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The Age of Dusk [60K] [SECTION 51 IS UP!]

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The Age of Dusk [60K] [SECTION 51 IS UP!]

Postby LordLucan » Sun Mar 20, 2011 6:56 pm

I shall not be transferring all the previously written sections of this epic over to these new forums.

You can find the original thread on the old bolthole site, here:

http://z6.invisionfree.com/bljunkies/in ... =1111&st=0

However, I will be continuing the background on this thread, with semi-regular updates. Read the old thread to get up to date, and then it will follow on here.

Watch this space for further new updates.

Thank you.
Check out the start of my new serialised novel, Gingerbread, published with Jukepop Serials (It is free to read, so please read and comment). Here's the link, enjoy:
https://www.jukepopserials.com/home/read/1367/?chapter=2&p=0&sl=10
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Re: The Age of Dusk [60K]

Postby Gaius Marius » Sun Mar 20, 2011 10:09 pm

Favorited. 8-)
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Re: The Age of Dusk [60K]

Postby LordLucan » Mon Mar 21, 2011 10:33 pm

Additional background Section 6: The Despoiler’s Demesne.

For ten thousand years, the despoiler had spread across the entirety of Segmentum Obscurus, breaking each system in turn with his vast fleets of chaotic beasts and loyal minions. Endless regiment sof the Dark Cadians known as the despoiled marched under the dark banners of cleaved-aquila, and murdered those who opposed the Chaos Emperor ruthlessly. Leading these vast armies were the Black legion, who formed a diamond hard centre to the great Despoiler’s regime.

Abaddon forged a new empire from the splintered marrow of ruined Imperial domains and xenos empires, crushing each in turn and forcing their broken populations to kneel before him and his diabolic forces. Many did so willingly, for those the Despoiler was a butcher and a madman, he wished to rule a powerful and unified Imperium of darkness, rather than a shattered ruin of roving warbands and screeching devil-spawn. Agri-worlds were enhanced by warp-tainted contagions that infested their crops and their forests, forming great tangled masses of man-eating mangroves across thousands upon thousands of miles. Captured forge worlds and enslaved hive worlds churned out towering daemon engines of ever-more grandiose and insane designs, concocted by the Dark Mechanicus of the putrid, poisoned worlds of Lathe and their vassal forges. In some of the more vile and odious hives, those who toiled in their factories barely registered that the Impeirum of old had ever gone.

Yet, to maintain the great Western Imperium required constant warfare and cruel reprisals, for many and powerful were the supposed Vassals of the Despoiler. Kharn the Betrayer was a constant irritation to the Dark Lord; smashing apart worlds at random as he howled his frustration into the void. Abaddon and his allied forces engaged warbands associated with Kharn over a hundred times throughout 273.M52, and during the great uprising of M55, Lord Ulvenial of the Screamers (a warband of Fallen Iron Knights who owed feudal obligation to the dark Lord) were almost constantly in pursuit of the Betrayer’s charnel-barge and those crazed vessels full of madmen who pursued him like hungry hounds lapping at the frothing gore left in his wake. Ulvenial was finally brutally butchered during the siege of Mordia, by Kharn himself who rammed his brass-fanged battleship straight through Ulvenial’s grandcruiser.

The Word Bearers, who had at first allied with the Despoiler, had gained much influence and power over the millennia, and their hellish Daemon Worlds were the largest and most fearsome in the Eye of Terror, some claimed. The Word bearers were useful to Abaddon as orators and enforcers of the profane creeds of the diseperate factions of the Chaos Imperium. No consensus could ever be reached between all the various insane demagogues and slavering monsters taht dwelt within the deep pits of these worlds, or ruled from obsidian thrones like dark heralds, but nevertheless the Word bearers made sure that unrest and insurrection remained a localised affair; Abbadon encouraged coups and bloody uprisings, as long as they were never against himself. Altarships full of Dark Apostles and their familiars roamed the void between enslaved worlds of the Chaos Imperium, preaching and summoning daemons into reality as they passed by. Abaddon expressly forbade the Word Bearers’s dark star-shaped vessels to enter the systems of any of his major powerbases, on fear of unmaking in the great swirling heart of Barbaritan. Barbaritan was a daemonship which had crashed into a star and poisoned it, turning it a vile green. Anything which fell into the warp-plasma vortex was utterly destroyed, body, essence and soul.

