin blue and black and bron5e! which knew all too well who to taret.
It screamed. It screamed 8ust like a baby.
The panic returned harder than e#er. Somewhere outside! in the faint liht burnin throuh the ate,room entrance!
4rodai was shoutin instructions from the back of his Salamander. It could do no ood! now. *ot from out there.
*ot so far from the boilin heart of this awful! inky place. The one #oice of reason was one6 cut down with
contemptuous ease by the unseen thing.
So easy to imaine horrors in the dark...
So easy to foret they faced a sinle foe. % sinle mortal foe...
%nd that! of course! was how the *iht 'ord worked. He dissol#ed his enemies in terror. He let them foret that he
could bleed and die. He let them fill the darkness with their own demons! and when he shrieked on hih it was like
the #oice of death itself6 ridin out to claim them for its own.
They had bottled a de#il in a dead end. They had sprun their trap and thouht themsel#es cle#er. and then the de#il
had showed them how wron they were. It had made the dead end its own territory6 it had draed them into its own
world , a world of darkness where it! and it alone! ruled , and now it would kill
them one by one! at its leisure. +ita could no more pacify the frihtened 2reafects , lost to all reason ,than she could
push back the sea. They were all oin to die.
She saw it! perfectly clear! in black and white.
The *iht 'ord would kill e#ery last one.
%nd the only way to spare them all! to spare herself...
Think, %ita, think*
.. .was to i#e it what it wanted.
Her oled eyes fell upon the colossal snowates6 twin blocks of tempered steel and iron , ten metres hih , risin
with the shallow camber of the room.
3hat does it want;
THE 21ESS 4F bodies was too reat. She-d struled as #aliandy as she could! keepin her head low! pushin throuh
8ostlin 2reafects like a rat between the les of elephants. %t e#ery accidental contact there were rebuttals and curses
, 'It's the beast* Sweet Emperor, the beast is here*' ( which ine#itably drew the unkind attention of hackin power
mauls! slash,stabbin blades and carelessly dischared shotuns. It was thanks only to the utter completeness of the
dark that most attacks were carried wide! and to her preconiti#e senses that she had thus far been forewarned of any
imminent weapons,fire.
0ut no loner. %bruptly the crush was too reat6 the herd of panickin men was packed toether too tiht for her to
wrile throuh! and each was too busy shoutin and cowerin to listen to the woman in their midst.
-0ino"! you fools9- she-d been shoutin! all alon. -2ut your damned bino" on9-
For all the ood it would do! she miht as well ha#e addressed her ad#ice to the Emperor himself. $seless+
,id... did I ;ust think that4
%ain! she wondered at the *iht 'ord-s ability to sow discord. % death here! a death there6 utter darkness and a
medley of horrific shrieks. these! it would seem! were the inredients of his domination. These simple thins! able to
turn hardened #eterans of street law into crinin whelps. %ble to lea#e her thouhtlessly /uestionin her own od...
It was! she admitted awkwardly! impressi#ely effecti#e. *one of which offered her much assistance in the task of
reachin her oal. % shotun stock blurred out of the soupy reen imae of her bino" and she ducked it with a curse!
ama5ed , besides anythin else , that its owner could be so colossally stupid as to think such a flimsy attack could
hurt the *iht 'ord! e#en if she had been it.
%nother push! another repellin 8ab. This was ettin her nowhere. She was so damned )lose*
% spray of warmth patterned her cheek! blood scattered from on hih! and another shriek ran out nearby. the beast
strikin aain! like an eale dippin its talons below the surface of an un/uiet laoon! pluckin out some thrashin
sil#ery thin with a cry. E#en with the oles she couldn-t see her foe clearly6 only a blur! an indistinct something,
trailin carnae as it leapt away! claws litterin.
The psychic lut hanin abo#e the crowd reached aonisin saturation behind her eyes. an intensity of confusion
and dread that! impossible to block out! all but destroyed her. She felt her knees weaken and for an instant was sure
she would fall. Staerin! she wondered how lon she-d last beneath the booted feet of the stampedin 2reafects.
%nd then the one remainin course of action arose in her mind. She could not reach the snowate controls ,
she could barely stand upriht! by the Throne9 , and like a drownin soul clinin to a rope she rabbed at the idea
and did not let o.
The animus motus. Telekinesis.
)ery definitely not her forte.
'ike all sanctioned psykers trained by the Scholas,tia 2sykana! her psychic ifts could be shaped and hardened!
manifestin themsel#es as physical forces , albeit clumsily , like opportunistic swins of club and fist. It was a ift
borne in the heat of the moment6 an impetuous force with which to strikeout like a hammer when daner threatened6
or to turn aside a blow before it could fall. 7sin it as a precision instrument! calculatinly reachin out to chane
the world! was somethin at which she had ne#er e"celled.
It drained her enery like a bleedin wound.
% good psyker knows his limits, her tutors had smuly informed her. This is yours.
3ell! warp take them9 There was nothin else for it.
%itated! shocked at her own sudden disrespect for her re#ered masters! she drew a deep breath and steadied herself!
clenchin her fists. She tried to be calm! to reach out from the cold centre of her soul! focusin all her will upon the
snowate le#er... but of course that was the wron tactic. She needed not calm! but rae. sudden and impulsi#e , and
to plan for such a thin was to immediately neate it.
Sweat beads pricked at her forehead.
4ff to one side! as if in another world! a stumblin #indictor sho#ed her from his path! the blow of his elbow barely
puncturin the psychic realm she was tryin to cross. Her body collapsed to the floor! unpiloted! but she paid it no
heed. lashin! strikin! rippin out with immaterial fists at the ate le#er aain and aain.
*othin happened.
%nd then somethin cried out in the dark! and on the crest of a premonition she swi#elled her head up into the inky
abyss and saw it6 the *iht 'ord! droppin its shoulders! liftin its raspin boots like an eale-s claws! and
It had seen her.
It was comin for her.
Eyes bla5in.
Fillin her world.
Shriekin like a dyin child.
She was oin to die.
%nd then there was the enery she deeded! there was the adrenaline and fear and minled rae! and there was the
cracklin fist of her psychic self! takin form! lockin around the le#er like a snappin maw! pullin with all its
strenth. 2ullin so hard she felt her eyes fill with blood. 2ullin so hard her ears popped and her heart roared in
protest. 2ullin so hard she thouht her bones would shatter. She thouht her #eins would e"plode.
The le#er turned.
The doors awoke like slumberin ods! sheddin the layer of dust and ice scrawled across their inner surface!
rindin open like the ates to some forbidden paradise. %n arctic wind cut between them! flurryin snow boilin
into the ca#ern in tumblin wa#es! and with it came a modicum of liht. a hostly spillae from the outer shell of
the hi#e itself , wan and incomplete! scarcely a true liht at all! but enouh to determine shapes. Enouh to
distinuish friend from enemy.
The #indictors paused mid,riot. +aul blows went undeli#ered. Finers eased from triers. $oused in
feeble luminosity! able at last to settle their frayed ner#es and seek a modicum of calmness! the 2reafect chaos
round to a slow! uncomfortable halt.
%nd abo#e +ita-s e"hausted body! eyes bla5in in the half,liht! the *iht 'ord chaned direction with seconds to
spare6 a bone,8arrin 8ink from the #ertical to the hori5ontal! the robe,tails of the man it had captured flutterin
behind it. It whooped once , as if in farewell , and was swallowed by the ice,spume of the ates6 splittin the snowy
niht with claws outstretched.
There were bodies e#erywhere. +ost were dead of shotun wounds.
%nd +ita %shyn! who had spared the li#es of those who remained! whose mind had been all but wiped away by the
demands of the animus motus, saed to the floor and felt as if she-d died. She considered whisperin a prayer of
thanks to the Emperor. It was the sort of thin she-d be e"pected to do.
0ut then... the Emperor hadn-t sa#ed her. She-d sa#ed herself.
Cust like always.
% flash of familiarity circulated throuh her! and she recalled the reflecti#e shape of the *iht 'ord-s psyche. Such
doubt! such solitude. He had nothin but his principles to sustain him! nothin but himself to rely upon. Cust like her.
% youn 2reafect approached! carefully crouchin beside each body that littered the floor! checkin for in8uries!
callin out for medics where#er he found life. He reached +ita-s huddled form and s/uatted on his haunches!
s/uintin at the ra,coated bundle that his eyes could scarcely make out.
(ou okay; (ou in8ured;- he said6 #oice soft! with youth.
-I c,could use some help standin!= +ita stammered! all her enery spent.
The man backed away abruptly as if stun! reconisin her face. 4rodai had hardly been recalcitrant when it came
to lettin his men know whose testimony had lead them on this mission.
The 2reafect continued his way alon the heap of in8ured and dead as if she didn-t e"ist! and it was only on the #ery
cusp of her hearin that she heard him spit into the shadows! whisperin beneath his breath.
It was the last straw.
I ;ust saved your life, you )ontemptible little shit.
S/uattin on the floor of the +acharius Gateroom! bleedin from her ears and her nose! watchin the crowds thin
and the medics come and o! +ita %shyn had somethin of a crisis of faith.
SHE S%T F41 a lon time and considered her place within e#ents. In the main! the uncertainties that troubled her ,
e"acerbated! no doubt! by e"haustion ,re#ol#ed around a sinle /uery.
3hy did she do it; 3hy had she struled so hard! since those lon,forotten days when the blackships stole her
from her family! to ser#e this bloated Imperium; 3hy had she toiled on behalf of these inorant bastards! these
bioted fools who feared her and hated her and called her an abomination; 3hy had she bled and cried! why had she
poured effort and enery into protectin the lory of an empire that... that had no place for her;
Had she been used; Had she been ensla#ed by those who souht only her destruction , a tame little witch
that they could wield like a weapon until she ceased to be needed! and then snuff her out;
3hy had she ne#er felt these uncertainties before;
That! at least! was a /uestion she could answer.
5e)ause you've never found a partisan before.
5e)ause you've never tasted su)h bitterness in another )reature's soul, and it makes you question your own.
5e)ause the 1ight ?ord feels e&a)tly the same.
She tried to shut out the whispers! the cruel inklins that spoke with her own #oice! that stoked the fires of her
paranoia! but they would not be silenced. They spread to o#erwhelm her! and in a panic she turned to the one
lowin frament of her soul which they could not penetrate. her faith.
In its low! all her doubts were e"cised. 0y its liht the whisperin #oices were silenced.
Had she been used; Had she been cruelly manipulated;
*o! of course not. She fouht not in the name of these people! but in the name of the Emperor9 #e did not hate her.
3as it not throuh him that her powers were ranted; 3as it not throuh him that the future could be na#iated6
imparted throuh his tarot and the furor ar)anum like seeds of prophecy;
#e did not despise her. He would not use her so.
%nd yes! his aents were a teemin mass! contradictory and contemptible. 'et them hate her! if they must. 'et them
pursue their own aendas! let them lock their horns toether and schism like splinterin ice. 'et the In/uisition cast
her out! let 4rodai-s black,suited worms despise her! let the whole of the uni#erse rail aainst her if they must.
The Emperor lo#ed her. She was certain.
+ollified! she rose to her feet. The #indictors had erected se#eral small illuminator,tripods to allow the
medics to work! and by their pale liht she lanced around the room! sickened by the carnae. She wondered
#auely what to do ne"t. &ertainly her usefulness as a combatant had e"pired , she could barely stand! let alone fiht
, and at any rate the *iht 'ord was lon one. There would be no hope of catchin it now.
Should she report! then! to 4rodai; *o doubt he would blame her for this calamity! and the curses of hateful men
was somethin she could happily do without. *o! she-d stay clear of 4rodai! for now. He had more than enouh to
be ettin alon with.
0esides! there was one final strand to this #ast! tanled in#estiation that remained un,plucked. 4ne remainin clue
to be pursued.
The packae. That was why the *iht 'ord had come here in the first place. That was why he had entered the hi#e.
That was why he had faced the Glacier 1ats! captured Slake! #entured here to this blood,splattered room. %ll to
retrie#e the packae that had been stolen from him.
So what was it; 3hat item could possibly encourae a beast such as he to wreak such ha#oc in a hostile place; %nd
who could ha#e stolen it from him;
+ita pursued answers in the only way that she could. She stumbled into the open ele#ator from which the ma8or,
domo had been abducted! kicked aside a dissected limb from the door runnels! and watched the doors close before
%s the ele#ator rumbled to life! she wondered whether the *iht 'ord had learned from his capti#e the identity of
his taret. She imained its blue,black form slinkin back to its lair! demandin answers from the crinin ma8or,
domo! hissin and spittin. 3ould it be that simple! she wondered; 3ould he find his thief /uickly;
She uessed not. &ommander 4rodai was not stupid enouh to commit all his resources to a sinle enaement.
The *iht 'ord would find little sanctuary in his lair.
%*$ THE*! 'I>E the end of a beautiful dream! e#erythin fell apart.
S%H%%' 1ET71*E$ T4 his domain alon dark and secret paths! slippin once more into the underhi#e throuh the
abyssal rent in the earth that had first ranted him entry. He-d been concerned! as he raced to cross the snowy
e"panse outside the +acharius ate! that his unconscious capti#e miht free5e before he could e#en be interroated.
He needn-t ha#e worried. beneath the man-s thick cloak he pro#ed to be a porcine specimen! a healthy layer of fat
pro#idin ade/uate insulation from the cold. Cust another decadent blob from a decadent world. Sahaal would en8oy
ettin answers out of this man.
He-d slipped down throuh the empty underhi#e like an eidolon! hostin throuh settlements that had been
decimated days before by the 2reafect porom.
He sneaked throuh deserted #illaes and empty nomad,trains! musin upon their former inhabitants. %ll had either
died or descended to 8oin his army.
#is Empire.
The mere thouht of it cheered him6 e"orcisin the insult of the ateroom ambush from his mind. His army. His
children , ready to rise up at his command and wreak ha#oc where#er he desired.
Somewhere! in the /uiet shadows at the rear of his mind! he reminded himself that they e"isted only to die. He
would throw them into the 8aws of their enemies to brin anarchy and madness to this fearful city! and in the
crippled wake of their sacrifice his brothers of the *iht 'ords 'eion would arri#e to find their path open! their
ad#ance uncontested. 0ut these were stifled thouhts! buried at the base of a mind re#ellin in its dominion. He
admitted to himself that the #ery idea of sacrificin his children troubled him! fillin him with an uncertain charin
that he couldn-t e"plain.
&ould it be... could it be that he rew fond of them; &ould it be that the mantle of o#erlord had settled upon his
shoulders and rown comfortable; &ould it be that he was seduced by the de#otion and worship of his tribe;
4r was it simply that he en8oyed the power their worship be/ueathed! and loathed the prospect of surrenderin it;
3as this how the *iht Haunter had felt , protectorate of the peoples of *ostromo <uintus6 a dark lord who brouht
them peace and efficiency throuh fear; Had he lo#ed the blind! empty worms beneath his command; Had it broken
his heart to lea#e them behind him! when the Emperor came and claimed him as his own son;
Sahaal analysed his thouhts and! yes... yes! he was proud of his children6 a paternal reard for their lories that
flushed him with warmth and shame in e/ual measure. %lready they had achie#ed so much more than he could ha#e
dreamed. 'Strike you at his hands, and he shall not )ut you. 'Strike you at his heart, and his life shall wane* The
hands had been wrenched from their wrists. silos of surface,to,air lance arrays that his stronest Shadowkin captains
had led rata bands to cripple. 2ockin the hi#e like kroothair /uills! it would ha#e taken an eternity to destroy
them all! but the Shadowkin had done well. Those batteries that remained. would e"ist in fear. their crews awaitin
the arri#al of whate#er unseen attackers had ra5ed the others. $esertions would be rife.
The heart... the heart had been easy. 7nprotected and unwatched! the mihty #ents that drew heat from the bla5in
heart of E/ui"us! feedin the city with warmth and power! were easy tarets. 4#er the past few days! at 2ah#ulti-s
direction! they had been breached deep in the underhi#e , makeshift bombs strapped to metal diaphrams! thick
plumes of mama and shimmerin air scorchin from e#ery fractured ede. 3hole tiers had fallen to darkness and
cold. %nd now crops would wither and die as hydroponics )oleria fro5e. The militias would find themsel#es
/uellin riots! distributin blankets! sharin out meare rations! pacifyin crowds. 3hen the sword fell and the skies
burned with *iht 'ords- #essels! they would be simple prey.
The city was far from crippled , Sahaal was too much a realist to belie#e that , but it was in8ured and bleedin! and
in the face of such wounds the infection of fear was ne#er far behind. 3hen the blow came! when the city faced its
darkest moment! how many of
its stalwart defenders would stand in the *iht 'ords- way! with their morale sapped and their stomachs empty;
*ot many! Sahaal uessed.
%nd it was all thanks to his armies. %ll thanks to the Shadowkin and their refuee comrades! blind little mice! who
obeyed his command to assuae the uilt of the blood on their hands. He was their champion. The lord of the
oppressed. The master of the dispossessed! who had taken their simmerin resentment of the hi#e abo#e and wielded
it like a flamin sword.
He returned to the rustmud ca#erns by the windin! hidden entrance to the south. He would re,enter his domain
/uietly! he had resol#ed! silently! and once there he would torture the slumberin fool ripped beneath his arm to
find , finally9 , the identity of the one that had stolen the &orona *o".
He returned to his territory with pride and triumph in his stomach! and he paused at the cusp of the tunnel-s e"it to
sur#ey his domain.
His mouth fell open.
The swamps were burnin.
THE T%*>S.
