The Shilwulf Dynasty
Chapter 01 - Resurrecting the Hymn
I go forth to bring judgement where there is heresy,
To bring justice where there is lawlessness,
To bring light where there is darkness.
The road before me is long, but I do not despair
For the Emperor will walk with me.
The ruinous powers seek to destroy me, but I will not fear
For the Emperor will protect me.
And though my journey may end in pain, I will not suffer
For the Emperor will carry me home.
Fiat justitia ruat caelum
Bonum Adversus Malum, XIV:IX
|Present Location:||Crash Landed|
Octavius Shilwulf wakes from a dreamless sleep, the oppressive heat enveloping the rogue trader like a heavy blanket. A scorching breeze blows through the broken windows of the mangled bridge section of the crashed Invictus, bringing no relief from the sweltering temperature.
It started out an easy run. They were to deliver Ethan Libram, a tech priest accused of heretical thinking, to Omnicron 71-DX to stand trial for his crimes. Do the job, collect the thrones and be on their way, right? Not quite.
During transit something went terribly wrong. The navigator called for an emergency drop out of warp, causing their ship to become trapped in the gravity well of a nearby planet. There was barely enough time to whisper a prayer to the God Emperor before the ship crashed.
The bridge tower was torn completely away from the ship on impact, coming to rest at an inclined angle. While the occupants can still get around, they must be mindful of their footing or risk a long tumble down. A large portion of the main hull somehow managed to remain intact, sliding to a halt around 500 meters east from the bridge.
Truth be told, it is a miracle of the Emperor Himself that any of them had survived at all. The uninjured removed the corpses of their fellow crewmen from the wreckage in an attempt to make a habitable shelter. Stranded for over a month, those thousands of bodies have already been claimed by the sudden and frequent sand storms that rage across the surface of this inhospitable planet.
’Cap’n?’ The sonorous voice of Hob, the rogue trader’s bodyguard, draws Octavius out of his overheated daze. ‘Malakai is sensin’ somethin’ with the crew.’
‘We suspected it would come to this,’ the captain sighs, glancing toward the hull wreckage. ‘Honestly I’m surprised it took them this long.’
The chance of mutiny hadn’t been unexpected, of course. Vastly outnumbered, the surviving bosuns could only do so much to quell the growing discontent. After weeks of being trapped on this barren planet with dwindling provisions and almost no hope of escape, it appears what remains of the ship’s crew has finally reached its breaking point.
Malakai sits atop a metal crate, eyes closed, his legs neatly folded beneath him. From afar one might mistake him for meditating, but the tidings the telepath bears are anything but peaceful. Despite the hot temperature, a thin layer of frost covers his perch and a portion of the deck plating beneath, evidence of the psyker’s powerful ability to channel the warp itself.
’They’re coming,’ he reports. ‘Rough count, about a hundred.’
Hob lets loose a mirthless chuckle. ’That’s ‘bout twenty for you, Cap’n, and eighty for me.’
Shilwulf frowns, clearly unamused. ‘These are our own crewmen.’
‘Bunch of traitors you mean.’
Hailing from the jungle death world Mortressa, Hob has found that there are few who appreciate his dark sense of humor. While social conventions may not be his strongpoint, protecting the Lord Captain certainly is. With a honed deadly efficiency, his amber-colored eyes scan the steeply-sloped broken corridor ahead, calculating the most advantageous angle of attack. The broad-shouldered bodyguard places his heavy stubber on the floor, concealing the large gun behind a makeshift barricade of crates.
Other than the shattered void windows, the forty meter long hall provides the only feasible approach to the bridge. As luck would have it, the angle of impact left the void windows far off the ground, leaving them with a highly defensible position. Despite being cut off from most of the supplies contained in the hull portion of the ship, Hob doesn’t mind a little separation between him and the hundreds of crew that want to see the men in this chamber dead.
‘Low on ammo. How much you have left, Cap’n?’
Standing with one foot atop a crate as he keeps watch through the window, Octavius tilts his bolt pistol.
‘Hope you don’t miss,’ Hob grins, slightly bemused at his advantage of wielding a belt-fed weapon. His grin broadens into a smile, a predatory twinkle in his eye. ‘After that, things get bloody.’