In 173.M53, the Despoiled, alongside a veritable tide of mercenaries and mutants and fallen Astartes, conquered the Q’orl Swarmhood. The final siege of their honeycombed homeworlds was performed by the great spider-like Daemon King Xexes, another of the deep-warp daemons (a brother of Valchocht the Maker). The titanic spider’s hulking form toppled the towering funnels of the Swarmhood to the ground, and the capering daemons and mad humans who flooded the world in his wake overwhelmed the insectoid empire after a bitter campaign of destruction, which cost billions of lives on both sides. It ended when their queen was captured, and infected with warp-tainted blood. These plague flooded her systems and internal juices, and the pheromone stench which allowed her to enthral her drones turned her entire realm into an eager ally of the Western Chaos Imperium.

On the moon of Threnbane, a psyker fraternity had spun a world-wide tapestry from psychic threads. Without the Imperium, they had flourished, and their seers had constructed this great warp-empowered edifice, which they used to divine the future strands of history like some great humming orchestra. Such rippling waves of psychic energy soon attracted the attentions of the Despoiler and his cohorts, for Abaddon very much desired to learn of his own fate in the destiny of the universe. However, a great fleet of Iron Warriors fell upon the world, in alliance with the Beasts of Annihilation; creatures bound to Angron. The Iron warriors determined to deny Abaddon his desires, in vengeance for his defeat of their Primarch many thousands of years ago. They fell upon the witch-world like grim mechanisms of steel and hate, burning and gunning down all they could find with pitiless cruelty. Threads were severed, and settlements blasted into blackened craters. Their warsmith, a villain known as Kadvein, smirked humourlessly as he destroyed Abaddon’s new toy.

By the time Abaddon arrived with his fleet, almost every thread of the world-weave was ruined, and the iron Warriors were fully entrenched in their grand bastions; impervious to orbital or ground assault, and patrolled by the frothing mongrel war hounds of Angron. The siege nevertheless lasted only a few days. This was because Abaddon, in his paranoid wisdom, had installed numerous mercenary Callidus assassins and Alpha legion infiltrators amongst the population of Threnbane. On his command, they unleashed life eater capsules inside the shielded Iron Warrior bastions. Contained inside the void shielding, the virus did no harm to Abaddon’s landing forces. Howeve,r battle was soon joine don’t he ground as the Beasts of Annihilation charged into the fray with infinite fury, their possessed marines ignoring tempests of weapons fire and blades to reach the Despoiled’s lines. The Dark Lord personally carved his way through masses of half-daemons and freakishly mutated Astartes as he made his way through the dense foliage of fallen threads. Finally, he reached the final enclave of psyker-monks, and their last functioning seer-loom. Before he destroyed them, he demanded to know his future. No one knows what prophecy they imparted to the Chaos Emperor, but soon after he massacred them all, and bombed their world into dust, before the planet killer destroyed it utterly.

Daemonic agents, lacymole, callidus fiends and other shadowy agents employed by Abaddon were later instructed to scour the Chaos Imperium for ‘good, honest men’, who they were to eliminate with maximum misery and pain inflicted upon them. Some say the monks told Abaddon who it was who would finally kill him, while others claim they merely revealed to him the final piece of the great engine of destiny which was guiding the galaxy to some great climax. Whatever it was, Abaddon grew obsessed with altering the outcome foretold in the legends.