He had wondered to himself! as he soared abo#e the #indictor crowds in the +acharius ateroom! wea#in his
fearful spell like an artist at work! why his enemies had committed infantry alone to his destruction. % pramatic
commander would ha#e blasted entry into the room and bombarded him to paste with shell and mortar! rindin him
to dust beneath the wheels of armoured #ehicles.
He should ha#e uessed the true reason. The #indictor commander was no fool. 3hilst the hi#e festered and moaned
with terror! whisperin of nihtmares in
the dark! imainin him , blue,shanked and bron5e coated! blood,spattered and burnin with &haotic fires , at the
heart of e#ery new disturbance that rocked the city! the 2reafects- salient leader had understood that the real threat
arose not from a sinle *iht 'ord! but from the army he had constructed.
Sahaal almost admired the man. He had seen throuh the terror,lamour! and reacted to it with a cold efficiency that
matched Sahaal-s own.
The tanks had come to the rustmud ca#erns whilst he was absent. They had come with cannons and howit5ers! and
as he stared out across the churnin fires! and dartin fiures that had once been his domain! he knew he was too
late. It was o#er.
% #o"caster #oice from each #ehicle-s spine declared! o#er and o#er.
'The 1ight ?ord is dead... 8ou are not our enemies... ,isperse to your homes... /esistan)e shall he )rushed... The
1ight ?ord is dead...'
Sahaal-s empire was crumblin beneath him.
They had dri#en a wede into the refuee encampment! lihtin fires across ra rooftops and straw walls as they
went. % reat phalan" of Salamanders and &himeras bulldo5ed all that stood before them! crewmen standin
bra5enly on each one! lossy armour lit de#ilishly in the flames of the burnin terrain. $espite the destruction the
#indictors had been careful to discriminate amonst their enemies. assiduously a#oidin the temptation to open fire
upon the shriekin! fleein sections of the crowd.
'The 1ight ?ord is dead... -e are here to liberate you from your slavery... The 1ight ?ord is dead...'
It was a masterful piece of duplicity. %rraned aainst the combined strenth of the Shadowkin and the refuees! the
2reafects knew that they had little hope of
#ictory. 0ut with words alone they could di#ide their enemies. appealin to the refuees- self,preser#ation!
shatterin the bonds of terror that Sahaal had spent so lon culti#atin.
They fled in their hundreds! past the ra#ain tanks and up! up by the lon northern road! back into their empty
dwellins in the undercity abo#e. 'ike insects castin off their cocoons they threw off the shackles of alliance that
Sahaal had forced upon them6 they washed clean their hands of the murders each had committed6 they ran into the
dark with a prayer of fori#eness and a backward lance! and then they were one.
The Shadowkin themsel#es recei#ed no such mercy. They had courted the daemon as their own master. *o e"cuses
of sla#ery could stain their lips.
The tanks athered at the banks of the burnin swamp! and one by one their mihty cannons anled! like knihts
tiltin lances! towards the rusted island,drill. The tribesmen knew what was comin! perhaps! and swarmed from
their dwellins with empty warcries and holy condemnations! lined across the beaches with uns blastin
ineffectually at the distant tanks! callin down damnation and the Emperor-s wrath upon their unclean enemies.
Ironic! Sahaal mused! that a tribe so de#out could be so defiled. It was not the 2reafects who had betrayed their
Emperor! after all...
Should he act; Should he attempt to inter#ene; 3ould it do any ood;
The cannons opened fire6 reat poundin slabs of sound that echoed about the ca#erns like the lauhter of iants.
%nd like eysers of metal and smoke! like a field of anry mushrooms of bloody,red fire that snarled and blackened
as they capered upwards! the island was swallowed whole.
The Shadowkin died like #ermin! and as his kindom was toppled before his eyes Sahaal found himself sinkin to
his knees! o#ercome6 wracked by such powerful emotions that he couldn-t define where horror became rief! where
loss became madness! and where insanity became rae.
He stood abruptly! body risin in a sinle mo#ement! discardin the capti#e ma8or,domo at his feet! forotten.
/age. (es... He could focus on rae.
He knew where he was with rae.
His claws sprun from their sheaths with a relish he could barely contain! and he threw back his head and screamed.
a primal shriek that burned away e#ery thouht! that stripped clean his body and his mind of e#erythin but pure!
unpolluted! uncontainable fury.
He would kill them all for what they had done to his people. He would rip apart the tanks with his bare hands! he
would rise on thermals of death and lory! and show these pitiful humans what it was to cross the Talonmaster9 He
It was too much. His brain was not meant for this. His mind had not been shaped to deal with a slumber of a
hundred centuries6 to withstand the barrae of loss and uncertainty that he had encountered6 to feel compassion for
the creatures beneath his dominion.
2ill* the #oices shrieked. 5urn the world* 2ill them all*
He was a thin of war. He was a weapon of terror! to be aimed and released. He had ne#er intended to be so lost
from his brothers! to row so isolated from the path of the *iht Haunter. He had ne#er been intended to be so
sub8ect to human emotion.
He was weak.
He was oin insane. %nd he knew it.
Hidden at the mouth of the secret tunnel! bathed in the shadows of shiftin fireliht! :so Sahaal-s mind con#ulsed
with the alien sensations , confusion! loss! uncertainty! loneliness , that it could ne#er hope to withstand. His empire
had been taken from him! his rip upon sanity had crumbled with it! and he spiralled away into a reat darkness
without end.
He fell to floor like some contemptible! shellshocked little human , a total breakdown without escape , and
unconsciousness de#oured him whole.
4* TS%G7%'S%! THE 1ight #aunter spoke his name, and sele)ted him above all others as his heir. #ow had he felt, in
that fro.en moment4 #ow had his sele)tion ignited his mind4
#e felt... unsurprised. #e felt as though he had always e&pe)ted it.
#e was the Talonmaster. #e was his master's truest son. It was natural.
The brute ")erbus left without )omment.
n Tsagualsa the 1ight #aunter dismissed his remaining )aptains, and to his throne he led >so Sahaal.
8ours, one day. ne day soon*
"nd he had told Sahaal how it would happen, how he had seen it' burned upon his dreams like a )ruel pantomime,
played out over and over every night. "n assassin of the 6allidus shrine would )ome for him, slinking in the dark,
)reeping a)ross the writhing galleries of the living pala)e with her heart hammering in her ears, her fists )len)hed
There would be no opposition. 1o attempts to stand in her way. She must be allowed through to ena)t the final
grisly s)ene.
The 1ight #aunter, baleful eyes shining, lipless mouth trembling, turned to Sahaal then and made him vow it. "rms
interlo)ked, eyes meeting in shadowed pools.
There would be no intervention. The assassin would fulfil her role. She would play out her part in the endless
)omedy. Sahaal vowed it, and hated himself. "nd the 1ight #aunter, 2onrad 6ur.e, his master, made him vow to
wat)h it all. To stare from the shadows to see it happen. #e made him vow it on the sa)red hatred of the ?egion, on
the insult that must he repaid, and Sahaal )ould no more break his oath than he )ould kill his lord himself. #e
would wat)h his master die. "nd when the she(hit)h was gone ( her bloody task )omplete ( he would step from his
vantage and lift from his master's )orpse the 6orona 1o&. #e would take it for himself. #e would show it as his
symbol of offi)e, and he would lead the 1ight ?ords ever onwards. #e vowed it.
#e would lead them as his master had done, with boundless hate and endless patien)e. #e would unite them in
)rusade upon the Traitor Emperor, and all would be well.
"nd his master turned to him and asked him if he knew, if he understood, what it was that made the 1ight ?ords
weak. -hat was the flaw that )rippled their hearts
Sahaal did not know, so 2onrad 6ur.e sat and smiled, and told him.
It had something to do with power. It had something to do with rage. It had something to do with the fear that the
?egion grasped, the terror they used as a weapon to destroy their foes.
0ear must be a means to an end, he said. It must be used as an instrument in pursuit of a goal, whether it be obedi(
en)e or pea)e or geno)ide. Cust as the 1ight #aunter had been used as his father's ugly tool, so too must the ?egion
use fear.
5ut to sow terror without )ause@ to horrify without goal (that way lay )orruption. The fear )eased to be a means to
end and be)ame an end in itself' seeking dominan)e over others@ seeking to terrify them into submission for the sim(
ple fa)t of their obeisan)e. Seeking )arnage and fear with spite and pleasure.
That way lay megalomania.
That way lay the sedu)tion of power, and it was the flaw in the blood of every 1ight ?ord. It was the flaw he had
spent his life struggling to defeat, bearing in its womb madness and venom, begetting the fits that had plagued his
waking hours@ taunting him with visions of his own end.
That way lay 6haos.
'It festers in our blood... It makes us fools, my heir...'
The 1ight #aunter would not allow his ?egion to su))umb so easily to the whispers of the ,ark :ods. 6haos had
served him well as an ally ( as a deadly fire to be hurled at his enemies ( but he would not )ountenan)e its digestion
of his ?egion.
Their leader must be strong. 1ot in arm or in )ourage (that was the remit of those like 2rieg ")erbus ( fine war(
riors, mighty heroes' but too burdened by pleasure at their dark a)ts to lead. Too ;oyous in their work. Too hungry
for suprema)y.
#e had asked Sahaal if he had understood, therefore, why he alone had been )hosen@ and Sahaal had lied with a
The 1ight #aunter said he had )hosen Sahaal as his heir be)ause his strength lay in that holiest of dis)iplines, that
mightiest of fields'
#e would not waver from the #aunter's vision. " vision of a united ?egion. " vision of fo)used hatred. " vision of
blue(bla)k ships assaulting Terra itself. " vision of 1ight ?ord )laws )losing upon the withered ne)k of the Traitor
3engean)e for the ultimate trea)hery. 3engean)e for a 0ather's betrayal of his own son.
"nd then, pea)e. Effi)ien)y and pea)e through obedien)e. The Imperium would prosper beneath no)turnal skies.
"ll in the 1ight #aunter's name.
That was the goal. That was the fo)us.
"ll this 2onrad 6ur.e imparted, and Sahaal left him with a storm of vows )louding his mind, awaiting the )oming of
the assassin with baited breath.
S%H%%' %34>E T4 the crisp bark of unfire! the acrid stink of o5one! and the une"pected prickle of cold air aainst his
Someone had remo#ed his helmet.
% metallic chime peeled,out in the darkness nearby ,a knife being dropped4 , and with it came the sluish retort of
a body! topplin to its knees and then collapsin to the round.
Someone with a knife, shot dead.
" #oice ibbered in the dark. -He was about... oh! God,Emperor... he was about to cut your throat! my lord!=
Sahaal opened his eyes and le#ered himself upriht! muscles bunched and ready for combat! and the fiure that
stood o#er him with earnest concern written across e#ery centimetre of her face took him by surprise. It was
&ondemnitor &hianni.
0eyond her! like the plateau of hell! the swamps sured and boiled and flamed. The tanks were stationary now6 their
crews clamberin from pinde nests and embarkation ramps to poke at the dead bodies with power mauls and blades!
checkin for sins of life. 4n the distant northern shore! throuh a ha5e of smo and sulphur! the tail end of the
fleein refuees slipped around the pathway-s corner and up! to bein the lon climb to the safety of the underhi#e.
There was nothin left for them here.
Sahaal blinked! his mind drawin itself sluishly back to comprehension.
The memory of his master had absol#ed him of insanity. He had awoken refreshed6 untroubled by the tentacles of
corruption! released from chains that he had not e#en known e"isted. He understood now that he had been on the
#ere of succumbin to the seductions his master had warned him of! all those centuries ao. He had been tempted
by the trappins of power. He had disco#ered within himself a lo#e for Empire,buildin an unconstructi#e reard for
the plebeians he had ruled.
He had lost his focus. He had pursued only his own arandisement.
&haos! whisperin in his ear.
He realised with sudden clarity that it had been there all alon. Since he awoke in the $mbrea Insidior. a #oice in
his mind! counsellin him in rae and fury and power.
3ell! he was free of it now. His master-s words had cleansed him from beyond the #eil of time and death. He had
lost the patronae of &haos! he had lost the swarmin warp,thins that bu55ed and tickled his mind! and he felt more
ali#e than he had since his arri#al.
"ve ,ominus 1o&*
He breathed his ratitude without sound! o#ercome by the strenth of the *iht Haunter-s wisdom.
*o loner for him the weakness of rulership. *o loner the en8oyment of de#otion. *o loner did he cra#e the
worship of his underlins! or the obeisance of those who thouht him holy.
He had redisco#ered his focus. The &orona *o" would be his! and damn his crumbled Empire for the sham that it
He returned his mind to reality! makin sense of his surroundins. Somewhere out across the fiery territory! the
body,checkin 2reafects stumbled e#er closer. He looked up at &hianni and blinked! confused. -(ou should be
dead!- he said! aimin a wa#erin finer.
-I... I heard you! lord!= She bit her lip! throwin a lance o#er her shoulder at the #indictors! proddin and kickin at
charred bodies. -Heard me;-
(,yes... I was on the far shore! o#erseein the returnin strike,roups. 3hen the tanks came I...- Her head dipped!
ears reddenin. -I confess that I thouht you lost to us. They said you-d been killed. +y lord! I was... oh! fori#e me!
I was fleeing.' She tumbled forwards with a sob and locked tremblin finers around his clawed feet! prostratin
herself. -I ha#e dishonoured! you9 Fori#e m,-
He wa#ed the rant away! impatient. -*e#er mind that9 3hat happened;-
-I...oh! Terra-s blood! I heard your cry. % shriek of hate from the south.-
He remembered. He remembered the rae and the fury6 the last insidious sure of &haos! fryin his mind! claimin
him for its own! before the breakdown occurred and his tortured brain rolled o#er upon itself. The others thouht I
was mad!= &hianni burbled. -They said I was hearin what I wanted to hear! but... I couldn-t 8ust run9 *ot without
checkin!= -So you came;-
-(,yes. %nd 8ust in time! lord!= Her face contorted with aner. -The... the warpfilth had your helmet off. He had a
knife! lord. I didn-t know if you were ali#e or dead! b,but...- Her #oice tailed off6 Sahaal could see she was in shock!
face pale. She stabbed a
pointed finer to one side! esturin for his attention.
% dreadful suspicion arose in his reelin mind.
He followed her esture and settled his eyes upon the fiure sprawled at his side! a smokin laswound sinein the
colourful fabric of its robes6 the shieldlike desins wo#en across its surface now stained by blood and rime. The
body-s pody hands clutched ,e#en in death , for the discarded daer it had dropped.
The ma8or,domo. He had awoken whilst Sahaal slept. He had prised off the *iht 'ord-s helmet with clumsy twists
of his blade! and then he had drawn back his hand to slice the monster-s e"posed skin.
%nd then &hianni had shot him.
-*o9- Sahaal roared! adrenaline burnin his brain! raisin him to his feet! spinnin him towards &hianni. He snatched
her up in one auntleted fist with a feral snarl! ready to sink his claws throuh her face! red fires burnin in his uts.
NHO killed him9- he cried. (ou killed him! warp take you9-
-',lord9 lord! he was oin to kill you9-
-I needed him9 I needed the name of his master9 (ou killed him9-
The claws of his free hand ripped forth! liht motes scatterin across them. He pulled them back from &hi,anni-s
shriekin face! preparin to punch throuh her wide eyes and shred her pitiful brain! e"plodin bone and ore across
the burnin swamplands. *o matter that she had acted in his interests. *o matter that she had spared his life.
The &orona *o". That was all that mattered. %nd she had taken it from him once more9
-I know his master9- she screamed! eyes rollin! spittle fleckin her lips. -I know his master9-
Sahaal paused! eyes narrowin. He wondered how he must look without his helm! how his sallow countenance must
horrify her6 and indeed her buin stare ro#ed across his face with disusted fascination.
?ook upon your so()alled 'angel', little human...
-(ou lie!= he hissed! unimpressed. LMN lie to sa#e your life.-
-*o9 *o! look at him9 'ook at the robes9-
-3hat of them;-
The crest9 The coat of arms9-
-+y lord... it-s the heraldry of the hi#e itself9 The *oble House :arif9 This man was in the employ of the o#ernor9-
THE E'E)%T41 SEE+E$ to ascend fore#er. +ita settled herself into a corner! cross,leed with her back pressed aainst
the bron5ed interior. It could hardly be likened to the comfort of her old meditation cell on Safaur,In/uis! nor e#en
to the ascetic simplicity of the chamber the o#ernor had ranted her here on E/ui"us! but she was too e"hausted to
cra#e the comfort of fine thins. The ability merely to sit! to close her eyes! to not spend her life lancin o#er her
shoulder6 that was enouh.
%s the minutes draed on and a modicum of her enery returned! she found her mind wanderin! risin on wins
of thouht! and a strane sense of prescient pressure , like a slowly buildin mass of water fillin the spaces of her
head , came o#er her. She reconised it! of course. It was the preamble to the furor ar)anum' her senses- crude way
of lettin her know that a prophesyin trance was forthcomin! should she choose to indule it.
%t first she resisted! choosin to take the time to settle her mind! to restore her strenth! to prepare herself for
whate#er tests and feats awaited her at the ape" of the ele#ator shaft. 0ut the uncertainties that clouded her thouhts
could not be so easily placated6 heir e"haustion had become a curious )onstant that re/uired no sal#in nor
assuaement6 and how could she prepare herself for the unknown; Indeed! only by acceptin the #isions that the
trance offered could she ha#e any hope of anticipatin what lay before her.
She surrendered to the pressure with a /uiet sih! closin her eyes and clearin her mind! and the #isions of future
madness poured into the ca#ity of her skull like a plaue descendin upon unwary heads.
FI1ST! THE1E IS... altitude.
The same old vision, then. Cust as before. "lways the same.