‘Indeed they do,’ Octavius agrees solemnly, unconsciously resting his hand on the hilt of his power sword.
Having worked closely together for many years, both men feel the heavy weight of the Mortressan’s words. Neither is a stranger to battle and know better than most that killing men up close and personal is an entirely different situation than naval combat. However, unlike Hob, Octavius doesn’t delight in death-dealing.
At this point, there is little that can dissuade the mutineers from their current course. Either their attackers are going to die or the few men in this last-ditch stronghold are. Truth be told, when all is said and done, the hundred or so would-be murderers coming at the Rogue Trader and bodyguard won’t know what hit them.
‘Should just give them that cursed Leere, Captain,’ Malakai spits bitterly. His previously serene expression has turned to a scowl as his dark eyes glance at the closed doors to the Navigator’s chamber. ’He’s the reason we’re trapped on this damned rock.’
Octavius doesn’t bother to turn to face the old telepath. This has been a conversation they’ve had a few times since the crash. Instead his gaze remains steadily focused on his watch, oblivious to Malakai’s glare.
’You’d rather sit in the repaired ship and starve to death?’ The Lord Captain inquires calmly. ‘Because that’s what will happen if we lose our navigator. Not to mention the gratitude of the Navigator’s Guild should we manage to somehow keep Leere safe.’
Prior to impact, augur reports indicated a small station in orbit above the planet with a singular vessel in dock. Unfortunately, the reports indicated little else – no outposts on the planet’s surface or active ships in the system. Most of the Invictus’s tech priests died in the initial crash, leaving Octavius with few choices.
Located on the extreme fringe of the Calixis Sector, sending out a distress signal from their present position would be a very risky move. Even if another ship did happen to pass close enough to pick up their mayday, the responders would likely be pirates or possibly something even more sinister. The threat of Xenos is ever present, and Octavius would take pirates over encountering orks or tyranids any day.
Even though Libram stands accused of heretical thinking by the Adeptus Mechanicus, he is the only one among them who stands a chance at repairing the derelict vessel. Octavius offered to put in a good word for the tech-priest if he somehow managed to resurrect the dead ship, and Libram agreed to the bargain. He left shortly thereafter with the few surviving acolytes to make the attempt, but that was over two weeks ago.
Deep in thought, the aged telepath runs his hand through his hair. ‘If Libram doesn’t reawaken the machine spirit of that ship soon we’re going to have a full-scale mutiny on our hands, not just a few disgruntled menials.’
Octavius shakes his head, wondering to himself how it is possible that, with each passing year, Malakai seems to actually become more curmudgeonly. The short, bone thin telepath is one of the most obstinate men Octavius has ever met, but is also perhaps the most powerful psyker he has ever personally encountered.
With his long robes in perpetual disarray and wild black hair, Malakai could easily be mistaken for a raving street lunatic. Like many psykers though, he simply operates at a much higher mental capacity than an untouched Imperial citizen. Daily tasks such as getting dressed seem like unnecessary minutia to him. Thankfully, he usually has personal attendants who remind him of such things.
While his powerful telepathic abilities are beneficial, his constant pessimistic attitude is quite wearing, even to those accustomed to his presence. Although Octavius lets it roll off his back, he is fairly certain Hob is but a hair’s breadth from putting his steel-shod magboot right up the old man’s arse.
I wonder if he would see that coming, the Lord Captain muses.
‘Yes I would,’ the psyker replies cooly. The rogue trader smiles to himself, fully aware that Malakai is always reading the surface thoughts of those around him.
Though he doesn’t condone their treachery, Octavius understands why the crew is rebelling. Their scavenged provisions had lasted for quite some time, but the lack of available power has kept essential systems such as water purification permanently offline. The surrounding arid landscape offers nothing in the way of foraging, and with each passing week the atmosphere of desperation becomes more palatable.
Now with supplies dangerously low, the crew is looking for someone to punish. At first they had only demanded the navigator since his call for an emergency drop out of warp was widely blamed as the sole cause for the crash. The Lord Captain’s decision to protect Leere rather than surrender him to the angry mob resulted in the crew quickly turning their ire on anyone loyal to the dynasty.
Malakai is fully aware that the Captain speaks the truth, but he and Leere have never really seen eye to eye. If by some miracle Libram does manage to fix the orbiting ship, they’ll need the navigator to get them home. However, this knowledge does little to dissuade the psyker from venting his anger on those around him.
