#3 - Shattered Minds [Part I]

For this week's post, here's a little something I came up with this morning while browsing the Bolter and Chainsword. Feel free to share your impressions in the comments below. Constructive criticism and other kinds of feedback are always welcome.

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After staring at his bloodied hands for what seemed like hours, the armoured giant collapsed onto his knees, the cracking of the concrete surface under his massive weight echoing throughout the ruins of the Imperial settlement. Encased in power armour that had lost much of its sea green colour over time, the giant looked nothing like the god of war he was created to be.

Gone were the days were he stood next to his brothers in battle, advancing towards the enemy, boltguns barking their Emperor-sanctioned fury. Back then, he would feel his heart swell with pride as he saw the many soldiers under his command cut down with cold ruthlessness those who refused to submit themselves to the Pax Imperialis. Initially, all encountered worlds would be given the chance to peacefully surrender and join the ever-growing empire across the stars and many had accepted to heed the words of Terra. But many had also refused to give up their independence so easily. After all, had they not managed to survive on their own through the Age of Strife, cut off from any outside help and often besieged from all sides by hideous alien races and predators of the Warp? Had they not built their own fledgling empires with blood, sweat and tears from the ruins of other civilisations? And what did this new empire have to offer that they did not already have? Distant rule from an emperor that they had never met in person and the collection of tithes to feed uncounted billions on distant worlds were not rewards that many planetary rulers wanted to receive. What they had not expected was the strike that would follow their refusal to bend their knee. With the fighting power of the Astartes, compliance was always achieved, whether it was willing or not. It was with the blood of the Astartes that these worlds were brought into the fold, added to the growing list of planets under the rule of the Emperor. The Astartes lived and died to fight in the Emperor's great crusade across the stars to unite Mankind under one eternal banner. But it was also the Astartes who caused the destruction of the Emperor's dream.

Horus, the brightest and best of all the Primarchs, mighty generals of the Emperor, had been turned from the Emperor's light by dark forces, hidden serpents and his own blinding hubris. He had perceived malign intent within the Emperor's plans and took it upon himself to defy his father. However, this defiance turned into something far more tragic and destructive than anyone could have imagined in their most demented dreams.

Lifting his ashen face to the heavens above, the Astartes gazed into the stars that could be seen between the plumes of rising smoke.

I was created by the Emperor to be the ultimate warrior, I was placed among the company of warriors who would become blood-sworn brothers, I was armed with the ideal of a united species with an empire stretching across the entire breadth of the galaxy and I was led by the most gifted of all the Emperor's sons. And yet all this means nothing to me any more.

Inclining his head forward again, the giant gazed out into the skeletal structures of the old city. The city that he had helped destroy.

I am cursed with the features of my gene-father. I am cursed with the knowledge that I shall forever be recognised as being the son of the Primarch who failed his Legion and was slain at the height of his power. Everywhere I go, my so-called brothers use their serpent tongues to spew forth more words of mockery and spite and yet never possess the courage to openly reveal their corrosive speech when I confront them.

He could hear a distant rumble, barely audible even to his augmented senses. His 'brothers' were searching for him. He tried to rise onto his feet but his legs refused to obey. Cursing, the giant used a collapsed wall to rise. After a few hesitant steps, not unlike the steps of a young child attempting to walk for the first time, the Astartes started looking for his weapon. He found the battered but functional boltgun among the ruins of what was a school. Slamming in a fresh clip and he clamped it onto his thigh plate. After a moment of pause, he observed the bodies of children that were strewn across the blasted floor, like the discarded dolls of some capricious god, their blood seeping through the cracks in the stone tiles. The very blood that covered his armoured gauntlets in dried up flecks.

The distant rumble had grown more audible then stopped. He could now make out the distinctive thump of armoured boots on the concrete surface outside. He was not in the slightest surprised by how quickly they had found him. The trail of carnage he had left in his wake was easily found and led straight to him. Turning away from the corpses, the giant slowly made his way out of the building to meet the newcomers, emerging just behind the pair of black-clad warriors. The nearest of the two snapped his boltgun up and briefly aimed, before relaxing and pointing his weapon to the ground.

"You should be more careful next time, Dagethon. Even a greenskin could walk up behind you and slit your throat."

Dagethon snarled under his helmet and turned to the second Astartes.

"We've found the bastard. Contact Sergeant Ygethddon and tell him that we can finally get off this wretched world."

The last thing Dagethon saw before dying was a Cthonian rune-etched combat blade firmly lodged in his throat, with Horus Aximand's blood-covered gauntlet firmly holding the grip.

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