6oldness assails her, and though she is unsure whether she is truly a part of this vision at all, or simply wat)hing
events from some remote 'beyond', she feels nonetheless that she is naked' that i)e is forming on her skin, and hot
vapour arises from her mouth with every breath.
To every side the world is an abyss. She stands on a monolith of metal, a great )a)tus(spire that threatens to )ast
her off, to send her tumbling along its steepening flanks with whi)hever tawdry .ephyr her. She )ries out,
afraid, nauseous, although she has seen all of this before.
This is the fourth time she has witnessed this vision.
"nd then there seems to be something in the )louds before her@ some unseen presen)e that breaks the squalling i)e,
that shifts like a shadow upon a pearl, drawing near.
"nd ;ust like before, she knows what it is.
It is herself. #eld aloft by a beast of smoke and shadow. ,ressed in rags, hair )ut and unkempt ( and in some distant
part of herself she re)ognises )hanges that have already been wrought, and realises that this s)ene, this awful
tableau )reated before her, must be almost upon her.
5ut there is more to o))ur yet.
#er refle)tion's arm is gone. She bleeds like an endless river. She tries to see the monster that holds her up and it is
indistin)t... but already she knows what it is.
The 1ight ?ord )arries her into the squalling snow on wings of darkness and smoke, and it seems to her that for an
instant there are shapes below it ( bright(knu)kled beasts that rea)h out with )law and tenta)le to snare him ( but he
is too fast. #e is too agile.
#e is gone, and her doppelganger with him, and %ita is left to tumble from her impossible vantage down into the
dark, where hate and anger boils around her. She has seen all of this too. She has e&perien)ed all of this before.
E&)ept this time the tran)e(vision is different. This time there is no hag. 1o fat(bellied wit)h tumbling down on )on(
trails of blood and fire, and she thinks to herself'
That was the indi)ator of another event, then@ something that has already o))urred...
The 1ight ?ord's arrival. The hag was his vessel. #er bloated belly ruptured and spilled(out the pri.e that he had
)ome to )laim. That is the way of the furor arcanum. half truths and twisted versions of reality.
This time is different. This time %ita's fall from on high is interrupted. This time she is )aught in mid(air, buoyed up
by a steely eagle, lifted in its wake like a leaf in the pull of an engine. This time she is there to witness the endgame.
The eagle returns her to the peak of the metal mountain. It )ir)les and swoops, and fi&es beady eyes upon the turrets
of the )ity's )rown, where it has business to attend. It )an sense something it wants inside. It tilts wings of ;etair and
fuel towards the monolith, and ra)es down to shatter its beak a)ross the steely surfa)e.
"nd then the hori.on is no longer dark. The endless night is on fire.
"nd the sky fills, from edge to edge, with the shrieks of hawks and the blood of the ignorant.
+IT% %34>E U the ele#ator with a asp! thick bile poolin in her mouth. She spat and choked! clutchin at
her belly.
The pater donum descended on her like a pleasant bree5e6 a cloyin lu"ury that tweaked inside e#ery muscle and
e#ery bone. Her tutors had tauht her to relish it6 to en8oy the one lu"ury her curse!=ift would e#er bestow upon her.
0ut not so now. seated and nauseous within the cramped ele#ator! the pater donum could i#e her no comfort.
She slipped into a faint with ine"pressible relief! and in her mind the screamin hawks that lit the sky pluned
deeper and deeper into the surface of her dreams! pluckin flesh and sinew clear with each swoop.
They flocked abo#e her. They flocked abo#e the
world. Her last conscious thouht! before sleep claimed her!
was. They are )oming. They are )oming for us all...
SHE %34>E 3ITH no idea how lon she had slept. % brief instant of claustrophobic panic ripped her ,what if the
ele#ator was sealed; 2aused in some door,less ca#ern; *e#er to reopen9 , but! no! the entle rumble of its uidance
machinery continued apace. Cudin by its pitch , almost totally #ertical where pre#iously it had skewed alon
increasin diaonals , she was approachin the ape" of the city.
It was a thouht that a#e her pause. %s an outlaw! it occurred to her that tra#ellin to the peak of the hi#e ,where
e#en the stealthiest of intruders couldn-t hope to set foot without disco#ery , hardly smacked of intellience.
0ut what else could she do; 'urk in the shadows of &uspseal fore#er! rowin more hunry and more cold! more
confused by the conflictin thouhts that assailed her; Spend her life runnin from the In/uisition! slippin down
into the dark of the underhi#e like so many dispossessed nobodies before;
Spend her life wonderin...;
4f course not. 2assi#ity was not in her character.
There were two mysteries that ripped her abo#e all others! and as she settled in her corner! feelin the ponderous
machinery of the ele#ator rindin hiher and hiher! she happened to cast her eyes upwards seekin some indicator
of its proress! and found herself ao. The twin riddles slid toether6 mi"in like accretin puddles of icemelt!
becomin a sinle unified issue! and all at the sinle limpse of what was embossed abo#e the door...
The first uncertainty concerned the packae! the stolen pri5e! the &orona *o". 3hat was it; 3hy did it matter so
much to the *iht 'ord; 3as it truly at the 5enith of this rindin shaft that it could be found;
The second confusion was older! an enima that seemed to ha#e settled upon her bones like a layer of dust! too thick
to e#er remo#e. She felt as thouh she-d been nawin at it her whole life! drenched in the suspicion and paranoia
that was interal to it.
-hat are you up to, 2austus4
Two /ueries. Two strules! separate but e/ually as chaotic within her thouhts.
%nd suddenly they were one. Her eyes fell upon the bron5e pla/ue abo#e the ele#ator-s sealed doors! and e#erythin
fell into place.
It showed a shield. % carefully scrawled coat of arms that sucked at her a5e like some awful abyss. She-d
seen it before.
% sword crossin a sceptre! set upon a field of snow! surmounted by a sickle,moon and a halo of stars. The heraldry
of the *oble House :arif.
This was the o#ernor-s personal ele#ator.
Think, %ita* -ork it through*
So the Glacier 1ats stole somethin from the $mbrea
Insidior... They did so at the re/uest of the Slake collecti#e...
3ho had... had...
-4h! sweet Emperor...-
3ho had been commissioned by the aents of the
o#ernor himself.
The audacity of the plot astonished her! sent her reelin. Snippets of sound and siht rushed across her mind!
makin her wince. She-d been so foolish9 3hy had she not realised before;
'"nd to what do we owe this pleasure4' the o#ernor had asked! when >austus brouht her before him. 'Is she here
to help us with the lo)k4'
She remembered thinkin at the time. what lo)k4
She should ha#e remembered9 She should ha#e seen9
%nd then! limpsed throuh 2ah#ulti-s eyes! the *iht 'ord raspin his #enom at the crinin Slake collecti#e.
'-here is the pa)kage now
-as it opened4 -as the seal
'It was not opened by us. It has been delivered to the )ustomer.'
4h! she-d been so stupid9
Two enimas! one solution9
This was what >austus had been doin9 This was why he had sent his retinue to /uell the "enophile cells! rather than
attendin himself. This was what had kept him! day after day! sealed in the o#ernor-s company! dismissin e#ery
other thin.
>austus had the &orona *o".
THE $441S 42E*E$ some two and a half hours after they had first closed! and they did so upon an occupant ready for
anythin. She had had plenty of time to dwell upon the epiphany that had snared her. 2lenty of time to allow
disbelief and denial to seep across her senses! replaced ultimately by a deep! abidin fury.
She-d been riht. Her master had been lyin to her ,to e#eryone , all alon. He-d known the *iht 'ord was real.
He-d known! somehow! that the $mbrea Insidior would come to E/ui"us. He-d been waitin with eaer hands to
take deli#ery of the Traitor +arine-s reatest pri5e.
3hy then had he resisted killin the beast; 3hy had he risked its wrath6 its radual attempts to reclaim what was
rihtfully its; 3hy had he done e#erythin in his power to prote)t the monster;
She-d realised with atherin loom that her epiphany had simply birthed a new eneration of /uestions! and at the
core of her simmerin aner the fundamental issue remained ironclad and unaltered.
-hat are you up to, 2austus4 -hat are you doing, you bastard4
%nd so she stepped from the ele#ator with a laspistol in one hand and her senses on full alert! anticipatin attack or
fliht. 3hat reeted her eyes , and her psychic senses , was therefore far from e"pected.
There was no one waitin for her.
The ele#ator had deli#ered her into the heart of the o#ernor-s allery. Treasures without count e"tended into the
loom on e#ery side6 plinths bathed in hard liht bearin 8ewelled ewaws and priceless archeotech. %nd 8ust as
her alertness settled and she bean to rela"! once more the terror consumed her! the o#erwhelmin certainty rushed
across her.
The *iht 'ord was here. He was nearby. He was
She stumbled forwards with the pitiful un primed! feelin ridiculous and naked. The certainty of the creature-s
presence , a stormcloud at the forefront of her astral senses! lappin froth,slick pollution aainst her psionic self ,
was undeniable. the beast-s mindscape a uni/ue imae that she could ha#e reconised anywhere! at any time. #e is
here* Emperor preserve me, he's here* %nd yet... 0etween each allery plinth there lurked only an open space. The
shadows of the room-s perimeter concealed nothin but walls and windows! and for the first time she could
remember +ita found herself /uestionin her senses. She spun and ducked! strainin her eyes and ears! all to no
She was so sure9 So utterly con#inced that her foe was present... and yet! nothin. She followed the pulse of his
psychic presence like a bloodhound trackin a scent! and she mo#ed between each e"hibit with e"aerated care! all
too aware of the ser#itor eyes trackin her mo#ements from the ceilin! lon,barrelled weapons inert as lon as she
kept her distance. %nd then there it was.
It occupied the tallest plinth at the torus,room-s natural epicentre! surrounded by a wall of bla5in illuminators. E#en
had her senses not directed her to it
she uessed it would ha#e drawn her eye like the brihtest star in the sky! by reason of its setup and positionin
alone. +ost peculiar of all! only it! amonst all the wonders of the o#ernor-s collection! had no 8udicious ser#itor to
watch o#er it.
It was a bo". % dull! uninterestin crate! shinin with the oily lustre of adamantium. %cross its surface uly runes
and obscene scriptures were daubed in red and white! and at its front , spread across the in#erse of its hine in the
shape of a snarlin skull! borne aloft on reat red wins , was a cryptoseal. It was unopened6 the beads of its
interlockin plates remained meshed toether! unprimed by the one word! the one cryptic phrase!=code! that would
send pins snappin into place in the tiny loic enine within! rindin upon ancient ears and unlockin the whole.
It radiated thouht. It oo5ed malice. It e"uded a palpable sense of presence that... yes! she was sure... that mimicked
life itself.
She realised with a start that this was the pri5e. This was the item that had been stolen from the Traitor +arine! and
the ocean of sentience that burned from within was so akin to the *iht 'ord-s own mind that it had fooled her. This
close up she could detect the tiniest of differences! the uly inconsistencies that should ha#e told her! lon before.
she had not sensed the presence of her foe. She had sensed his reatest possession! his dearest treasure6 a mystical
something that burned with an astral presence all of its own.
The &orona *o".
-(ou bein to understand why I drued you! perhaps;-
>austus-s #oice.
He was directly behind her.
He-d been watchin. 4f course.
,amn him* ,amn him to the ;aws of the warp* -3hat do y,-
-I had to be sure I had the correct item. The thie#es who stole it were hardly trustworthy! and whilst I could rely
upon the o#ernor-s... interest in all thins rare and #aluable! e#en he lacked the resource to determine the item-s true
ownership. I knew that you would sense the beast-s presence if I had the riht packae!=
&onfusion ripped her. Had the duplicity truly one so deep; Had he used her so mercilessly; This is... oh! God,
Emperor! I don-t under,-
-*aturally I couldn-t let you et too close to the item. I-d already decided you were better off out the way. %
microdart in your arm! child. It was the easiest thin.-
Stall for time, %ita. ,raw him off guard. 2eep him busy. Then shoot the warpshit bastard right in the fa)e.
-I almost died9 In my dreams... I... I couldn-t et back to my body an,-
@(es! yes. )ery interestin.- Scorn dripped from his #oice. -*ow put the un down! interroator. >ick it away.-
So much for stallin for time. She struled to find a tone of rebellion in her #oice but it was stifled! crushed down
by the sense of defeat that ripped her.
-I-m not your interroator any more!=
-Ha. )ery true. The un. 1ow*
She bent to do as he said! and as she placed the pistol aainst the floor she reached out with her mind! probin for
weaknesses. 0ut no! >austus-s brain was as imprenable as e#er! protected by whate#er mental techni/ues the ordo
had be/ueathed upon him. If he was accompanied by anyone else they failed to reister in her psychic senses. There
was nothin else she could do but comply.
She skittered the un away into the shadows with one foot! and turned slowly to face her treacherous master.
He had stepped from the frescoed doorway linkin the o#ernor-s throne room to the allery! and stood flanked by
si" un ser#itors. praetorian mons7osities with bodies moulded in polished bron5e! bulin with stylised
representations of human musculature! faceless heads swarmin with sensory anlia. In each iron,fused hand a
weapon was hefted! and +ita found herself starin into the barrels of bolters! meltauns and flamers alike. It was an
impressi#e show of strenth! but , psychically speakin , utterly blank.
-%ll this for me;- she mumbled! da5ed.
-Ha! no!= >austus fiddled with a tusk! scowlin. -3e were e"pectin someone taller. It seems he was delayed. I
belie#e we ha#e you to thank for that!=
4),what do y... oh...-
%nd piece by piece! like a 8isaw completin itself! the framents of enima came toether.
The *iht 'ord would ha#e ascended in the ele#ator himself had he not been attacked in the +acharius Gateroom.
He would be standin here instead of her! a5in down upon the pri5e he had spent so lon seekin! had it not been
for her actions.
>austus and his unmachines had not been waitin for her. They-d been waitin for the *iht 'ord.
They-d always been waitin for him.
>austus had kept the *iht 'ord ali#e! despite all of her efforts. He-d left a trail of rumours and information! like
blood in the water , from Glacier 1at to Slake to o#ernor , to be followed piece by piece6 a torturous proression of
clues and hints for the beast to pursue. It would lead him here. To this place. To this allery.
To this stolen item.
-(ou-re waitin for him to open it for you! aren-t you;- she whispered! di55ied by the scale of the scheme! the
comple"ity of the lie in which she-d become embroiled. -(ou stole it from him! but... but you couldn-t open it. (ou
had to wait for him. (ou had to keep him ali#e. (ou had to make him think he was ainin round! comin for you!
all by himself. (ou wanted him to walk into a trap!=
)ery ood!= >austus smirked. -%nd all without e#en readin my mind!= He held up his hands as if wa#in!
displayin the thick blood that coated them. -3hich is why the o#ernor couldn-t 8oin us! by the way. I couldn-t ha#e
you performin any... mischief... on the little maot-s brain! could I;-
She peered throuh into the lassy bride in which >austus had been waitin! and sure enouh her eyes fells upon a
small! crumpled shape6 blood ebbin from its e"pensi#e robes. >austus shrued. -He was #ery understandin about
the whole thin! come the end!=
*ausea boiled throuh +ita. 0ile rose in her throat! and she swallowed back on it with bitter tears in her eyes.
Such duplicity9 Such con#oluted manipulation9
@3hy;- she snarled! lips tremblin! face burnin. @3hy do all this; (ou had the power to stop the beast9 (ou had
the means to kill it9 3hat could be so important that you-#e allowed a... an abomination the freedom of the hi#e;-
For a second the in/uisitor seemed uncertain. For a fraction of an instant his face clouded! his brows dipped! and his
eyes ro#ed from left to riht , as if he were somehow unsure where he was. For an instant his emotions and thouhts
uncoiled from his mind! and +ita tasted the childish bewilderment that was an oil,slick throuh their midst.
-I...- he whispered! lost.
%nd then his features hardened! the imlet,limmer returned to his a5e! and his 8aw clenched with an unpleasant
rasp. He wa#ed the ser#itors forwards! and without #ocal command two wrapped sinuous arms around her! inorin
her stranled protests and drain her out of the endless allery! onto the #ertiinous bride where >austus and
they had been waitin. The in/uisitor followed behind! closin the doors at his back.
-(ou want to know why;- he smiled! hand reachin inside his robes.
She nodded slowly! mind awash.
His hand reappeared! holdin within its rasp a 8ewelled lasptisol! and he aimed it carefully at her head. She tensed
herself! the world droppin away from her.
That-s a /uestion you can en8oy from within the ra#e!= he hissed! leerin.
%nd then,
The steel eagle, rising up from the base of the metal mountain, tilting its wing towards the highest peak and ra)ing
forwards, snapping with beak and )law, to retrieve what belonged to it.
% sudden flicker of premonition! a recalled burst from the furor ar)anum she-d endured within the ele#ator.
-4h... oh! no...- she muttered! forettin the un! forettin the in/uisitor-s larin eyes.
The 1ight ?ord was )oming.
THE SH7TT'E ST17&> the tower like the sky itself collapsin.
The cockpit crumpled like paper. 0rass,eded dials e"ploded! cable,strewn consoles twistin as their mountins
buckled behind them. 'imbless ser#itors and #apid coitators screamed with what scant #esties of human surprise
remained! ripped apart as conflictin forces crushed them beneath the machines they were created to control. &opper
wires whiplashed throuh bulin spheres of broken lass! sparks infusin the air like miniature ala"ies.
For all its smallness! for all its ob#ious frailty! the craft was built alon the same predictable lines as so many other
Imperial #essels. a tapered bare with a hammerhead rear and a beak,like prow. Its a/uiline hull tore a cre#ice in the
fabric of the hi#e peak! spewin flame and superheated fuel! buryin itself like a dart into flesh.