After several moments of no reaction from the stoic rogue trader, he lets loose an exasperated sigh. ‘This is a mess, Octavius. A damned giant mess.’
A slight frown creeps across the Captain’s battle-scarred face, the faint wrinkles at the corners of his deep blue eyes deepening as he squints into the hot wind. Though over a century old, he still looks like a man in his prime thanks to the luxury of rejuv treatments. He keeps his long black hair in a single thick braid, a custom he adopted during his first command after joining the Imperial Navy.
Normally he would be wearing his long, high-collared officer’s greatcoat, but the brutal daytime heat on this planet prevents such social postures. The hand of his gleaming metallic cybernetic right arm rests on the elaborate pommel of his power sword as he considers the coming storm.
‘Combat servitors have full ammo, Sir,’ Acolyte Narin reports.
Salvaging the five combat servitors had been a major boon for the otherwise outnumbered Captain, but he realized without a tech-priest they would have little hope of maintaining and activating the massive half-man, half-machine guardians. Before Libram and his assistants took a repaired shuttle up to the ship in orbit, Narin volunteered to remain behind.
Octavius nods solemnly.
‘I have already bestowed the Blessing of the Omnissiah. As soon as you give the order, Sir, I will perform the sacred rites of activation.’
Hob notices the look of concern on the Captain’s face, aware of the decision that weighs so heavily on his mind.‘May have to use them. Ammo is runnin’ low, if we can’t manage to frighten the crewmen off-,’
’Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. I don’t think Doctor Marastraza would be too keen on using her servitors to put down our own crew.’
‘Seems to me she’d be less keen on us dyin’ on some no-name planet.’
Being an experienced tactician, Octavius realizes if they can’t manage to break the morale of the mutineers, he and his men will have to use every resource available. Though he isn’t in favor of using Anna’s servitors against his crewmen, survival is their first priority.
I’ll just add it to the list of things I need to make up to her, he reasons to himself.
While serving as a chastener under the Lord Captain’s command, Anna’s brother invited her to join them on a mission. What began as a normal salvage operation unexpectedly turned into something much more sinister. During a desperate attempt to keep his little sister from harm, the Chastener died valiantly in the line of duty.
Overwhelmed by the grief of her brother’s death, Anna became despondent and chose to return to her home planet. Though the circumstances that tore the two of them apart were far beyond anyone’s control, Octavius has always put the blame on himself. For the past three years, he has been attempting to no avail to convince Annatolla to return to the dynasty.
Scratching his scraggly beard, he sighs quietly.
I’d give half the Dynasty just to shave right about now, he thinks to himself.
Not by their own choice, both he and Hob are sporting full, unkempt beards. On a normal day, Octavius would have a neatly-trimmed goatee that shows just enough grey to give him the look of a distinguished gentleman. Usually quite fond of stroking his chin when deep in thought, the overgrown beard somehow doesn’t give the same effect.
Glancing at Narin he feels a twinge of envy. The lower half of the tech acolyte’s face has been replaced by a series of tubes and metal grillwork – a reward for earning the respect of his Adeptus Mechanicus superiors.
One of the benefits of having a metal face, the Captain thinks to himself, then grimaces at the thought. Maybe the only benefit.
Last among them is the navigator, Lazarus Leere. Though Leere was arguably handsome, a chill runs down the Lord Captain’s spine when he considers the more hideous possibilities that lie hidden under the hoods of others of his kind. It is common knowledge that navigators suffer from varied and numerous mutations, an unfortunate and unavoidable hazard of their essential job.
Normal citizens affected by mutation are executed with no questions asked. The navigators alone are an exception to this rule. Not only tolerated but revered in Imperial society, they live a life of luxury and excess that would make even a rogue trader blush. Without the navigator’s ability to guide ships through the warp, the worlds of the Imperium would be cut off from one another, eventually withering and dying.
Dusk begins to fall over the landscape, though it does little to thwart the heat. Octavius takes a few bites of his rations before tucking the remainder away in his pocket. Years in the Imperial Navy trained him to sustain himself on the meager bars of corpse starch for long periods of time. That said, he much prefers the opulent meals the life of a rogue trader affords him.