If the prophecy was indeed related to his death, he perhaps had cause for alarm, for he had narrowly avoided death on several occasions. The closet the Dark Lord came to being destroyed was during the siege of the Nemesis Vault; an Inquisitional fortress located on the borders of his expanding Empire. The fortress was one of the most formidable of its kind, and had been held in a planetary stasis field for almost 20,000 years when Abaddon finally disturbed the relic of the Old Imperium. The highly advanced world boasted a full Titan legion, many Deathwatch kill teams, ten regiments of Inquisitorial stormtroopers, Sororitas Convents and a full squad of Grey Knights (one of the few contingents of Grey Knights who were not trapped upon the unbreakable fortress of Titan, at the heart of the Void Dragon’s prison). The great bastion contained many dark and forbidden artefacts held under lock and key forever. The Despoiler and his allies desired them, and he persuaded many hundreds of divergent chaos facitosn to fall upon the world. Ram-faced beastmen and tides of mutants from the Brotherhood of the Foul, the towering Daemon-Knights of Securilan, hundreds of Vampyre Covens of possessed monsters, a billion strong force of plague zombies, shipped into combat by Death Guard under the silent glare of Typhus, half-beetle barbarian mutants and schaephylid swarms, war machines and hell-engines of the Lathe, Relictors, Dragon Warriors, Kol Badar and his personal army; and finally the grand Imperial army of the despoiled and its subordinate legions of twisted mortal soldiers.

The skies burned and the walls ran molten, as these great forces all bombarded and invaded as one discordant mass. Abaddon tried to force some order upon them, but chaos is as chaos does, and it was utter anarchy. This, ironically, played to the strengths of the Inquisitor Lord who commanded the Vaults, for the warbands began to fight each other as much as the defenders. In an effort to bring order to the madness, the Despoiler brought the vengeful Spirit close to the world, as a visual symbol of his continuing presense.

This was an error. As soon as his vessel entered low orbit, the last of the defence lasers simultaneously pounded the vessel, knocking down its shields for five seconds, before they recharged. This was all that was required, for in that instant, the grey knights teleported aboard. They struck the reactors first, and the Black legion stationed there barely managed to prevent them sending the engine critical. Nevertheless, the generators lost power, much to Abaddon’s fury. Gathering his most fearsome chosen around him, he rushed to butcher the fools who thought to deny him his prize. The grey Knights were waiting. Ten gleaming terminators fell upon the huge tusked chosen and the despoiled who rushed to aid them. The leader of the Grey Knights was a thing of epic legends; Brother captain Stern, long thought lost, towered before Abaddon, clad in a vast dreadknight fighting suit. Abaddon’s champion, the daemon prince Belpharoc, brayed in loathing and dread as he threw himself into combat with the hulking war machine and its holy occupant. Two giants clashed in the light cast by a dying plasma reactor; daemon claws against force sword, kai gun against psycannon. Fencing became wrestling, became frantic clawing and punching. At last, Stern broke the prince in two with a single vast sweep of his force sword, before obliterating the body with bolts of psychic lightning which flared form his eyes like a holy beacon.

Abaddon recoiled from the towering silver god of war, who bellowed the 666 litanies as he proceeded to aid in the slaughter of the rest of the Chosen. Abaddon fought alone now, slaying each terminator with ever increasing difficulty. His daemonic runes flared in protest and his sword churned with hate and terror as it felt the holocaust building.

“Your world is dead, failed bastard of my father’s loins! Your Imperium toppled into the abyss. You are alone in this galaxy! You are nothing now!” Abaddon defiantly screamed, as he prepared to fight his final battle. A psycannon bolt blasted his helmet from his shoulders, and snapped his head backwards, unleashing his extravagant topknot from the barbed braid at the top of his skull. Blood frothed from his mouth, and he fell backwards roughly.

Stern advanced, smiling grimly as he removed his helmet. “My brothers survive in me. The Emperor is avenged in me! The bastard of Horus is punished by me!” he howled, raising his blade high.