The uni#erse roared. E#erythin shook.
In the midsection! behind the flattened ruin of the bride! Sahaal eased himself from a reinforced bench and checked
himself o#er. Smoke was #entin into the crumpled chamber and somewhere an alarm whooped endlessly! but he
could find no serious damae to his person. %s anticipated! the hardened prow had punched throuh the hi#e-s
armour like a bullet! compactin its forward sements and sparin its aft from damae. E#en &hianni! strapped into
place beside him! had suffered only scratches and bruises. She appeared to Sahaal unconscious. concussed! no
doubt! by the #iolence of the collision.
The pilot was dead! there could be no doubt of that. 3hat little remained solid of his body hun from between a pair
of sealed bulkheads! dri#en toether like the prons of forceps6 a fly beneath a swat. % thin patina of what had once
been his flesh decorated the truncated bride sements! and Sahaal was put in mind of the 8uice of a crushed fruit!
tricklin from sealed spaces.
Sahaal shrued! untroubled by the man-s death. He had ser#ed his purpose.
It had been &hianni-s idea. 3ith the 2reafects otherwise enaed in tearin the Shadowkin territory apart! the
starport that Sahaal had already in#aded once pro#ed deliriously simple to penetrate aain. There were few pilrims
tta#ellin now , the lockdown that had ripped the hi#e had seen to that , and he-d cut throuh the nominal security
at the ateway like a beast possessed. Focused utterly upon the scheme &hianni had tentati#ely proposed! when the
carnae was done he-d looked down to find himself made slick by the blood he-d spilled6 a scattered rin of
massacred 2reafects and ser#itor bodies patternin the icy launchpad terracrete.
Focused rae. That was the key. Inlorious! he lost himself in carnae in the pursuit of his oal.
4nly one shuttle had been ready to depart. They-d boarded it stealthily and followed the curses of its pilot to the
cockpit6 homin on his mutterins as he berated the indecipherable alarms s/uawkin across the inter,port #o"!
confused by an inability to contact the orbitin trader he-d been commissioned to 8oin.
-'ike there-s no warpshit thin up there...- he-d hissed to his ser#itor crew! e#en as Sahaal-s claws pricked the skin of
his neck.
He-d re/uired little persuasion to play alon. &hi,anni did the talkin. Sahaal found himself too consumed by the
burnin ure to act to e#en articulate his words6 slidin claws across the puny man-s flesh to embellish e#ery threat
his condemnitor spouted! usin her #oice as the perfect counterpoint to his slicin art.
The knife had become a purer medium than mere lanuae.
'et the ede of a blade be his stylus.
'et him cut and cut and cut fore#er.
<atien)e... his thouhts had counselled. 8ou know who has it now. 8ou know where it is.
1ot long to wait...
They had risen throuh smoke and loom! and then the batterin flurries of ice that smothered the whole of the
planet. Enines whinin turbulence rattlin at its flanks! the craft had seemed infinitely fraile6 an insect at the
mercy of a tempest. Sahaal had loomed in the comfortin shadows of the bride! watchin the tremblin pilot with
unhelmeted eyes narrowed! suspicious for any double,cross. E#en when &hianni wrenched the steerin column from
his /ui#erin hands to tilt the #essel towards the broad slope of the tallest peak!
the man didn-t realise the nature of the 8ourney he-d been forced to undertake.
-There!= she announced with a nod! pointin towards a secondary tower mat rose parallel to the central spire!
connected at its ape" by a narrow lass bride. That-s the palace treasury.-
-How do you know;- Sahaal hissed! finers kneadin toether eaerly. There could be no mistakes. *o o#ersihts.
She-d seemed to bristle! as if annoyed that he still was unable to trust her. -His collection-s famous!= she said. -%sk
anyone in the hi#e!=
Sahaal had lanced at the pilot! crinin uselessly to one side. If the man had felt at all inclined to disaree he-d
hidden it well! and thus con#inced Sahaal had nodded his appro#al at the condemnitor. -$o it!= he-d said.
&hianni had locked the steerin column in position and pushed the pilot back into his seat. The re#elation of what
was to occur had stolen o#er the man in cripplin increments! and e#en when the hi#ewall loomed like some steely
od in the #iewin port! e#en when the febrile liht of the clouded sky was e"tinuished by the city-s bulk! e#en
when the impart was scant seconds away! still the pilot could not summon a scream.
Sahaal thouht it a pity. *othin soothed his adrenaline like a wail of terror.
He-d ridden out the impact without in8ury and now! as smoke belched from rained machines and liht poured
throuh countless rents in the #essel-s shattered sides! he lifted himself to his feet and brandished his claws. He
could feel it.
He could feel the &orona *o"! like a beacon lihtin his senses.
h, my master... I )an feel it* It is so )lose*
He remembered how it had been to awake upon the $mbrea Insidior, that rae,borne half,awareness! slauhterin
thie#es across the ruined #essel-s shanks like a wolf6 aware only that it had been taken. For aeons he had sat dormant
at the heart of the warp! imprisoned within the cae that the hated eldar had constructed around him! and in all that
time the presence of the &orona had i#en him strenth. He had come to feel it as if it were a part of him6 a strane
connection that seared his psyche and drew a cord between his soul and the item itself. 3eeks ao! when it was
stolen! he had awoken in the certain knowlede that it was one6 as if a sound that he had heard his whole life , but
ne#er noticed , had suddenly fallen silent.
%nd now... ;
In another ruined #essel! clamberin once more throuh crippled decks! hunry once more for bloodshed and
8ustice6 now he could feel it aain.
*ow he was )lose.
He left &hianni where she lay , forotten! beneath his attention , and raced to retrie#e it.
%t the craft-s outer shell a strane process of seuein had occurred. the chasm,wound inflicted upon the hi#e
seemin to knot with the craft that had caused it. In all directions torn sheet metal was bent and buckled6 molten
steel listened and solidified in weird formations6 cables and hi#educts twisted around hull sensoria like the
tentacles of anemones! and e#erywhere the first atherins of snow! probin hunrily at the city-s in8ury! was
scattered across the de#astation. Illuminators flickered and failed! or else burned brihtly with whate#er electrical
sures the crash had precipitated.
2ickin his stealthy way throuh smoky chambers! Sahaal found it hard to say where the shuttle ended and the hi#e
bean. He stepped from a torn bulkhead imain the outer hull of the shuttle to be nearby! only to find himself
confronted by soot,charred tapestries and old leaf pillars. %s if infected somehow by a blemish of crudity! the
palace athered its splendour to itself and sulked! disusted at the in#asi#e entry. Sahaal scuttled across shattered
flastones and crumpled mosaics! followin the pull of his heart6 the strane manetism of the &orona. The shuttle
had buried itself across three le#els of the tower! and at the head of the furrow it had plouhed into the structure
Sahaal could stare into each separate room as if in cross,section! amused at the contrast between manled entry,
wound and untouched opulence.
There was little doubt where he would find his pri5e. The uppermost of the three e"posed interiors was a storae
chamber6 loomily lit and utterly ruined. The charred bodies of dormant ser#itors leaned from rechare booths and
aed on sined tonues! dead eyes lollin in sockets. The second le#el was a pri#ate chamber. audily decorated
and flamboyantly furnished. % real bed occupied the centre of the de#astated 5one! pairs of wined cherubim,
drones clinin to its canopy like bats. E#idently a spout of fuel had doused the suite-s interior! and now e#ery
e"/uisite tapestry was a blackened sheet! e#ery old,leaf insinia was a puddle of shimmerin sla! e#ery lu"urious
carpet smouldered like a burnin forest.
0ut the third le#el! the endless allery of tedious e"hibits and pompous wealth6 clipped by the craft-s entry , the
corner of its ceilin neatly dissected to allow him entry , that was a different affair. From amonst its endless
parades of useless treasures the
&orona whispered to him! reached out to caress his spirit! promisin him all that he had e#er dreamed. He slipped
into the room-s ca#ernous belly like a li5ard. scuttlin alon a wall! pausin e#ery few moments with reptile
precision to cock his head6 listenin! watchin.
3as he disappointed! he reflected! that the thief was not present; Had he hoped! in his secret heart , still burnin
with the blue,tined flame of unfocused insult , to catch the culprit red,handed; Had he yearned to bathe in the
bastard-s blood;
*o... *o! he could see inside himself now. The mut,terins of &haos were one. He was stroner than that.
3hate#er damae his pride had suffered was irrele#ant.
The &orona was his.
He found it at the room-s centre! placed on a plinth like some common librium artefact! and his twin hearts felt as if
they miht burst with 8oy.
The packae was unopened. The skeletal emblem of his 'eion , the wined skull , remained sealed! its cryptic
secrets une"posed. He reached out tremblin hands and! as if fearin the pri5e miht be a dream V a cruel holoram
trick , settled them upon the bo"-s shell! testin its solidity.
He sihed! awash with relief. He twisted the fresco pattern here and here, then placed finers at the skull-s eyes and
tapped twice.
'$ltio,' he said! eyes closed. '$ltio et timor.'
)eneance and fear.
Somethin inside the packae chattered. % mechanical clatter shuddered throuh it! pins meshin toether like a
shark-s teeth! #ocal reconition enines awakin! and with the slowness that came from a hundred centuries- inertia
tiny diaphrams opened within the skull-s eyes! floodin them with red liht.
The seal broke.
The bo" opened.
%nd :so Sahaal! Talonmaster! heir to the throne of the *iht 'ords 'eion , the chosen of >onrad &ur5e , lifted
from its dust,dry innards the &orona *o".
It was a crown! of sorts. % black circlet of mercurial metal! polished and undecorated! burnin with an eerie non,
liht. To either side of its tapered rin there rose tall horns! needle,straiht and 8aed,eded! like twin sabre,blades
dipped in oil.
0ut most stunnin of all! beyond the simple eleance and curious capti#ation of the thin! set into the crown-s
frontispiece and suspended upon the wearer-s forehead on a platinum mountin! stood a 8ewel.
% perfect teardrop of ruby,red! its face was uncut by diamond facets or ineleant desins. Smooth and unblemished!
it had about it the look of an oranic creation6 as if not cut from the earth but rown6 planted and fostered to lorious
life in some secret crystal arden. %nd despite the dismal lihtin of the allery! despite the shadow cast by Sahaal-s
colossal body! it burned. It burned with an inner liht. It burned with a radiance that was unconfined by siht alone!
that broke the boundaries of luminosity! that flooded out the #isual spectrum and da55led Sahaal without e#en
passin his eyes.
There was somethin other than the merely material about the 8ewel! and it bathed Sahaal in such peace! in such
confidence and assurance! that the shi#erin of his limbs ceased! the perpetual furrow of his brow smoothed away!
and he blinked a tear of serenity from his midniht eyes.
'"ve ,ominus 1o&,' he whispered! finers caressin the circlet ede! liftin the horned crown abo#e him! pullin it
down towards his own skull.
He was di#orced from reality! in mat timeless instant. In a dream world of endless calm! the crown descended
towards its rihtful owner.
He would lead his brothers in their master-s name. He would tear from the skies of Terra itself! shriekin with an
eale-s cry. He would repay the insult. He would cut the Emperor-s shri#elled throat! and paint the withered od-s
blood across the walls of his defiled palace.
He would ha#e his re#ene upon the Traitor Father.
He would be the 'ord of the *iht.
%nd then a shot ran out in the loom! and the fantasy collapsed beneath the weiht of dismal reality! and he
lanced down from the perfect -o- of black metal and into the hunry barrels of weapons.
Si" un ser#itors. 0olters. +eltas. Flamers.
%t their centre! a man. From his slack lips arose tall tusks! and his eyes limmered with secret humour. 2ower,
armoured and massi#e! but mo#in with the stultified discomfort of one without aumentation.
*o Space +arine! this! merely a )opy. %n impostor. The cruciform T at his collar was all that Sahaal needed to see.
-In/uisitor!= he spat.
The name-s >austus!= the man rinned! mockin. %t your ser#ice.-
The men held a small un aainst the head of a smaller fiure6 a raedy shape with unkempt hair and frihtened
eyes! whose strules to escape the tusked fool halted the instant her stare met Sahaal-s. He reconised her. Twice
before he had met her! and both times she had souht his destruction.
The witch.
&onfusion ripped him! momentarily. The psyker,bitch was his enemy , he had no doubt of that. 3hy
then was she the capti#e of the In/uisition; 3as there more than one faction at play within this elaborate ame;
Is the enemy of my enemy not my friend4
The uncertainty did not last. 0askin in the silent assurances offered by the &orona! it was difficult to feel anythin
but utter poise! utter confidence! utter superiority.
-2ut the artefact down!- the in/uisitor said! rippin the witch around the neck with his spare arm and turnin the
pistol towards Sahaal. -2ut it down and step away!=
It was! of course! a lauhable suestion. Sahaal sneered and bunched his fists! readyin himself for anythin.
-*e#er!= he snarled.
The in/uisitor shrued! infuriatinly calm. -%s you wish!=
The ser#itors mo#ed with frihtenin speed.
Four sprinted clear of the pack! racin alon the room-s perimeter , bron5e blurs with pistonin les and eerily static
arms! optic,pucked faces twistin to reard Sahaal e#en as they left him behind. Their #ery mo#ements spoke
#olumes of their efficiency and cost. smooth and reulated! fle"in with a controlled ait so unlike the staerin
lurches of lesser models. *ot mere cada#er,machines! these! but prime human bodies! sealed within metal slee#es!
blessed with empty #apidity and unimainable strenth. Sahaal assumed they were workin to surround him!
rushin alon the outer edes of the ca#ern in a flankin manoeu#re. It wasn-t a prospect he could afford to dwell
upon. the two remainin attackers dropped into firin stances! stabilisin limbs hinin from the rear of their knees!
weapons auto,rackin at mechanical command.
They opened fire! and the world became noise and
They were fast! these toy soldiers. <uick to find their rane and /uicker to draw a bead.
0ut Sahaal was faster.
The hunter would not tolerate bein hunted.
He swept into the air with a whoop! 8ump pack flarin! dismissin the tumult of detonatin bolter shells and
pearlescent tonues of flamerfire behind him. He must be focused.
They were fast and stron and accurate! but for all that they were as efficient only as the weapons they used aainst
him6 8ust as his measure could be taken by the tools of his own retaliation. He could not use fear aainst machines.
He )ould use blades.
He was the Talonmaster! warp take them9 He was the first of the 1aptors9
These 5ombie warriors didn-t know the meanin of
% melta stream littered across his shoulder! too slow to follow the raceful plune he initiated. %t his back the
o#ernor-s e"hibition chamber became a war5one! e"hibits blown apart! melta streams turnin ablati#e walls to
mercurial sla. Ice and snow flurried in! confusin the senses of the motion,detectin security drones! and within
seconds the entire chamber was ali#e with lasfire and mu55leflash! weapons throbbin at the air like percussion.
Sahaal twisted and barrel,rolled! slippin with a#ian race throuh palls of smo and ice. He dropped to his feet
behind the pair of ser#itors and diced the first with a casual swipe of his claws! relishin the collapse of its
unarmoured skull and the spume of lon,dead blood that followed. The second rotated at its waist like a
spinnin top! les remainin inert! but e#en as its flamer belched a 8et of incandescence Sahaal was slippin to the
floor! risin inside its uard like a wraith! liftin it up with his claws deep inside its chest. Its own weiht sliced it in
two! and its weapons clattered! dead! to the floor.
For an instant Sahaal considered rabbin one! to draw the bolter at his waist! but /uickly re8ected the notion. 3ith
one hand he must protect the &orona6 to sacrifice the blades of the other in fa#our of somethin so base as a
pro8ectile weapon was unthinkable.
The re#erie did not last lon. Safely ensconced within their distant positions! the four remainin ser#itors sei5ed the
opportunity to open fire! leanin from co#er behind priceless tomes and antedilu#ian fossils! walls of lead and fire
and sound poundin and interceptin. Sahaal bunched his les and pounced onwards! his pri5e clutched close to his
It was clear to Sahaal that he had walked into a trap. the slow realisation that the in/uisitor had been controllin his
mo#ements from afar! awaitin the moment that the &orona-s casket was opened before makin his play! was
stealin o#er him by derees. If that was true , a horrific prospect9 , then surely the tusked fiend wouldn-t risk
harmin the pri5e whose capture he had spent so lon enineerin; Surely that would be an illoical step;
%pparently loic was not a concept with which the in/uisitor was familiar.
3hate#er simple parameters the ser#itors were obeyin! protectin the &orona from harm was not amon them.
0olterfire raked across Sahaal-s airborne body! chippin lumps of ceramite from his shoulduards and destabilisin
his boundin strides. Sparks scrawled #icious patterns across his chest and les! topplin him
out of control and sendin him crashin to the round! uni/ue masterpieces and specimen 8ars shatterin around
him. The lutinous wash of a flamer rippled past him like a ri#er! sendin him rollin from its path with smoke
liftin from sined plates. E#en findin co#er was a near impossibility. e#ery priceless ewaw that he ducked
behind was attended by its own immobile ser#itor drone! hanin from the ceilin in mute #iilance! and the slash,
stabs of lasfire from abo#e had already punctured his armour alon its 8oints! slicin his face in 8aed streaks. He
kept mo#in! strafin as he went! hoppin into the air where#er he felt it possible! only to be forced back to the
round by a deadly crossfire from his assailants.
0eneath other circumstances! his stormin senses reassured him! the ser#itors- infle"ibility would be their downfall.