’They’re almost here,’ Malakai states. His eyes shut in concentration, he surfs over the surface thoughts of the crewmen closing in on the entrance to the corridor.
Activating his vox caster, the Captain addresses the approaching group of traitors.
‘You are ordered to return to your quarters at once. If you ascend to the bridge you will be deemed guilty of mutiny and will be shown no mercy.’
Despite the generous offer, the mob continues toward the long corridor leading to the bridge. The first of the mutineers tenuously peek their heads around the opening at the base of the incline. The noise of the horde dies down for a moment before resurging fervently. As they begin to climb, a few lose their footing and topple backwards, knocking others down. Undeterred, the other mutineers dodge out of the way and continue to scramble uphill.
The Captain keeps a sharp eye on the persistent advance of his once-loyal men. When the mutineers are halfway up the corridor, he judges them committed to betrayal.
Hob stands, swinging the heavy stubber overhead like an axe, catching the forward grip of the gun with his left hand. Pulling back on the trigger, he opens up on the approaching mass of people. The deafening, measured thud-thud-thud of the heavy weapon resonates throughout the enclosed space of the bridge and corridor.
The spray of high caliber rounds tears into the front ranks, causing an avalanche of dead and wounded to start falling backwards. The distinct crack of returning lasgun fire is heard, but the shots are wild. The combined tasks of climbing, dodging falling comrades, and firing a las weapon proves to be too much for the crowd of untrained crewmen.
After a few minutes, the Captain gives the order to cease fire. The gun silenced, all that is heard in the following quiet are the soft moans of the wounded and the gentle metallic clinking of spent stubber shells tumbling down the deck plating. When the smoke clears, a pile of fifty or sixty bodies blocks most of the corridor.
‘The survivors will inform the remaining crew of how many casualties your Captain has inflicted,’ Octavius’s voice booms over the vox caster. ‘We have the tactical advantage and enough stubber ammo to kill the entire lot of you. Stay at your stations until the other ship has been repaired and we can get off this world.’ Through the shattered bridge windows, he watches the few survivors hastily retreat to the shelter of the main hull.
‘Beggin’ your pardon, sir,’ Hob says finally, ‘But I think I inflicted those casualties.’
The two men stare at each other for a long moment before the Mortressan lets out a loud, hearty laugh. He rests the heavy stubber on a large crate before stepping out into the corridor, picking up a las pistol dropped by one of the attackers. Every so often a sharp crack is heard as the bodyguard finishes off one of the wounded.
As the sun sets, the temperature plummets well below freezing. Octavius bundles up in his deep blue heavy greatcoat, his multitude of Naval medals softly clinking as he moves. Two silver wolf heads, the crest of the Shilwulf family, flank his throat on either side of the high collar. They gleam softly in the glow cast by the planet’s two moons, the only light to be found on the bridge tonight.
Though they have the means to provide rudimentary illumination to the chamber, the two military-minded men prefer not to make any would-be sniper’s job too easy. Hob dons his black heavy carapace armor before strapping his mono sword to his waist. He tosses a ration bar to the Captain before taking his place near the window to keep watch.
’Don’t think the two of us alone can keep this up,’ Hob begins. ‘Almost out of ammo. If they come back with more we may have to consider,’ he pauses before nodding toward the servitors. ‘Other options.’
‘We haven’t made it this far to be taken down by some disloyal crew, old friend,’ Octavius replies. He glances briefly in the direction of Leere’s chamber before returning his gaze to the broken hull below. ‘More will come, but we’ll be ready.’
‘Any word from Libram?’
‘Nothing yet.’ Captain Shilwulf looks up at the two serenely glowing moons in the night sky. For a few minutes he allows himself the simple pleasure of enjoying the feel of the chilly wind on his face.
’Cap’n.’ The distinct edge of warning in Hob’s voice snaps the rogue trader from his wandering thoughts.
Distant shapes pour out of the jagged opening to the hull section. Illuminated by what various light sources the crewmen could scavenge, it appears to be a much larger mob than the last.
‘Malakai?’ Octavius asks, his eyes never leaving the crowd.
‘Hundreds, Captain. They’re angry, desperate, fearful. They feel this is their only option.’