A las bolt struck his uncovered head. And another, followed by another. Stern’s head was ruptured by the searing blasts, and his concentration was lost. In his dying flourish, a great blast of white light erupted from Stern as his dreadknight simply toppled to the floor. The psychic backlash stunned the terminators, and the daemons bound within the vengeful Spirit took this chance to vanquish their hated foes. Tendrils and oily monstrous sphincters closed upon the defiant knights, who died fighting one and all.

Abaddon rose from the ground, and turned to observe the quivering Despoiled soldier, who lowered his smoking lasgun unsteadily. Abaddon, for the first time in many centuries, cracked a sinister smile. It is said that when on the field of battle, Abaddon is now accompanied by a towering dreadknight, bound and deconsecrated by the greatest of dark mechanicus, and piloted by a mortal man, bound into the machine by disciples of Bile in such a way that every death inflicted by the knight sends a shiver of pure pleasure into the spinal cord of the loyal despoiled Cadian; a grandiose and disgusting reward for saving the Dark Lord’s life.

The nemesis Vault was breached after half a decade of furious siege. The defenders were defeated after most of them starved to death, or were poisoned by the plagues and noisome elixirs of Typhus cleared them out and turned them into shambling monsters. The artefacts within were fought over by the assembled forces, and a furious naval engagement ensued. Some say the greatest artefact in the vault wasn’t a chaos item at all, but rather some great xenos blade, which vanished as soon as the stasis field was lowered. Others say it was stolen by agents for the Heracles cult or the Sons of Magnus. None can be sure.

The Chaos Imperium found foes from without as well as within Angyl worlds began to form in some areas, and specially bred new men, bound with daemons and weapons of profanity, were sent to cleanse these worlds and banish their Archangyls. These elite possessed warbands were known as the Blasphematii, and modelled themselves in ironic mockery of the almost-extinct Grey Knight order. Not only this, but the Vulkan Imperium and Huron Blackheart’s mongrels pressed against his border regions. And, with almost unnoticeable progress, the seals around Solar began to loosen, like the old threads in a tarred rope...

The worst of Abaddon’s foes remained an elusive element for many millennia however. The Alpha-Wulfen and its frenzied inhuman Fenryka who followed the beast destroyed armies and butchered worlds at the heart of the Eye of terror, and seemed to expand their influence as Abaddon left the Eye, as if pursuing him and his forces. All efforts to hunt down this unseen beast have ended in failure, and those malatek stalkers and assassins sent after the Wulfen-king never return. It was claimed it was some sort of wold-daemon from the Eye, summoned and bound by Lorgar to unnerve Abaddon.

However, the truth came some time later, when the threads of eternity pulled more tightly together, and the true conflict became disturbingly apparent.
Check out the start of my new serialised novel, Gingerbread, published with Jukepop Serials (It is free to read, so please read and comment). Here's the link, enjoy:
https://www.jukepopserials.com/home/read/1367/?chapter=2&p=0&sl=10
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Re: The Age of Dusk [60K]

Postby Gaius Marius » Tue Mar 22, 2011 12:44 am

Stern should have worn his helmet, just saying :D

Excellent piece LL, although one that might have benefited from a spell check.I take it the next piece will be about the Fenryka?
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Re: The Age of Dusk [60K]

Postby Sipahi Commando » Fri Mar 25, 2011 2:36 am

So my question was answered.

However, I must wonder: what happened to Vostroya and Mordian? I can imagine neither the Firstborn nor the Iron Guard submitting willingly to Abaddon.
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Re: The Age of Dusk [60K]

Postby LordLucan » Sat Mar 26, 2011 12:51 am

Additional background Information 7: The Dread Marshal and the Tide of Wrath.

“In the name of nothing, I purge you and this whole world. For it is good. It is very good. Time to burn! Time to pray! Hope your heathen gods are listening, otherwise... this’ll be quick...”(recording degenerates into uncontrollable bitter laughter)

[Last audible transmission received by the unarmed agri-world of Fensidal, hours before being invaded and raised to the ground.]