For all their firepower! for all their strenth and speed! they were little more than clockwork toys. obeyin simple
directi#es without recourse Aor opportunityB to inno#ate. Their simplicity made them predictable! and had he been
willin to wade throuh their fire to draw close! Sahaal-s #ictory would be assured. 0ut he couldn-t risk harmin the
&orona! and infle"ible or not their loic enines had directed them into a horribly efficient pattern. a four,way
killin 5one that left him with no path of concealment! no hope of escape.
He was reduced to a hunted beast! scurryin to flee from its pursuers! knowin already that they closed upon it from
all sides. % melta,burn dissol#ed the elephantine skull he-d ducked beneath , a steamin lance of superheated air that
ripped a hole in his shoulder,uard and ate at the flesh beneath! #aporisin muscle and blood. He cried out and
draed himself clear! shuttin the pain from his focus and drawin his arm
back to its furthest stretch! pre#entin tihtness when his superhuman blood sealed the wound.
Superhuman or not! he was bein taken apart.
%nd then! like a host pickin its way between realities! stumblin throuh smoke and fire! there came the solution.
Small! #ulnerable6 tattered and torn! but mo#in e#er onwards! reachin out towards him.
She had left the ruined shuttle to find him.
The ser#itors- simple minds did not e#en acknowlede her as a threat. 0eyond their commands! without mention in
the aressi#e enines that dro#e their desiccated brains! they inored her as if she was hardly there at all.
Sahaal-s instincts rebelled at the idea that sei5ed him! so tainted by a lifetime of suspicion and paranoia that the #ery
notion of trustin someone repelled him. 0ut he persisted6 silencin his internal ob8ections with a stubborn snarl.
There was no other way.
In &hianni he had found a sla#e that he could trust. %n acolyte who had ne#er deserted him. % priestess so
mindlessly obedient that she had bra#ed fear and fire! limpin throuh a war5one! 8ust to be by her lord-s side.
He had one to pains to make her complicit to his secrets. 'et her repay the sentiment now.
3ith her! the &orona *o" would be safe! at least until he had slauhtered these upstart machines and reained his
-+,my lord;- she warbled! face pale! as he roared from the framents of his co#er throuh smoke and unfire! bolter
shells ripplin the round at his heels! and thrust the crown deep into her rasp! barely slowin.
-1un9- he roared. -Get dear! damn you9 'et no one take it from you9 /un3
%nd then she was behind him and he found himself unburdened! and with a shriek of such terrible 8oy that the hairs
at the nape of his neck shi#ered and stood on end! he brandished his second claws and turned in the air.
He would stride throuh all the bolterfire in the ala"y! now. He would swim an ocean of flames. He would streak
throuh melta,stream skies to reach the scum that had dared to face him! and when it was o#er he would put out the
in/uisitor-s eyes one by one! and wear them as trophies upon his belt.
7nburdened by his master-s sacred leacy! he could do anything+ He could,
The ser#itors- uns fell silent. The world seemed to draw breath. Sahaal dropped to the floor and hissed! waftin
smoke and flickerin tonues of fire obscurin his senses. The wound on his shoulder had sealed itself fully! but
beneath layers of conditionin and focus he could feel the pain of it shroudin his senses! drawin his mind into the
danerous eddies of shock. He shook his head to clear the numbness! eyes ro#in into the corners of the smo,
bound chamber.
The ser#itors were one! sprintin back towards their in/uisitor,master as if their task were complete! optics
twitchin to follow him as they #anished into the pall. % cold suspicion ripped him! like the ice e#en now sendin
fro5en finers throuhout the allery chamber! and he turned in his place with it nawin at his belly. &hianni.
She should be runnin. She should be clear of the room! sprintin the &orona to safety.
She was not.
2anic ripped him! cold beads of sweat prickled at the skin of his pale temples. The condemnitor stood e"actly
where he had left her! the obsidian crown clutched in her pale hands! unblinkin eyes fi"ed upon him throuh the
shiftin smoke.
-1un9- he roared! twin hearts throbbin in his ears. '/un3
Time slowed.
The in/uisitor stepped from the smoke and placed a fond hand on &hianni-s shoulder! smilin. Sahaal-s mind did a
Thank you! dissimulus,' the in/uisitor said! liftin the &orona *o" from her unresistin rasp. That will be all!=
She nodded! eyes #acant. )ery ood! my lord!= Her #oice chaned e#en as she spoke! deepenin to a throaty bass!
and before Sahaal-s horrified eyes her skin writhed like a clenchin muscle! swarmin across bone and cartilae like
molten rubber! dippin away in cheeks and eye sockets. )hanging.
3hen she spoke ne"t her #oice was that of a man6 matchin the unremarkable , but clearly male , features of her...
his... its face. -%nd my ration! my lord;-
In/uisitor >austus nodded! meetin Sahaal-s eyes with a smu wink. He dipped a hand into the folds of his robes
and produced a leather case! passin it to the newly transformed male at his side.
-2olymorphine!= he e"plained! smirkin. (ou 8ust can-t trust an addict! eh! *iht 'ord;-
Sahaal-s world fell away beneath his feet.
The battle in the Steel Forest. She-d been wounded ,no... no! she-d died. She had died and this thing, this morphic
obscenity! had staered down into the rust,mud ca#erns to take her place.
%nother betrayal. %nother reason ne#er to trust a soul.
He had nothin. He could rely upon no one.
%ll that was left to him was the rage. His master-s enetic ift. focused by pain and insanity.
The dissimulus hurried from the room with its poly,morphine fi" clutched to its breast! and in its wake Sahaal
pointed a claw at >austus-s heart! eyes smoulderin with the hatred of centuries.
(ou die!= he said! and he kicked off from the round6 8ump pack screamin at his back. %nd then e#erythin
E#en as the distance between him and his taret fell away! e#en as he imained the in/uisitor-s smu face torn apart
beneath his claws! e#en as the pri5e that had been snatched and reained and snatched aain was within his rasp!
liht distorted the world.
The air opened up. 2erspecti#e struled to translate what human eyes could ne#er hope to comprehend! dimensions
writhin upon each other! and in a rush of stale air and the bitter tan of o5one a bla5in doorway crept open into
Still Sahaal bounded onwards! claws outstretched! the round blurrin beneath him.
Fiures danced from the swirlin portal. 'ithe forms of fluted limb and audy colour! tall helms and plumes of hair
blurrin at the speed of thouht. %nd amonst them there came a robed prince! a runic demiod! antlers abla5e with
electric fire! staff of office hummin with uncontainable power.
Sahaal reconised him from his dreams.
The warlock...
The staff flared across e#ery spectrum! cracklin aussfire en#eloped him! psychic horror u55led him whole! and as
he fell to the floor with blood in his eyes!
Sahaal-s final thouht was. They have )ome to finish what they started one hundred )enturies before.
They have )ome to take what they )ould not take then.
Oenogen s)um*
The eldar have )ome for the 6orona 1o&*
%nd as In/uisitor >austus turned to their shimmerin leader with an ebullient bow! holdin the crown like some
royal offerin! needles of doubt and horror punctured Sahaal-s brain! sei5in his muscles and cripplin his rae.
He crashed to the round insensible! and knew no more.
IT 3%S %'' happenin too fast.
The in/uisitor-s admission of uilt! the arri#al of the *iht 'ord! the un#eilin of the &orona *o". Held at the point
of a un by her former master! pushed and sho#ed like some dismal piece of meat! +ita had seen it all.
Somethin had chaned about the nihtmare +arine. The siht of him no loner filled her with unspeakable dread6
his mere presence no loner wrapped cords of corruption and filth around her heart. *o loner was he protected by
chitterin underlins6 in#isible and male#olent. *o loner did the warpspawn of the $ark Gods ather around his
soul like flies around a liht. a li#in armour that she could ne#er hope to penetrate.
Had he! she wondered! somehow escaped the preda,tions of &haos; Had he somehow cleansed himself of the taint
that had threatened to smother him;
3as he now! like her! simply another pawn in this obscene ame of manipulation and con/uest;
3hate#er the reason for his abrupt purification! its effect was pronounced. where pre#iously her psychic senses
could no more approach and del#e into his spirit than she could swallow hot coals! now she had found herself free to
e"plore. *ow she could see his true self.
It was almost too much for her to bear.
It was a thin of such sadness! such loneliness! such suspicion and uilt and paranoia! that it almost tore her heart
2ain! rae! ambition! sorrow. $istrust. Isolation. 0itterness.
His mind was like a reflection of hers! manified a billion times.
She-d felt his brief #ictory , a sure of 8oy , at reclaimin the &orona. She-d spiralled with him into despair as the
#ictory crumbled. She-d shared his pain as the ser#itors tore him to shreds! piece by piece! and she-d risen like a float
upon the crest of his triumph as he entrusted the crown to his aide...
The aide! whose mind she had reconised. % swirlin psyche without centre6 without certainty or solidity of eo.
She had seen that mind once before.
The un#eilin of the dissimulns had come as no surprise to +ita! althouh she shared the *iht 'ord-s horror from
within his coilin spirit.
%nd then she shared his re#ulsion and his awe at what had followed.
The eldar came in a storm of warp,forces so focused! so potent! that +ita slipped to her knees and bled from her
ears. >austus had left her beneath the uard of his four un ser#itors , toys! no doubt! of the murdered o#ernor ,
and e#en as she stumbled at the astral
crescendo di55yin her senses their uns remained focused intractably upon her head. She didn-t care. They were a
side,show6 an insinificant concern when placed beside what was now un#eilin across the smoke and de#astation
of the room.
2austus, you bastard. 8ou made a deal with the devil...
%s part of the 4rdo ?enos! +ita knew more than most of the alien scoure that was the eldar. %ncient and
technoloically superior6 that their bodies were ostensibly similar to humans- was the one aspect of their race that
could be considered familiar. They thouht differently. They mo#ed differently. They li#ed li#es of carefully
partitioned #ocation. monkish e"istences de#oted utterly to a sinle pathway.
Humanity tra#elled in the warp like trees castin seeds arbitrarily into the wind6 placin trust in pro#idence! uided
only by the most rudimentary of na#iatory processes. To humanity the warp was an untameable ocean! in which
only the foolhardy dared to swim.
The eldar had built roads across it.
They rew old at the speed of stars. They fouht like hosts. 3here the teemin masses of the Imperium struled
with crude senses and uly lanuae! the eldar burned briht with thouht. a le#el of astral awareness and psionic
capability that reduced +ita-s talents to those of a child. She was a beast compared to them. a primiti#e fool! barely
able to remember to breathe.
She was a baby in the presence of demiods! and at the /uiet rear of her mind where the awe at the aliens- arri#al
had not yet penetrated! where she did not share the pain and rae inculcatin the *iht 'ord-s thouhts! she
Is this how other humans think of me4
It this why they hate me so4
2ri#ileed knowlede or not! the eldar were as reat a mystery to +ita as they were to any other human. In her
studies in the 'ibrium ?enos on Safaur In/uis the testimony of countless in/uisitors was the same. the eldar seemed
to act without moti#e , random and abstract , playin out some ineffable ame accordin to alien rules that only they
comprehended. %ll that was known was this.
Their rasp upon the future! upon the #orte" of chance and e#ent that was borne on the warp like froth on a sickened
ocean! was unri#alled.
2austus had known somehow that the 6orona 1o& would arrive on Equi&us.
It had been foreseen...
#e'd been in league with the &enos from the beginning...
There seemed to be eiht of them! althouh it was difficult to say with any certainly6 they mo#ed like li/uid liht!
caperin and boundin! ne#er still. She thouht she could make out weapons clutched in their lon limbs! flat,
headed catapults like the fruits of an e"otic tree. They slipped from their portal , an entrance! she uessed! to their
famed -webway- of tunnels and paths that circumna#iated the warp itself ,like a knot of frail decorations swept
upon the wind. armour of blue and yellow laced by a billion enra#ins! a myriad of serpentine runes and lowin
siils. %nd at their head! burnin +ita-s psychic a5e like a phosphor lamp! their leader.
He dealt with the strikin *iht 'ord with a sinle swipe of his staff! wyrd lihts flarin between its lai#e,pommel
and the robed creature-s antlered helm. 3atchin it all! probin the *iht 'ord-s astral self at the moment of his
defeat! she felt his collapse as thouh struck herself.
Somewhere! in another world! the eldar athered around In/uisitor >austus. Somewhere! impossibly distant! the
tusked man stretched out his hands towards the warlock! the &orona *o" held firm in his rasp. Somewhere the
antlered "eno reached out to recei#e it.
+ita rearded it all as if it were a dream! spirallin away from her at the moment of awakenin! and it was only as
blackness closed in upon her that she came to understand what had happened.
She had been inside the *iht 'ord-s mind when the eldar lashed out. The Traitor +arine had been knocked down!
his senses o#erwhelmed! his certainties pul#erised. He-d been crippled by the strenth of the warlock-s attack! and as
he crashed to the floor and lay still! as his mind shut down and entered a troubled! enforced slumber,
,+ita-s mind was draed down with it.
SHE F47*$ HE1SE'F immersed within a world unlike any she had seen before. <urple skies raged like bruises@ tor(
mented )louds swirling and gathering together ( defying the logi) of what little bree.e there seemed to be. 0a)es
leered from their gaseous topography' half(seen grotes(queries that %ita neither re)ognised nor )ared to see fully.
The ground itself seemed little more solid' a porous sheet of sand and ro)k that, against all sense, felt spongy to the
tou)h. " )harge filled the air, a greasy stati) that )li)ked in the ends of her ragged hair and oppressed her skull,
like a )oming storm.
1othing seemed real, here. ,istant mountain peaks wavered like un)ertain mirages@ wobbling in their foothill
roots@ vanishing and reappearing at the whim of...
0or a fearful instant %ita wondered if she had somehow travelled to a world of daemon world. She had heard of
su)h pla)es' )onfused realms where physi)s held little sway, where every aspe)t of every mole)ule was inseparable
from the stuff of 6haos itself. Su)h worlds were the dreaded rumour of the Inquisition, and as %ita stumbled a)ross
fra)tured lands)apes, negotiating ethereal gorges and sudden rivers that oo.ed from nowhere, the fear that she had
somehow been transported to one lay heavy in her mind.
5ut, no... 1o, this was no 6haoti) realm. The more she observed its howling skies and its weird tides of light and
dark@ the more she studied the s)enes that shimmered in the surfa)es of puddles and the images borne on the )rest
of ro)ks@ the more she sent feelers from her own mind tasting at the sand itself, the more she )ame to realise where
she was. She re)ognised its flavour.
"s if to double )he)k, she paused and stared at her hand@ )on)entrating, altering her per)eptions, working hard to
fo)us her psy)hi) self.
'Sword,' she said.
" bright sabre appeared in her palm. She nodded, unsurprised, and walked on, )asting the blade away. It vanished
before it landed.
She found the 1ight ?ord, as she had known she would, at the peak of a plateau, ringed by a )auldron of ro)ky out(
)rops, set upon a )ross of stone. 6hains bound his arms to the ro)k, snaking between his ankles and his wrists,
pinioning him like a butterfly upon a page. #is armour and helm were gone. #is )laws had been taken from him.
0or the first time, un)on)ealed by shadow or night, unmoving and unresisting, she saw him )learly. #is skin was so
pale as to be almost translu)ent, revealing along arms and legs every blue vein, every inner augmentation, every
limpet(like )rater where some an)ient in;ury had marked his flesh. ")ross his shoulders and )hest the skin was
)on)ealed, hidden behind an e&terior layer of bla)k plating that, in pla)es, dipped beneath his flesh, intermingling
with mus)le )ords and bony out)rops.
She had never seen so many s)ars in her life.
%ost remarkable was his fa)e. She had e&pe)ted a )ountenan)e of malevolen)e. f unrestrained and unrepentant
evil. She had e&pe)ted snarls and burning embers for eyes@ a daemoni) visage that brandished its )orruption
openly, like a festering wound.
Instead she found herself meeting the ga.e of a troubled )hild. h, his fa)e was that of a man ( sallow and gaunt,
perhaps, twisted by too many years of frowns and rages ( but his eyes were an infant's. Impossibly old, and yet so
full of bewilderment. They were the eyes of a youth that had never been allowed to grow old, that had been plu)ked
from its humanity at an early age and never sin)e allowed to return.
7-here is this4' the )ru)ified man said, and if he retained any sense of trauma from the madness of the gallery
room, or the rage that had gripped him at the moment the eldar warlo)k had atta)ked, he gave no sign of it. #e
seemed to %ita to be in sho)k@ his voi)e monotone, his eyes unblinking.
#e was a patheti) thing, she thought, spread(eagled before her.
'This is your mind,' she replied, unable to bring herself to hate him. " dream, if you like. 8ou're trapped here.'
'"nd you4'
She shrugged. 'I don't know. <erhaps I'm trapped too.'
#e )onsidered this. 0or all the surrealism of the situation, for all the horror of finding oneself )ru)ified and
stripped of their armour, he seemed remarkably )alm.
7The eldar did this4' he asked.
'In a way, yes... They made you do it to yourself
#e nodded as if unsurprised. '8es. 8es, they've done it before. Though not to my mind.'
%ita frowned. 'h4'
" distant look stole the 1ight ?ord's ga.e. '"t the start,' he said. 7The assassin killed my master. She took the pri.e,
s(so I followed. 8ou see4 I took it ba)k from her, but the eldar )ame.'
7The pri.e4 8ou mean the 6orona 1o&4'
'The 6orona, yes... 8es, they tried to steal it, but I prevailed. I would not let them have it, wit)h, you understand4 So
they tri)ked me. They trapped me. %y ship. "ll of us, deep in the warp.'
7-hat is the 6orona 1o&4' %ita asked, giving voi)e to the question that had tormented her so long.