Malakai glides easily through the minds of the frenzied mob below, his neutral tone of voice belying the gravity of what approaches. In truth, his state of concentration is so deep that his own emotions hold no sway over the visions he sees. The layer of frost covering the floor beneath the powerful psyker becomes thicker as he reaches out further, trying to scan the entirety of the vast mob, searching for the dominant personalities.
Wasting no time, Hob hauls two large metal boxes over to the stubber, linking the long belts of ammo together for a continuous feed.
’That’s the last of the stubber ammo, Cap’n.’
‘Narin,’ Octavius says, beckoning the tech-priest over.
‘Prep the servitors.’
If the young tech-priest’s voice and eyes weren’t already replaced with cybernetic versions, Octavius is certain there would be excitement in both. A combination of organic and mechanical parts, combat servitors are created from the mortally wounded plucked from battlefields across the Imperium. To the Adeptus Mechanicus, however, the servitors are more than machines, they are blessed creations of the Omnissiah.
Narin begins to recite the sacred rites of activation, pressing a rune on the servitor’s chest.
‘ONLINE,’ the first servitor, Uriel, reports in an unsettling detached monotone. A bulky heavy-flamer stands ready in his hands, the small ignition flame burning steadily. Two solid metal tanks filled with promethium peek just over the top of his wide shoulders.
The tech priest methodically continues on to the others, taking care to check their systems, making certain everything is in working order. One by one, Michael, Gabriel, and Suriel come to life by Narin’s hand. Standing over two meters tall, the guardians’ cybernetic eyes blaze in the darkness like green flames.
With the exception of Uriel, each servitor’s left arm has been replaced by a shoulder-mounted version of a hellgun. A long, thick cable runs from the grip of each weapon to the power supplies mounted on the servitor’s back. The moonlight glints off the savage menacing teeth of their massive, permanently mounted chain weapons in their opposite hand.
‘ONLINE,’ Michael reports, turning his head toward Octavius. ‘What is thy bidding?’
‘Form a defensive line here. Allow no hostiles to pass.’
‘Frak,’ the bodyguard mutters from the spot where he keeps watch. ‘Might want to see this.’
Certain he’s not going to like what he’ll see, Octavius peers around the edge of the window.
’I’d say near a thousand,’ Hob estimates. ‘Even with the servitors we won’t have enough ammo.’
‘Servitors, hold fire until my command.’
‘Acknowledged. Lord Captain Shilwulf,’ Michael responds, his gaze lingering on Octavius for a few moments. Slowly the servitor turns away, joining his brothers at the line.
‘Most interesting,’ Narin muses. ‘Their creator must have included a recognition protocol of some kind.’
‘Hob, fire at will,’ Octavius continues. ‘When your ammo is exhausted I’ll order the servitors to commence firing.’
‘Aye,’ the Mortressan replies, taking his position behind the heavy stubber.
The enraged mob begins the ascent towards the bridge, clambering up the inclined corridor using whatever they can to gain footing. Hob allows the furious mob to get halfway up before unleashing the stubber’s wrath. He emerges from cover, spraying streams of deadly automatic fire down the dark tunnel. Each muzzle flash illuminates the area for an instant, causing the battle to unfold like a series of gruesome still pictures.
With the mob so tightly packed, each shot strikes two or three men as the high velocity rounds tear through their unarmored ranks. This time, however, the attackers seem unaffected by the falling bodies of their comrades. Whipped into a frenzy of bloodlust, they continue to surge forward with renewed ferocity, some even returning fire as they scramble toward the bridge.
A volley of lasgun beams strike the bodyguard. Though most are absorbed by the overlapping ceramite plates of his armor, a few manage to find their mark. Had the attackers been able to maintain a steady aim, the shots could have burned a hole straight through the Mortressan. The stinging pain and smell of his own searing flesh awakens a primal fury in the death worlder, and he lets loose a beastial roar.
Forgoing controlled bursts, Hob pulls the trigger back in his tightly clenched fist. His thickly muscled arms struggle to maintain control of the bucking weapon. Luckily, the horde of men is so tightly packed together he simply can’t miss. Ignoring the pain of his wounds, he keeps firing until the barrel of his stubber glows hotly, stopping only when the gun emits a pitiful click-click-click.