0or the first time sin)e she entered this weird realm, his fa)e )reased in a frown, eyes dipping to meet hers. #e
looked as if her ignoran)e wounded him, deep within. '8ou don't know4'
She shrugged. 'It... it looked like a )rown*
'#a* Cust a )rown4' #e shook his head, bla)k eyes flashing. '1o, little wit)h, it's more than that. 0ashioned by the
1ight #aunter himself, forged from the adamantium )ore of 1ostromo, his birthworld. #e wore it through all his
life, and when he would have s)reamed with insanity and terror, it )almed him. -hen he would have listened to the
whispers of the warp, it deafened him. -hen he burned with
Avengean)e for the in;uries his father wrought upon him, then it tasted his anger and stored it away. It's all that
remains of my master, wit)h. Imbued with his divine essen)e, sealed with a perfe)t bloodstone. It is no mere )rown.
'It is the )aptain)y of the 1ight ?ords. #e bequeathed it
*to me on the day he was murdered* $nderstanding )ame to %ita pie)e by pie)e, and with it )ame disbelief.
'5ut... but that's... 2onrad 6ur.e was killed millennia ago...'
#is frown deepened. Ten millennia. ne hundred )enturies. I have been imprisoned a long time.'
"nd she knew as soon as she heard it that he spoke the truth. She sagged to her knees, astonished, overwhelmed by
the an)ientness of the )reature before her.
#e had been hating for aeons.
She knew she ought to destroy him, this atavisti) reli) of the :reat #eresy. #e was, after all, vulnerable before her.
1aked@ defen)eless. #ere, in this realm of psy)hi) material, trapped within his own brain as if sealed inside(out,
here she )ould )rush him like a worm. In her mind's eye she imagined a weapon forming within her hand, and sure
enough a )old weight sagged into e&isten)e, gathering solidity.
5ut his eyes...
So lonely. So wounded.
'-ho are you4' he said, derailing her thoughts. '-ho do you serve4'
She swallowed and hid the gun behind her ba)k, diverting her dangerous thoughts towards his question, relieved at
the distra)tion. 'I am %ita "shyn. Interrogator of the ,ivine Emperor's #oly Inquisition.'
'8ou serve this... this 2austus4 The one who has stolen my inheritan)e4'
'8es. 1o... I did. n)e. 1ot any more'
'#e re;e)ted you, yes4 6ast you aside.'
'It's not that simple, I('
'It's always that simple.' #e looked away. '0or the likes of us, at least'
'-hat do you mean4'
8ou know what I mean, little wit)h. ?ittle mutant. ?ittle abomination.'
She shook her head, for)ing herself to )alm, )learing her mind. '8ou won't anger me, traitor,' she said.
The 1ight ?ord tried to shrug, )hains tightening a)ross shoulders and arms, and returned his eyes to her fa)e. 'I
don't seek your anger,' he said, voi)e )alm. 'nly your understanding. I ask you again' who do you serve4'
'I told you. I serve the Imperium.'
'5ut they hate you.'
'The Emperor does not* %#e Imperator.- The Emperor loves all who give him praise*'
'#a. 8ou believe that, do you4'
The words formed in her head as if automati)' of )ourse she believed it* f )ourse the Emperor loved her* "nd yet
even in the )onfines of her mind, unspoken aloud, su)h dogma sounded empty, thoughtless, the re)itals of a simple(
ton who knew no better.
0rustrated, angered by her inner turmoil, she raised the gun and aimed at the 1ight ?ord's heart.
F don't have to listen to you, traitor,' she said.
The quaver in her voi)e was impossible to )on)eal.
"nd oh, oh warpspit and piss, she did need to listen to it. She did need to hear what the beast had to say.
-hy4 -hy did she feel so obliged4
" self(appointed test of her faith, perhaps4
r perhaps ;ust the )omfort of knowing she was not alone in feeling su)h doubts...
The )ru)ified beast gave no sign of fear at the gun's wavering attention.
'So,P he nodded, brows ar)hing, 'you have the love of one being, out of )ountless billions4 "nd that is enough4'
'%ore than enough* 8ou'd understand if you hadn't turned from #is light'
#e smiled, genuine warmth appearing on fro.en features. '"nd )an there be an Emperor, without an Empire4'
'1o, but('
'1o. They are intertwined. ne billion billion souls despise you. " single soul ( so you say ( loves you. 8ou don't
think this a bitter ratio4'
'-ithout the Emperor's love there is nothing. )acuus Imperator dilio illic est nus/uam!=
She was redu)ed to parroting lessons of her youth, and the 1ight ?ord's slow smile told her that he knew it.
T used to think the same,' he said, as if )on)eding a generous point. Then' 'n)e.'
She ra)ked the gun meaningfully, trying to find a reserve of )onvi)tion in her voi)e.
'Spare me your attempts at )orruption. %y faith is stronger than steel*
#e leaned down from his tall per)h, eyes brimming with earnest )uriosity. '-hy do you fight me,' he asked, 'when
we are the same4'
'I'm nothing like you*'
" petulant rage gripped her then, the last vestiges of her tattered pride spreading wings of outrage at the very
suggestion of her likeness to that... that de#il... and before she )ould stop herself she'd squee.ed the trigger of the
apparated weapon.
The shot stru)k the )ru)ified figure in his side, tearing a strange slash of flesh )lear, to boil off into the sky,
dissolving as it went@ and in this )urious inner(realm what flowed from the rent was not blood, but light.
#e gave no sign of pain.
'f )ourse you are,' he hissed, and any tra)e of sho)k was gone now@ any sense of )hildish bewilderment was lost.
1ow his eyes glimmered with guile. '8ou are the un)lean filth that serves in #is name. 8ou are the hated one. They
fear you, and they loathe you, but still they use you...'
'1o, no...'
'8es. They use you up until you )ease to be useful, you understand4 "nd what then, little wit)h4 8ou think they will
thank you4'
'It's... you're wrong... it's not like that...'
7The only differen)e between us, girl, is that where you still wear your yoke of slavery, my master broke me free*'
%ita almost roared, sudden venom )hoking her mind, )learing the )louds of doubt that the 1ight ?ord had sowed.
'0ree4' she snarled. '8ou got your freedom by turning to 6haos* 8ou got your salvation from #eresy, warp take you*
That's not freedom ( that's insanity*'
Su)h )almness in his fa)e. Su)h an)ient sadness.
'8ou're wrong, )hild. -e were never slaves to the ,ark <owers. -e fought beneath a banner of hate, not of )orrup(
'#ate4 -hat did you have to hate4 8ou fell from gra)e by )hoi)e, traitor, you were not pushed*'
0or the first time real, honest emotion ignited behind his eyes. This was not a part of some elaborate game of words,
she understood suddenly. This sentiment boiled from his guts and infe)ted the air before him like a )loud of lo)usts@
as heavy with )onvi)tion as it was with )ontempt.
'#ate for the a))ursed Emperor. #ate for your withered god.'
Til kill you* Speak one more word of this filth and I'll('
'8ou ask what I hate4 I hate a )reature that speaks of pride and honour, that fosters the love of his sons, that smiles
and s)rapes at every obedient a)t, and then turns like a diseased dog and stabs his own )hild in the spine*'
'Shut up* Shut up, damn you*'
T hate a being so sick! so )ertain of his own brillian)e, so twisted by the )all of glory, that he repays the greatest
sa)rifi)e of all with betrayal!=-
%ita sei.ed at the flapping )ords of the 1ight ?ord's voi)e, struggling to pull herself free of the )onfusion gripping
'Sa)rifi)e4 8our master sa)rifi)ed nothing but his soul*'
The 1ight ?ord's eyes bored into her.
'#e sa)rifi)ed his humanity, )hild.'
"nd suddenly his voi)e was so melan)holi), so deep and so )alm, so bloated by sadness, that %ita found all her
dissolved. The gun faltered in her grip and she lowered it, tears in her eyes.
'#e be)ame a monster. #e formed us, his 1ight ?ords, in his own image' to spread terror and hate, to forge
obedien)e through fear. #e res)inded whatever purity he had, he )ast off the humanity that was never intended for
him... he risked insanity and damnation, and all to bring order to his father's Imperium.'
'#e sa)rifi)ed his soul to the dark, and('
'8ou aren't listening. 8ou weren't there. != tell you, little wit)h' he sa)rifi)ed his soul at the Emperor's behest. #e
be)ame the tame monster the Imperium needed. "nd how was he repaid4 #e was reined in. #e was humiliated
before his brothers. "nd then4 The assassin's kiss.'
'#e went too far* The histories do not lie* The e&)esses of the 1ight ?ords are famed thr('
'E&)esses4 -e obeyed every order* -e did what was asked of us* ?isten to me, )hild* The 7e&)esses7 of the 1ight
#aunter were sanctioned.--
'1o...' her mind rebelled at the suggestion, lights flashing before her eyes. '1o, no, no... the Emperor would never
)ountenan)e in('
'#e needed order, where only savagery )ould bring it. #e sent in the 1ight ?ords, and we gave him the order he
yearned. "nd then he made us his s)apegoats. #e )ried with false outrage, and the Imperium )ried with him*
'8ou're wrong, you're wrong, you're wrong...'
'%y master )raved nothing but pride from his father. "nd all that he ever re)eived was s)orn. ?ittle wonder he
threw(in his lot with the #ereti) rabble. ?ittle wonder he mar)hed to war beside them, sensing that they might
weaken his father's grip. #e was wrong*
' no no no no...'
'?ook at me, )hild. 'ook at me!=-
%ita's head snapped up at the )ommand, the empty mumblings falling away from her mouth. It was all too mu)h to
take@ too mu)h to absorb. Too mu)h for a single mind to )ontain.
'%y master was killed by an assassin. 8ou know this, yes4'
She dredged details from long(gone lessons, struggling to re)all histories that had seemed so unreal, so mired in the
soup of myth.
'8(yes... yes, she was sent to kill the fiend w(when the #eresy was over... The other ?egions fled in... in disarray. 1ot
the 1ight ?ords. The #igh ?ords of Terra, they... they thought if 6ur.e was slain the ?egion would dissolve. ..'
'#alf truths. #alf truths and lies*
'I... I don't understand...'
',o you know what the 1ight #aunter's final words to me were4 ,o you know what he said, as he seated himself
and awaited the assassin4'
'#e said 7See how the mighty are fallen.7'
'5e)ause he had finally realised what nobody else had ever seen. That his father, his glorious Emperor, his ,ivine
6reator, was ;ust as vi)ious, ;ust as terrible, ;ust as mer)iless, as the 1ight ?ords themselves. See how the mighty
are fallen. See how divinity lowers itself to dispose of the monster it )reated*
ne final pulse of rebellion ( alone and drowning in a sea of doubt ( struggled to be heard in %ita's heart. '?(lowers
itself4 5y sending an assassin4 "fter all that 2onrad 6ur.e had done4 "fter the horrors of the #eresy4 -hat else
)ould the Emperor have done4'
0or an instant the doubt seemed to retra)t. 0or an instant she felt she'd somehow s)ored a point@ landed a blow.
The 1ight ?ord remained resolutely unphased.
'-hat else4 1othing, to be sure ( if, as you say, the killer was sent to avenge the terrors of the #orus #eresy.' #e
leaned forwards again, as far as his )hains would allow, and his bla)k eyes were pools of oil, su)king her soul down
into their lightless depths. '5ut, )hild, the assassin that killed the 1ight #aunter was not the first to seek him out'
'She was the last of a long line. " line that he had evaded at every stroke. " line whose endless attempts had
e&hausted him beyond his desire to retaliate. #e had endured enough, do you understand4 #e was the hunter* #e
was the first, and the mightiest* #e ruled the shadows* #e reigned in the ,ark* "nd then his father res)inded his
san)tion, and at the end of the :reat 6rusade, before the #eresy had even begun, he was brought before his lord
and his brothers, humiliated, and held to a))ount. ,id he betray the Emperor's honour, then4 ,id he e&)use his
a)tions by telling the truth4 5y revealing to his kin their father's dupli)ity4 1o. ?oyalty gripped him still, and he
endured his father's derision with boundless humility.'
'I remember the tales...' "n)ient te&ts swam through %ita's memories, the e)hoing spa)es of dusty libraries vivid in
her mind. '#e atta)ked his brother(primar)h, /ogal ,orn. -here was his loyalty then, 1ight ?ord4'
',om's pomposity infuriated him. -as it not enough that he had toed his father's line, without the )hiding of
ignorant fools4 f )ourse his temper snapped. -hose would not have4'
%ita opened her mouth, a suitably a)idi) reply prepared, but stalled herself. There was little a)id left in her, and
that whi)h remained was )ertainly not dire)ted at the melan)holy )reature suspended above.
'-hat happened4' she breathed.
'%y master was )onfined to his quarters. #e sought time to meditate, to )onfer amongst his honour guard.'
"nd the )onferen)e was interrupted by a bla)k(suited devil. "n assassin, )hild. 8ou understand me4 Sent to kill the
1ight #aunter. Sent to silen)e his outbursts. -ho else )ould have sent him4 -ho else but your holy, righteous
Emperor4 "nd, wit)h, remember' this was long before #orus unveiled his trea)hery and turned from the light*
7That's... that's impossible...'
7The atta)k was foiled and my master flew into a rage. 0inally he re)ognised the truth of his father's so()alled 7;us(
ti)e7. #e fled from the )onferen)e to gather his strength, to )onsider his movements, to fume at the insult of the
attempted murder.
'It was the first of many. 5efore, during and after the #eresy. n Tsagualsa the 1ight #aunter stopped running. #e
built a pala)e that he knew would be his mausoleum, and he awaited the bit)h that would take his head and steal his
'So you see, )hild, the #aunter was not killed for his part in the #eresy. #e was not killed to halt e&)esses or
unsan)tioned behaviour. 1o... no, he was kitted by a father who thought nothin of using him. f twisting him into a
hated monstrosity. f demanding atro)ities and horrors from him to s)are his enemies into submission. f taking
from him everything that was pure, everything that was human, and then repaying the sa)rifi)e with betrayal.
'So tell me this, little wit)h. ,o you still believe you aren't being used4 ,o you still think you'll find some... some
reward in death for your loyal servi)e4 ,o you still think the hatred of the masses is irrelevant4
',o you still think your Emperor loves you, girl4'
If she'd had a stoma)h, if this in)orporeal realm had
taken form and repla)ed her astral self with a physi)al body,
she knew she would be vomiting blood at the disgust that
gripped her. ,isbelief battled )ertainty@ the doubts spiralled
and flo)ked to dominate her whole soul, and like an island sinking beneath the sea, like a ship that had been )onsid(
ered impregnable splintering apart and slipping down into )old and lightless depths, every shred of faith that %ita
"shyn had ever felt in the Emperor of mankind )rumbled to dust.
She peered through her tears, raised the gun, and fired.
The )hains that bound the 1ight ?ord to his )ru)ifi& splintered and unravelled.
>so Sahaal smiled a savage smile, and tore free of the prison inside his own mind, to re)laim what was his.
'-e are )oming for you*'
,0attle cry of the *iht 'ords 'eion AE&)ommuni)ate TratorisB
IT 3%S *4T a entle awakenin.
He arose from the mire of sleep , that psychic trap that the warlock had constructed around him , with red rae in his
eyes and e#ery muscle tihtenin toether. He felt the cords stand out on his neck. He felt the knuckles of his hands
strain aainst the flat blades of his claws! brandished before him like a be#y of swords. He felt the talons of his feet ,
autoreacti#e pinions studdin the periphery of each boot , scratchin at the metallic floor on which he-d awoken!
pushin him upwards.
%ll without conscious thouht. %ll at the whim of his fury alone.
He felt the rush of boilin air as his 8ump pack swooned to life! and the di55yin acceleration as he left the round.
He felt the soup of hormonal insanity that was his armour-s chem,boost deployin into his flesh like a
li/uid sih! and for the first time he did not strule aainst it. For the first time he welcomed its unsubtle burst6 he
drew its burnin promises into his blood as if acceptin a second layer of armour! and he opened his mouth and
screamed like a flamin banshee.
There was alien blood patternin his claws before his mind had fully thrown off the shackles of slumber.
They had not e"pected his re#i#al! that much was clear. He was upon them like a lion before e#en they! blessed with
lihtnin reactions and impossible race! could react. The first he clo#e in two with contemptuous ease! turnin
away and rollin as he touched down from a shallow swoop! tumblin onto his in8ured shoulder and sprinin
upriht. % second startled "enoen appeared before him! fumblin for its weapon! and he tore throuh its frail
chestplate as he rose. The tips of his claws slipped so far throuh eldar meat that they cracked the inner orbs of the
alien-s eye,slits! like branches rowin from within. He shook the body away and leapt onwards! luminous fluids
dri55lin clear.
Somewhere in the crucible of his peripheral senses he reistered the tusked in/uisitor! standin ao with the
&orona clutched in his lo#ed finers! and he di#erted his aerial leap towards the astonished fiure! foroin the
ure to rampae out of control. 0eyond! in the decorous shadows of the doorway from the lassy bride! he could
see the witch rise roily to her feet! held helpless in the rin of #iilant ser#itors. Inwardly Sahaal spared a curious
thouht for how lon had passed since he was first knocked unconscious. His communion with the youn psyker
seemed to ha#e lasted a lifetime! whilst in reality scant seconds had passed.
The warlock had not yet placed his eleant finers upon the horned crown.
1or shall he*
*o sooner had the defiant thouht arisen than the antlered fiend itself swept into his path! staff crooked. Sahaal
bunched his muscles! preparin to dip aside! to dode the blast of astral fire the creature was doubtless summonin!
when a wall of pain unlike any he had felt before caromed into and throuh him.
Strikin with unerrin accuracy! satisfied that its taret was otherwise enaed with its warlock master! one of the
caperin "enos had fired its catapult unnoticed6 a spinnin shuriken slippin deep into the heart of the rie#ous
wound upon his shoulder! unhindered by armour.
It all but se#ered his arm.
Howlin! strulin to shut out the aony! feelin numbness rippin the dead limb! Sahaal-s fliht,arc stalled and
he twisted in the air! his remainin arm rippin uselessly at nothinness. Thus crippled! slippin towards a ruinous
impact! he was ill prepared for the warlock-s shrewd inter#ention.
'ihtnin enulfed him for the second time. % thick strand of auss power burst from the creature-s blade,tipped
staff! needlin its way past flesh and bone! sinkin do,toothed 8aws into the pulp of his mind. %s before! it tweaked
at his doubts. It blossomed beneath fields of uncertainty and sadness and ured him to yield! to withdraw! to lock
himself away within his own psyche.
It bid him spiral away into blackness.
It stroked at his mind and soothed him! coa"in him to surrender.
1ot this time, warpspaum.
This time he was forewarned. This time his mind was not so easily o#erturned! his #ulnerable uncertainties were
buried away! and his muscles could no more be o#erridden than his bitterness could be neutralised.
%bo#e all he was in the rip of a rae of such purity! such strenth! that the warlock-s machinations could do nothin
to deter it.
This time all the psychic tamperin in the world could not stop him. He was a 8uernaut of phosphorous hate! and
he would not be denied his fill of slauhter.
He descended like a swoopin hawk! ineffectual psionic incandescence cracklin like a halo around him! and
punched his remainin claws throuh the alien-s antlered helm with a whoop. 0lood and bone scattered like
shrapnel! and throuh its splattered clouds his momentum carried him and his #ictim-s limp body down to the
round! smearin the creature-s fluids across his face and his armour.
The remainin eldar reacted as if electrified. They spoke not a word! e"chaned not a lance! and fired not a sinle
shot. turnin as one and rushin , blurring , towards the briht #orte" from which they had issued. It swallowed
them and dissol#ed6 a pinprick of suspended flame that dwindled and died in their wake.
Sahaal dropped to his knees and shook the warlock-s body free from his claws! e"haustion finally o#erwhelmin
him. He felt as if he-d spent an eternity strulin6 as if he couldn-t remember a time without pain and #iolence. The
wound at his shoulder continued to bleed! coaulation impaired by the sli#er of alien metal embedded deep within!
and e#ery mo#ement sent daers throuhout his body.
He could see already he would ne#er use the arm aain.
%nd then slowly! eyes rollin in their sockets with planetary patience! he lifted his a5e to find the thief. The #illain.
The 'ord In/uisitor Ipo/r >austus.
-Ser#itors9- the tusked man yelped! backin away! his arms wrapped around the &orona like a child clutchin at its
fa#oured toy. -2rotect me9 2rotect me9-
%cross the room the bron5e machine,men tilted heads to reard their controller! and swi#elled 8ointed limbs towards
him. The witch stood dumfounded as they stalked away from her! released abruptly from their attention.
->ill it9- >austus shrieked! stabbin a finer towards Sahaal. ->eep it away from me9- He staered throuh the
machines- midst! racin for the doorway beyond them and freedom! takin the &orona *o" with him.
Sahaal sihed. He should ha#e known it wouldn-t be so easy.
4nce more! like the bitter twist at the end of a sick 8oke! he watched his sacred pri5e dwindlin into the distance.
The ser#itors closed in. It seemed he was not yet finished with the day-s #iolence.
%nd then the hi#e shook. From base to tip it shuddered6 it creaked and roaned as ancient metals strained! and into
its colossal walls there thumped massi#e! fiery ruinous craters.
It seemed as if #olcanoes had opened across the city-s flanks. The sky bla5ed with tumblin fire! e#ery face in e#ery
part of the hi#e tilted up to stare in wonder at the /uakin ceilin! and in a ruined chamber near the peak of the
central palace a crippled Space +arine of the *iht 'ords 'eion smiled a bloody smile! rose to his feet! and faced
the machine aressors closin upon him with his #iour abruptly renewed.
They-re here!= he hissed! to no one but himself. They-re here9-
+IT% &%14+E$ I*T4 In/uisitor >austus like a #eneful meteor.
She couldn-t say e"actly what she was thinkin. For days her mind had seemed to be a war5one. torn apart! artillery,
blasted and entrenched! a ra#aed land with its so#ereinty contested. If the analoy was #alid! then the *iht 'ord-s
re#elations had been cyclonic warheads6 e&terminatus missiles to cleanse her tortured thouhts of any rational
If once her mind was a war5one! now it was a wasteland.
The Emperor had betrayed his own son! and in so doin had shown himself capable of breathtakin duplicity. How
could she o on now! turnin the other cheek at e#ery hateful comment! e#ery declamatory -abomination9- or
-mutant9- hurled at her in the street! no loner safe in the knowlede that the Emperor lo#ed her;
How could she o on with the suspicion that she was bein used. a tame little monster! manipulated and abused!
only to be cast aside when no loner desired;
The answer! of course! was that she could not. 3hat! then! was left for her;
*othin. *othin ob#ious.
% wasteland.
%nd now she found herself released from the unpoint attentions of the o#ernor-s ser#itors! alone in an unfamiliar
place! unbalanced by cripplin /uakes that struck the hi#e and shi#ered e#ery centimeue of its enormity6 and
amonst it all there was only a sinle detail to which she could clin.
2austus, you bastard.
This is all your fault*
He tried to flee past her! the &orona held to his chest in tremblin finers6 and the fact that he inored her! that his
eyes barely dipped towards her! simply enraed her further. She was beneath his reard! clearly. a creature so
ineffectual that he barely paused as she stepped into his path and! with a feral shriek! launched herself at him.
She miht as well ha#e attempted to tackle a stampedin ro".
1eboundin from his power armour with a thump and a sharp crackle , a rib! she uessed! blinkin throuh sudden
pain , she had a brief limpse of the *iht 'ord throuh the smoke and ice! spinnin and swoopin amonst the
ser#itors. In that blurrin tableau he seemed to her to be a der#ish6 a od of blade and fliht! dancin between
unfire and slashin at the unresistin metal of his foes.
She wondered if he would come to her assistance if she cried out.
She wondered if she would accept his help if he offered it.
The hi#e roaned aain! dust and smo loosened from the ceilin as titanic forces shook it! and in his haste to flee
>austus stumbled. +ita sei5ed the opportunity without thinkin! screwin up e#ery last #estie of her inner strenth!
drawin deep on reser#es that she barely knew e"isted! and lashed out with a pulse of psychic force.
She could not in#ade the in/uisitor-s mind. That wouldn-t stop her from crushin his body.
The force of her own attack astonished her. The in/uisitor was blasted from his feet as if struck by a renade!
shredded chaff from his robes scattered upon the air. The &orona slipped from his rasp and skittered across the
floor! skiddin in eldar blood. 0eneath the torn au5e of >austus-s cloak +ita could see that the #ery plates of his
armour had been splintered6 reat cracks scuttlin across chest and thihs as if struck by an in#isible hammer.
!=W this what I've been repressing4 she wondered! da55led. !=W this what my faith has been denying me4
7nfettered by ritual and prayer! unblinkered by needless de#otions! the truth was as radiant as the warp itself.
The Emperor does not give me my power. %y tutors lied*
It is my own*
She was on >austus in a flash! straddlin his wide chest and beatin knuckles across his nose. It snapped with an
unpleasant crackle! so she punched it aain! and aain! #entin the maelstrom of frustration and resentment that had
been buildin in her soul for weeks.
-0astard...- she hissed between blows! catchin her breath! -...warp damned empty,skulled bastard9-
He reco#ered faster than she-d anticipated. Stunned or not! bleedin from a do5en rents! he was still an in/uisitor. He
still wore armour desined for the anels of the %deptus %startes. She should ha#e known he wouldn-t stay down so
-Fool irl9- he roared! throwin her off. -3here is it; 3here is it;- He draed himself upriht and cast anry eyes
across the floor! huntin the &orona *o". Spottin its oily rin! already atherin a frosty patina! he luned for it
with a cry of triumph! once more forettin the psyker that had brouht him down.
+ita was ready for him. She knew e"actly what to do.
4ne final effort. 4ne final catchin of her breath! one final reach down into her soul! clutchin for dres of power.
4ne final attempt at the "nimus %otus.
The &orona mo#ed! edin away from the in/uisitor-s raspin finers.
4)arp take you9- he raed! scrabblin after it. -Gi#e it to me9-
"nother )entimetre... another )entimetre...
The crown 8olted to a halt at the foot of an e"hibit plinth6 shadowed beneath whate#er priceless relic , a leather,
bound book! blasted apart in the earlier crossfire , occupied it.
-Ha9- >austus roared! lockin finers around its lossy frame. -+ine9-
+ita smiled! muscles burnin with endless fatiue. -*ot yours! you stupid bastard!=
%nd the security ser#itor that hun from the #aulted ceilin abo#e the sined plinth blinked its metal eyes! ratcheted
its sla#e,linked weapons towards the intruder it sensed below! and opened fire.
>austus fell apart like rotten meat.
Smoke lifted. +ita stared at the shredded morsel that remained of her master with confused feelins6 triumph
strulin aainst shame. Somewhere! out in the smoke and fire! the *iht 'ord shrieked and another ser#itor
collapsed to the round! torn apart. +ita barely heard it. >austus was still ali#e. Cust.
-&... cle#er...- he smiled! blood slippin in frothin streamers from his mouth! patternin his tusks like scarlet totems.
He winced! pain consumin his ruined form. -&le#er trick...-
She nodded! frownin. Somethin strane had happened to the in/uisitor-s mind! like a cloud passin from before
the sun! and abruptly she found herself able to feel it! able to skim its surface emotions , pain! mostly , 8ust as she
could anyone else. %bruptly she understood.
The eldar!= she whispered! thunderstruck. They-#e been controllin you from the beinnin...-
-(.,.yes. &,came to me before I recruited you. $id thins... hkk... thins to my brain. Th,the #oices... oh God,
-3hy; 3arpdammit! >austus , why3
#...hah... 3ho knows; S,sometimes... sometimes the control faltered. Sometimes I could think clearly... nnk... hear
their whispers... It meant nothin...-
She remembered the moments of uncertainty! the troublin instants in which his mind had seemed to con#ulse6
briefly #isible to her psychic senses.
She-d feared for his sanity. If only she-d known the truth. He-d been a puppet! strulin to cut his own strins.
That-s why you let me li#e...- she said! understandin flourishin. %nother blast rocked the hi#e! tremors slippin
throuh ice and steel. She inored it. it was all
backround noise! irrele#ant. That-s why you ne#er had me e"ecuted!=
He struled to speak! blood puddlin beneath him. -I th,thouht... I thouht I could o#ercome it... The #oices ,
Emperor preser#e me , I... I thouht I could resist. 1,1 was wron. 0ut sometimes... nn... sometimes I could... could
fool them. I made them think you would be a help. I... I recruited you. They wanted me to kill you b,but... 0ut I
knew... I knew you-d be the one... to set me free...-
The liht went out of his eyes. The &orona fell from his hand and rolled! slick with blood! wobblin as it tumbled!
and she lifted it as it passed her! blinkin tears from her eyes.
Such a simple thin. Such a little thin.
%nd then the world went white! and the allery room pitched like a sinkin ship! and the wall beside her was torn
away like paper! crumpled in hands of ra5or steel.
Ice swarmed in throuh the rent! and with it came a wa#e of such aony that she screamed and screamed until her
throat was raw.
2ain filled the uni#erse. % shriekin like a million banshees drowned her senses! and clouds , worlds , of darkness
stormed into the air. The warp la5ed into reality like a descendin blade! and e#ery liht that had e#er e"isted was
snuffed! e#ery happiness was shredded! e#ery /uiet 8oy and instant of ecstasy was swallowed up and burned away.
% iant stood at the threshold of the shredded wall. It folded wins of tattered leather6 wins that slipped between
material and ether as if on fire! #entin smoke and ash. It mo#ed on les of incorporeality6 it bled across the spaces
of the ca#ern like an echo of a fiure.
It was not real.
It was more than real.
It was &haos i#en form.
%nd throuh psychic torture that blinded her! throuh the shriekin of warp,beasts that e"ploded her ears! throuh
coils of darkness that snared her soul and promised damnation to all who felt their touch! she saw the *iht 'ord
:so Sahaal staer from the smoke and frost! arm hanin limp! face bleedin from a do5en cuts! and stare up at the
#ision of terror incarnate that had defiled reality with its presence.
-It-s been a lon time! %cerbus!= he rowled. -I barely reconise you!=
HE 3%S T44 late.
He knew it the instant his ancient brother insinuated himself upon the chamber! like an infection takin root. There
was no place for focus! here. *o hope of reclaimin his master-s leacy. *o hope of inflictin order and control
upon a creature so utterly lost to &haos.
The daemon prince that had once been >rie %cer,bus paused! shadows shiftin despite its stillness! and eyes that
had once been human lared down upon Sahaal and narrowed.
-(ou-re smaller than I remember...- it said! amused. Its #oice was a thin of minled screams and the echoes of
tortured souls! harmonised and directed. It bypassed sound and arri#ed fully formed! like a miraine! in the centre of
Sahaal-s brain.
He fouht the ure to #omit. The creature radiated despair as a fire emits heat! and he felt it coil throuh
his senses! churnin his confidence to paste! reducin e#ery triumph he had e#er en8oyed to failure.
That the creature was >rie %cerbus was beyond doubt. He was chaned almost beyond belief! but still there
remained about him some essence of self6 some e"pression of his eyes! perhaps! that betrayed his identity. He had
always seemed monstrous to Sahaal. now his outward appearance had merely altered to reflect its inward
He had rown massi#e. 3here once there had been armour now there was iron flesh6 li#in warpstuff that writhed
and tihtened! swarmin with wicked runes. He was no loner a thin of corporeality6 that much was clear. In e#ery
dimension he hosted and hardened! then faded to smoke! as if uncomfortable with solidity. burnin with immaterial
eneries that flared not with liht! but with dark. Smoulderin emissions poured from his lon limbs like steam from
a smithy! tentacles of shadow buled from his spine! and when he mo#ed! when he unfurled the shadows that
crooked upon his shoulders like a #ulture-s wins! it was as if the e"istence of liht itself was forotten. It was as if
perpetual niht had arisen! and mornin would ne#er arri#e.
%t the tips of arms so lon they plucked at the floor! claws littered and spat sparks. fored not from flesh nor metal!
but from the raw stuff of darkness itself. They made the air bleed.
-3here!= Sahaal said! pushin down the stiflin failure! denyin it for a sweet second loner! bolsterin himself with
foundationless courae! -is my 'eion;-
The beast crooked its pale face! sneered throuh lip,less 8aws! and aimed a smokin talon at the rent in the wall.
Sahaal approached the torn metal like a cripple6 limpin from more wounds than he could count! wincin at e#ery
mo#ement! his dead arm hanin by a ner#eless thread at his side.
The skies of E/ui"us were on fire.
%n orbital bombardment had been the first step. Great litterin teardrops of incandescence flared below the clouds!
hurtlin down at impossible speeds to inflict ruinous tears across the city-s surface. Those few defences untouched
by the Shadowkin attacks were picked clear one by one! oued from the surface like tumours! and with each impact
shredded metal churned up and out! the hi#e wobbled as if shaken to its core! and thousands upon thousands died.
The 1aptors followed the bombardment! and in the face of their di55yin descents Sahaal-s hopes were crushed
further. These were not the aile warriors whose kind he had created. These were not the assault s/uads he had
formed and trained an aeon ao6 spreadin amonst the other 'eions as their successes became leend. These were
not the 1aptors he knew.
They came like daemon #ultures! chainswords snarlin! pistols flarin in the snow,choked sky. They whooped and
cackled and shrieked! and their twisted armour shimmered with unholy liht! like an ember-s dyin low. Ghastly
deathmasks patterned ancient helmets! crooked forwards in beak,like snarls and a/uiline rimaces. They flocked
abo#e the hi#e like carrion birds! atherin for a feast! and when they di#ed toether the sky was filled with their
ululations and the hissin of whate#er unnatural forces buoyed them up. They were a plaue! Sahaal thouht! and as
they #anished one by one inside the wounds of the hi#e-s surface he slipped to his knees! his mind rebellin aainst
what it witnessed.
%nd then the warriors themsel#es. a rain of drop pods and assault craft that #omited from the hea#in stormclouds!
smashin aainst the city-s shell like hammers poundin an#ils. In lihtnin,flash tableau" and the stolen flare of
detonatin munitions Sahaal could limpse the ranks of his so,called brothers as they fell upon the crowds within.
0lue and bron5e whirlwinds. 3ithout race or poise. Fren5ied. 4ut of control. 7tterly &haotic.
The *iht 'ords descended upon E/ui"us like a bloody rain! and the screams of the population drowned out e#en
the howlin of the perpetual ice storm. h, my master... -hat have they done4 -hat have they be)ome4
The failure was a firebrand! slippin into his eyes. It was a tidal wa#e6 the bow,blast of a superno#a! rollin and
boilin to de#our him whole. It settled on his shoulders like the weiht of the ala"y itself! and he felt e#ery bone in
his body splinter to dust! e#ery blood #essel burst! e#ery atom of e#ery part of him split and die. He was too late.