‘Out!’ he calls as he discards the spent weapon. In an instant, he draws his mono sword sheathed on his hips.
‘Hellguns, fire,’ the Captain orders.
In unison, Michael, Gabriel, and Suriel block the entrance and open fire. Vicious-looking deep crimson pulses of hellgun fire pierce the tenebrous corridor, stabbing into the ranks of the encroaching mutineers.
The amount of las fire coming through the door to the bridge becomes more intense as the mob closes the distance. The servitors take several hits, scorch marks marring the surface of their bodies and weapons, but the mechanical defenders continue their task without hesitation. Mere minutes pass, but they seem like hours to the men trapped on the bridge.
‘Some are runnin’,’ Hob reports, glancing through the window. ‘Not enough, though.’
Eventually, even the large power packs of the combat servitors run out and they back out of the line of fire to either side.
The mutineers, drunk with the small victory of making it to the bridge, eagerly swarm up to the open doorway. Their elation is short-lived as Uriel plods into view, blocking their advance with his massive frame. Their joy turns to stares of wide-eyed horror as they lay eyes on the weapon he wields.
‘Uriel. Fire!’ commands the Captain.
Without hesitation, the servitor bathes the terrified mob in a gout of flame. Screams followed by the pungent stench of promethium fumes and burning flesh wash through both the bridge and corridor. The flames drive the mutineers back, sending them scrambling into side chambers to avoid a fiery death.
Incapable of feeling mercy or remorse for the men who burn at his feet, Uriel ceases his attack only when his promethium tanks run dry. With heavy footfalls, he takes his place alongside his brothers. The cacophony of battle dies down briefly as the attackers wait patiently for the flames to die down.
‘Servitors, prepare for melee!’ the Lord Captain orders as he draws his own power sword.
The massive chain weapons roar to life with a loud growl. The mutineers respond with roars of their own as they charge onto the bridge. The machines advance, stepping over bodies and wading into the enemy ranks. With brute force, they sever limbs from some attackers and gouge deep, jagged wounds in others. Showered in the blood of their enemies, their assault is relentless, carving a swath through the seemingly endless torrent of traitors.
Lost to his battle lust, Hob eagerly charges forward to meet some crewmen who manage to slip past the lumbering servitors. Besieged by four attackers of his own, Octavius ends his first assailant’s life with a well placed bolt pistol shot. The explosive shell detonates in the man’s chest, sending a spray of bone shards and blood into the face of the man behind him. The Captain takes a step forward and severs the blinded man’s head even before the first attacker’s corpse hits the ground.
The remaining two men, armed with lengths of pipe, close the distance to avenge their fallen comrades. However, the untrained men are no match for the highly skilled rogue trader. Octavius effortlessly dodges to one side as the first pipe swing swipes the air where he once stood. The second man tries to crush the captain’s skull, but Octavius parries the blow with his cybernetic arm before squeezing off another round of his bolt pistol into the surprised man’s gut.
The Lord Captain takes a step back and swings his blade in a wide arc at his last attacker. Just as he expects, the man instinctively attempts to parry. The length of metal offers no resistance to the powerfield of the high tech weapon as it slices through both the pipe and its wielder. As the two pieces of pipe clatter to the floor, the mortally wounded man stares into the eyes of his killer. The confused and cheated look on the dying man’s face confirms Octavius’s suspicions that this is the lowdeck crewman’s one and only experience with a power sword. He returns the stare with a look of pity as the man falls to his knees.
Hearing Hob growl deeply, Octavius turns from his own dying foe to witness the bodyguard eviscerating one of his enemies. In his fury, the Mortressan is too focused on the slumping body to notice another attacker behind him. The crewmen draws a sharpened length of rusty rebar back like a spear, intending to plunge it deeply into Hob’s back. Octavius aims his bolt pistol and pulls the trigger, the powerful gun barking sharply. An instant later, Hob finds himself showered in the bloody remains of his attacker.
‘Just like old times, eh?’ Hob chuckles, his face awash in gore.
Wearing an expression of absolute fury on his blood-spattered face, the bodyguard has the countenance one might expect to see in religious paraphernalia depicting the great battles of righteous soldiers of the God Emperor. Nimbly he dodges a heavy metal pipe before slamming his huge armored boot into the knee of another mutineer, snapping the man’s leg.
Octavius hears an enraged snarl from behind and turns to see a crewman ready to fire a las pistol at him. Suddenly a chainsword carves into the man’s torso, severing his spine. As the body topples to the ground, the captain looks up into his savior’s face. Michael stands stoically, his weapon returning to a purr.
‘Imperative: Protect ally targets,’ he drones, his gaze lingering once more on the Captain.
‘Leere,’ Octavius shouts over his shoulder, ’It’s time.’
The door to the navigator’s chamber opens. Leere silently appears and Octavius catches the look of surprise on the battle-hardened Mortressan’s face. ‘You suggested we might need to consider other options.’
‘Yeah, but…’ Even the macabre bodyguard grimaces at the thought of what is about to occur.
’He’s all we have left,’ Octavius yells over the din of battle. ‘Servitors, fall back. Hob, distraction now!’
The massive death worlder reaches into a belt pouch and, with a soft grunt, tosses an object over the heads of the slowly retreating servitors. Clanking down the deck plating, the grenade comes to rest at the mob’s feet. A second later, the concussive blast echoes throughout the bridge and corridor.
Although the explosion only manages to take down around twenty of the poorly armored men, it achieves its intended effect. With their attention drawn away from Leere, the robe-clad navigator moves into position unnoticed. By the time the mutineers recover, it’s already too late.
Pulling back his cowl, Leere tears off the blindfold that covers his forehead. A Navigator’s third eye gives them the ability to peer into the Immaterium, allowing them to guide ships along the currents of the Warp. However, it also serves as a conduit for the energies of chaos itself, making for an extremely potent weapon.
‘Feel the gaze of the Warp, fools!’ Leere screams as he opens the lid of his third eye.
Brilliant red light pours forth from the opened gateway, washing over the mutineers as they look on in shock. Entranced by the pure chaos of the Immaterium, few among them have enough will to tear their gaze away from assured doom.
Some are killed instantly and, it could be argued, these are the lucky ones. Even more fall to the ground, writhing in agony, clawing at their eyes in desperation to stop the endless cascade of hellish visions inflicted upon them. More froth at the mouth, their bodies wracked by uncontrollable spasms so violent they snap their own spines.
‘Drown in the infinite expanse of reality’s madness!’
The Navigator clutches the nearby bulkhead for support as he strains to keep his third eye open. Though tremendously exhausting, he realizes that this may very well be their final hope for victory. Even those who somehow manage to live cannot escape Leere’s wrath, suffering the worst fate of all.
The Warp tears away the very fabric of their humanity as it inflicts hideous mutations upon them. Driven mad by the sudden and horrendous transformation, the monsters turn on their comrades. In a flurry of fangs, claws, and tentacles, the mutants rip mercilessly into the ranks of the living.
The few that the navigator’s sight failed to reach quickly begin to retreat, their morale soundly broken. The chaos-twisted mutants give chase into the darkness, the screams of the fleeing crew punctuated by the occasional crack of desperate las fire.
With a groan, Lazarus collapses to the deck plating, finally closing his third eye. With great relief, he watches the last of the mutineers fade away into the night. After catching his breath, he replaces the blindfold and draws up his hood once more. Climbing back to his feet, he slowly wanders toward his chamber, briefly stopping in front of Malakai. Silently the navigator delights in the look of absolute shock on the old telepath’s face.
’You’re welcome,’ he says simply before continuing on his way. He smiles to himself as, for the first time in as long as he can recall, the curmudgeon is speechless.
As another week passes, the men on the bridge keep a vigilant watch for anymore potential trouble. Rumors of the massacre spread swiftly, however, and the remaining crewmen do not emerge from the hull again, apparently resigning themselves to the fate of death by starvation.
The Lord Captain nods off in the noonday heat but awakens with a jolt when his combead crackles to life.
‘Captain Shilwulf,’ the voice of Ethan Libram says. ‘She lives.’
This chapter was inspired by the backstory of the Emperor’s Hymn submitted by Randall, one of my players. Feel free to read the bio on the ship’s character page. My favorite part is when the crewman described the rekindled engines as “The Emperor Himself singing them a tune.” giving the ship it’s name.
Thanks for reading, and please let us know what you think.
Next Chapter: Personal Log: Octavius Shilwulf