He wondered if he-d already known! deep within himself. 2erhaps he had always known6 since awakin in the
ruptured belly of the $mbrea Insidior. Too lon had passed. Too many centuries had lided by! bereft of his
influence and leadership. His master had chosen him as his heir to brin focus to a 'eion in peril6 to unite a body
that threatened to tear itself apart6 to offer some measure of temperance aainst the whisperin seductions of power
and rae. He had been selected as the 'eion-s deli#erance from corruption! and he had not been present to fulfil his
4ne hundred centuries , unuided! unprotected ,was more than lon enouh to succumb.
The $aemonlord %cerbus hissed behind him! delihted by the carnae enacted below. Howls rose like smoke. the
shrieks of dyin men! the moans of tortured women! the tears of youths.
-This is without purpose...- Sahaal whispered! a5in down into the flames. -3here is the sense in this; Ha#e you no
worthier tarets than women and children;-
-E#ery taret is worthy!= the $aemonlord breathed6 wa#es of despair carryin his #oice. -%nd the purpose...; 'ittle
Talonmaster! do you not remember our master-s lessons; The purpose is fear. It is always fear!=
Sahaal turned to face the abomination! tears in his eyes! and abo#e him it drew sensuous claws across its incorporeal
chest! eyes closed! face upturned! as if sa#ourin a fine scent.
-$o you taste it;- it whispered. -$o you taste the terror of this world; It is... mm... it is into"icatin.
Sahaal felt disust enulf him.
-(ou dare to lecture me on the *iht Haunter-s lessons;- he snarled! aner rippin him! breakin throuh the shame
and failure like a hatchin beast. -(ou dare, when you-#e fallen so far from his wisdom; Fear is the weapon! fool!
not the oal9-
The de#il crooned! maw spreadin in deliht.
-%h... 1ihteous little Sahaal. How I ha#e missed you...-
-'ook at you9 'ook at what you-#e become9 (ou-#e spat in the face of his leacy. Ha#e you no shame;-
-4ur master-s leacy li#es! little Sahaal!= The beast brandished a fist! clenchin claws toether. Throuh me! it
Sahaal-s bolter was in his hand before he had e#en considered drawin it.
(ou are not fit to call yourself a *iht 'ord!= he said! and s/uee5ed the trier.
The %orda& Tenebrae spat shells like a hateful draon. 3ith e#ery blast he saw his master-s haunted features! heard
his soothin words. 3ith e#ery shell he whispered his master-s name.
%nd then the smoke cleared! and he saw that he-d barely scratched the monster-s skin. Throuh boilin frost clouds
and shiftin shadows its eyes burned! and before Sahaal had e#en reistered mo#ement its reat paw slipped from
the smo and swatted him like a fly. His armour cracked. He crossed the room on his back. (ou!= %cerbus said!
pouncin across him at a speed inconcei#able in a creature so massi#e! holdin him down with in#isible cords of
warpstuff and pokin with child,like interest at the wound on his shoulder! -should ha#e more respect for your lord!=
His whole body burned. Each #icious slash,stab! each playin prod of the daemon-s claws! was a uni#erse of aony
compressed upon his brain. %cerbus ate his fear and crooned to himself. (ou-ll ne#er be my lord9- Sahaal stormed!
reser#es of rae spillin throuh the cracked edes of his soul. The Haunter chose me9 != was the heir to the &orona
-'ittle Sahaal. 'ittle Sahaal...- the beast shook its head! smoke oo5in from burnin eyes. -So foolish... (ou were
ne#er its heir. (ou were merely its keeper!= -Spare me your lies! scum9 'et me up9 Fiht me9- '#a... Ha#e you ne#er
considered! little Sahaal! that >onrad &ur5e intended all of this;- -How dare you speak his n,-
-He had seen his own death. He had tasted die future. (ou know that. It plaued him all his life!=
4)... 3hat of it;-
-$o you truly belie#e! foolish little Sahaal! that he had not foreseen your disappearance; $o you truly belie#e he did
not know you would be lost to this ala"y for ten thousand years; Ha#e you ne#er asked yourself why he would
allow such a thin;-
-I... I...-
'ihts buled before his eyes. His world /ui#ered around him.
It couldn-t be true. The Haunter had ne#er foreseen it9
%cerbus-s #oice was a poisoned needle! pumpin to"ins into his brain. -4f course he knew!- it hissed. -He understood
his own soul better than anyone. He understood the di#ision in his heart. He understood the choices before him!=
-0ut he chose me... he chose me9-
-He chose me, Sahaal. He knew that he was two men. 4ne was... 8ust and rihteous,- the daemon spat the words!
disusted -,whilst the other... mm... the other had felt the kiss of &haos all its life. 4ne thri#ed on focus. The other
ate fear*
-%nd he chose the first! damn you9 He spurned &haos9 He chose me9-
-*o!= The claws scooped at the flesh of his shoulder! initin e#ery ner#e in his body. The #oice was relentless!
crumblin e#ery bastion of his resistance. -He fooled himself. He was di#ided! but the dark side was stronest. He
had foreseen the fate of the &orona! so he be/ueathed it to you. He set you to chase after it like some #apid do!
doomed to an era of sleep. He sent you away! so your... ha... your worthy witterins could not obscure his #ision.
His #ision of a 'eion that
sowed fear in his name. % 'eion to eat the terror of the Imperium. He knew you would ne#er accept such a thin.
He knew you had to be remo#ed!= The beast leaned down! so close that its faned maw all but touched Sahaal-s
cheek. Hot breath washed o#er him. -He condemned you to your prison! little Sahaal. He e&iled you*
-*o9 (ou-re lyin9 If that were true he would ha#e simply killed me9-
-%nd lea#e the &orona unuarded; 'ea#e his killer to steal it; 7se your sense! Sahaal!=
-0ut he told me e#erythin9 The... the sanctioned enocides9 The Emperor-s betrayal9 The assassin before the
-'ies. The whispers of his &haotic side! pourin poison in the ear of his #irtuous self. 2erhaps... hah... perhaps he
e#en belie#ed it himself!=
Sahaal-s brain collapsed upon itself. This would not stand. He could not allow himself an instant-s doubt. He could
not permit the suestion , the suspi)ion ,that %cerbus spoke the truth. To do otherwise would be to make a lie of
e#erythin he had e#er belie#ed! and e#erythin he had struled to achie#e.
The $aemonlord was wron. That was all there was to it.
(ou-re lyin! warpshit9- he snarled! spittin in the creature-s face. The &orona is mine9 He a#e it to me9- -%h... ah
yes! the &orona. I ha#e been without it lon enouh. I think I should like to ha#e it now!= The creature du claws
further into Sahaal-s wound! twistin with a #icious rin. -3here is it;- % #oice spoke from nearby. -It-s riht here!
you bastard!=
It was the witch. 'ittle +ita %shyn! the woman who had set Sahaal free. She stood with blood pourin from
her eyes! les shakin at the tumult of psychic re#ulsion pourin from the monster! the &orona brandished before
her like a halo of darkness. She looked on the #ere of insanity and death! and were it not for a sinle detail! a sinle
redeemin facet! Sahaal miht ha#e cursed her for all of eternity! for presentin the pri5e to the $aemonlord.
In her spare hand she held a melta un , prised! no doubt! from the dead finers of a broken ser#itor.
She smiled.
The melta,stream hit %cerbus full in the chest! and he barrelled away from it as if struck by a roue meteor. The
indistinct tentacles that held Sahaal down whipped away! tanled amonst the de#astation of the tumblin beast. It
roared so hard that the hi#e seemed to shake! fle"in and mewlin at a wound on its front6 as if a reat scoop had
been plucked from its flesh. 1aw warpstuff , li/uid ore that limmered and dissol#ed e#en as it touched the air ,
eysered from the crater! becomin smoke and ether before e#en hittin the round.
Sahaal was on his feet and sprintin before the beast-s collapse was complete. He had no enery to speak of! his
mind was a wreckae without hope of sal#ae! and e#ery truth he had e#ery belie#ed had been stolen from him. In
all the world! in all the brutal realities of the ala"y! one thin alone held any meanin.
The &orona9- he roared! leapin towards the witch. -Gi#e me the &orona9-
%cerbus was faster.
'ike a strikin crow! like shadow,wreathed lihtnin! he was on her! swattin Sahaal aside with a deft flick of his
midniht claws and pinionin her to the floor! reat tendrils of smoke and shadow tihtenin
around her arms and ankles! wins openin like a canopy of perpetual niht. The melta un crumpled in his rip.
She screamed and screamed and ne#er stopped. The $aemonlord leaned close to her face! runnin a broad tonue
across her cheek. -+m...- he mewled! into"icated. -Her fear is... e&quisite...'
Sahaal leapt at his brother with a wordless howl! stabbin out with claws outstretched! hackin throuh semi,real
pseudopods of smoke and dark. The $aemonlord spun to face him! spined shoulders litterin in constellations of
darkness! amused at the crippled warrior-s truculent attack.
&law met claw like the peelin of ra5or bells! and for lon instants the pair slashed and stabbed! parryin blows that
would split a man in two. Sahaal found himself dancin between bloody,tipped blurs! leapin abo#e #eneful thrusts
and spinnin throuh blows like hail! ne#er more than a moment ahead of his foe-s attacks. %cerbus was playin
with him. ?et him.
Sahaal chaned tack with a feral rowl. Twistin his body! wincin as wounds reopened and ribs crackled at
unpleasant contortions! he slipped away from the sa#ae blades and pounced towards +ita. 0lows landed on his
back! ashin him open! floodin his senses with fire and fear! but none of it mattered. 4nly the &orona.
He cut the witch free of the boilin limbs that held her and draed her to her feet! ore pourin from his wrecked
body. Holdin her tiht aainst his shoulder with his one useful arm! he staered with her towards the reat rent in
the wall and stared out at the shiftin tempests of E/ui"us. Ice bathed him. a fro5en baptism
to cleanse his tormented mind. Somewhere behind him the $aemonlord realised what was happenin6 howlin at the
thouht of his prey-s escape. Sahaal bunched his les6 final reser#es of enery pushin him out into the #oid.
'et the storm swallow him. 'et the ice enfold him.
'et the darkness claim him as its own.
He had the witch. The witch had the &orona. *othin else mattered.
%nd then the daemon oo5ed from the smoke at his back with a roar! fire spoutin from hate,filled eyes! and snatched
at the witch-s arm.
The limb parted from its shoulder with a wrench and a sticky slurp.
The &orona *o" tumbled from slack finers and spun! tiltin and flippin o#er! catchin the fireliht of a dyin
world in a sinle lorious reflection,
,and then it was one. tumblin end o#er end into the smoke and the fire and the ice! dwindlin away alon the sides
of the hi#e until darkness swallowed it.
The witch screamed! blood pulsin from the open wound. The $aemon 2rince >rie %cerbus roared so loud that the
windows of the allery room burst! like droplets fallin from a fountain.
%nd :so Sahaal! the Talonmaster! heir to the throne of the *iht 'ords 'eion! pushed himself out into the #oid ,
his 8ump pack flarin in the endless dark! the witch howlin from her perch upon his ruined shoulder , and chased
his leacy down into the abyss.
He would not i#e up.
The &orona *o" would be his.
He would brin the #eneance of the *iht Haunter upon the heads of those that stood in his way.
4ne day he would kill >rie %cerbus. He would lead his 'eion once more.
4ne day he would descend from the skies of Holy Terra! and set his claws upon the bulwarks of the 2alace itself.
4ne day! in the name of his master! he would ha#e his re#ene upon the Traitor Emperor. "ve ,ominns 1o&*
<e)' 6ongresium Oenos
,is' Inq. <alinus
6onduit <ath' Tarith(
/ef' l1QJQKF(FF
Sub' ,isappearan)e,P2austus
I*&I$E*T %T E<7I?7S %y lords,
I have set foot upon Equi&us, and I believe it is a memory that shall haunt me until my death.
8ou will re)all that I was dispat)hed some weeks ago to investigate the disappearan)e of Inquisitor Ipoqr 2austus.
"t the point of my departure he had failed to engage the ordo in routine report for three )onse)utive years. -hilst
hardly an e&)eptional hiatus, given the )landestine nature of his work, this was )onsidered un)hara)teristi).
2austus's re)ord indi)ates a level of assidiousness in su)h matters that rendered his silen)e troubling and, in the
name of our blessed organisation, I set out to follow his trail in earnest.
%y lords, I shall not burden you with the oblique )ourse upon whi)h the sub;e)t had meandered. f most relevan)e
are surely his final movements' a brief Aand indeed unoffi)ialB visitation aboard the 2er#iilium 4culus! and an
even more )ontrite stay at the Inquisitorial fortress(world Safaur(Inquis Aalso unre)ordedB. #is rende.vous with the
former, as )han)e would di)tate, )oin)ided with its )ommission by %unitorum offi)ials as a san)tioned surveillan)e
)raft, tasked with maintaining a dis)reet wat)h over the eldar )raftworld 'Iyanden'. #is presen)e on Safaur Inquis is
less opaque, although it is known that he re)ruited a new interrogator ( a woman named "shyn ( during his visit.
0rom there the trail takes the erstwhile inquisitor to the hive(world Equi&us, and here my investigation bore fruit. It
is impossible to state with any )ertainty why 2austus and his retinue travelled here Aalthough, given the high
in)iden)e of Tauist )ells amongst worlds in this region, perhaps we may spe)ulate4B, but we )an be very )lear on a
single point'
Equi&us is where Inquisitor 2austus died.
"ppro&imately one month before my arrival upon this world, the 1ight ?ords 6haos %arine ?egion des)ended upon
the planet ( for reasons of their own ( and in the )ourse of a single day brought unimaginable )arnage to its people.
I have spent two weeks with my retinue in the anar)hi) wasteland that remains, witnessing the deaths of
hundreds from e&posure and hunger, attempting in vain to un)over some reason for the Traitors' atta)k. I have
found none.
%y lords, the sheer enormity of the slaughter at Equi&us would seem to draw a veil a)ross the investigation.
6ertainly 2austus did not leave the planet ( my %agos 5iologis identified what little remained of his body from
gene(re)ords shortly before our departure ( and it is tempting to think of that, therefore, as the end to the whole
There is, however, a single troubling enigma that )ontinues to allude my logi)'
Telemetry from the aforemention 2er#iilium 4culus indi)ates that a si.eable flotilla of renegade vessels (notably
in)luding the )astitas )ictris Along suspe)ted of harbouring the 1ight ?ords' highest )ommandersB ( was gathering
near to the Iyanden )raftworld at the time of 2austus's visit. 6ogitator matri)es had indi)ated a RF.KS probability
that the 6haos fleet planned to atta)k the )raft(world itself.
The assault never o))urred' for whatever reason the 1ight ?ords diverted their attentions towards Equi&us, sparing
the eldar from harm.
It would be remiss of me to suggest that 2austus in some way pre)ipitated the geno)ide upon Equi&us. The 1ight
?ords have a reputation for impulsive, arbitrary movements, and it is indeed unlikely ( even if he were involved
somehow ( that the presen)e of a single inquisitor would have swayed their plans. 1onetheless, it is a )urious
)oin)iden)e that 2austus was present in ea)h lo)ale that the renegades sele)ted for their muster' a )oin)iden)e that
is ultimately of benefit to nobody e&)ept the eldar.
,id they have a hand in this4 #ad they somehow anti)ipated an atta)k upon their fragile )raftworld, from some
distant point in the past, and sought ( somehow ( to divert it elsewhere4 %y lords, it is unlikely we shall ever know.
2austus is dead. Equi&us has be)ome a morgue. There is nothing else to say.
In Servi)e to the #oly Emperor of %an,
Inquisitor <alinus, rdo Oenos
+( '41$S! F41GI)E this brief posts)ript. I was on the verge of dispat)hing the above report when I en)ountered a fur(
ther, tantalising, nugget of information.
Two days' travel from the Equi&us system is the )olony world 5aih'/us. "s we passed by, preparing to enter the
warp, my )rew e&)hanged routine re)ognition )odes with the long(obsolete )lipper that )omprises the entirety of'.
that worlds' orbital se)urity. $pon re)eipt of Inquisitorial )odes the )lipper's )aptain indi)ated surprise,
questioning aloud why there should be su)h a strong Inquisitorial presen)e in the region. <erple&ed, I demanded to
know what he meant. It transpires that a week ago another vessel passed near 5aih'/us' a small shuttle)raft
formerly registered to the mer)hant starport on Equi&us. -hen hailed the pilot ( a woman ( produ)ed Inquisitorial
re)ognition )odes only slightly inferior to my own. "s is his habit, the )aptain of the )lipper ordered his san)tioned
astropath to )ondu)t a 'head()ount', a psy)hi) sweep to indi)ate )rew numbers. This )ommand was duly obeyed.
Shortly before dying A's)reaming and bleeding like someone took a piss in his brain,' as the )aptain so deli)ately put
itB, the astropath indi)ated the presen)e of two souls aboard ( one male, one female.
-hether relevant to the disappearan)e of 2austus or not, or whether merely a part of a greater pi)ture than I am
presently unable to determine, I felt it wise to bring this
)urious in)ident to your attention. It seems that whatever truly o))urred upon Equi&us, solutions to its mysteries
shall )ontinue to elude us a while longer.
%047T THE %7TH41
Simon Spurrier has been writin since an early ae! successfully ha#in his work published first in the form of
comics and latterly in prose fiction. Since earnin a
deree in Film 2roduction and a bursary to attend the
inauural Screenwritin class of the *ational %cademy
of 3ritin! he has become a fre/uent contributor to
titles such as KGGG",, the -arhammer 6omi) and the
2iega.ine. His prose work includes se#eral short stories
for Inferno* maa5ine and! to date! three no#els. ?ord of
the 1ight is his second 0lack 'ibrary no#el.

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