Twenty Thousand years is too long for a crusade of punishment. Yet still the crusade of the High Marshal of the Black Templars continued. Even as new warp gods rose and fell in the firmament, the Templars continued to purge world after world, converting or destroying every planet they could reach. For countless centuries the grief-maddened Templars degenerated and slaughtered. They recruited more and more eager and insane converts into their furiously propagated faith. They preached a creed of self-mortification, punishment and eventual death. For the Emperor was dead, and the world would know of this fact through pain.

Such nihilism numbed them to their own casual heresies. They converted any Astartes who willingly joined them. Night Lords, amused by their terror-tactics, threw in their lot with the maddened monk-knights, as did many desperate Sororitas and a great multitude of foolish men from across a thousand worlds. Sons of Malice fought with and joined the Crusade in their own paradoxical glee, and the agents oft he Hydra found it pathetically easy to infiltrate the crazed warriors. The Templars were no more. They embraced their own self-destruction, and the distinction between man, Astartes and blood-mad butcher dissolved in the melting cauldron of war.

This was the Crusade of Madness. They increasingly referred to each other as Oblivionites; agents of sweet annihilation. For only in destruction on the battlefield, surrounded by thousands of slain foes, could they find peace.

Chains and fire was their legacy. Populations were bound in chains, alike and screaming in misery across the Oblivionite vehicles and ships. Their artificers crafted warped and bizarre dark armour that moulded to the forms of the Crusaders; armour that coiled about them like disgusting bleeding vines, that merged with their chains and braziers. Oblivionite initiates and serfs had wailing sirens stitched into their throats, that blared old imperial hymns, horribly distorted and modulated until all that could be made out was the underlying hate that fed the vox hailers. Immolator tanks and Crusader Land raiders pulverised settlements and ruined lives on the whims of this crazed order. Some of the more insane and formidable Oblivionites had their limbs elongated and bonded to blades and pincers and serrated flails, with cyclone launchers that flung hate speech and frothing oil as frequently as krak missiles. These were known as the Lange-mensch, and where they fell nothing lived. Even themselves.

The Eternal crusader expanded with each passing year, as did many of the barges taht followed in its wake; expanding to accommodate more prisons and churches filled with spinning blades and grinding drills; where pious men would fling themselves into the churning mass of metal, and their fleshy pulp was then sprayed over new recruits through thick hoses.

The Oblivionites were led by the former High Marshal Kanan, who became known as the Dread Marshal. He was bound within a Dreadnought sarcophagus. Some claimed it was this that drove him mad, and contributed to the rapid degeneration of the Crusaders. Others claim the turbulent warp was to blame for their madness; its conflict between the Star father and the other powers warping the minds of the Astartes, who were both furious figures of hate and adherents of Imperial domination, which split their minds into things of shattered glass and deluded perception.

Kanan dwelt within the Eternal crusader almost exclusively, conversing with shadowy figures who shifted in the gloom of his Reclusium. Chaplains brought adherents to his chambers every month, and these quivering men were rarely seen again alive. Those who left his chambers were dark-eyed and crazed; spouting philosophical nonsense as they calmly carved their names on the faces of their friends, or opened airlocks and leapt out. The only thing they all ranted about equally was a singular word; Malice. Dark pinions could sometimes be glimpsed on the battlements; flashes of shadowy shapes on the periphery of vision.

The Oblivionites terrorised the galactic north in a wide arc, which infringed upon both Chaos Empires, bordered the conflict in the East, and even affected the outer territories of the Vulkan Imperium. They were narrowly driven from the Ryza-Catachan alliance’s setor, after repeated raids by the cybernetically-enhanced Catachan ‘Plasma-Commandoes’.

However, in most cases, the worlds they invaded were woefully unprepared for the enemy who descended upon them. Even if prepared, the mercenary armies of private worlds often deserted rather than risk themselves fighting mad superhumans. Even the few remaining free Companies were reluctant to waste resources fighting such monstrously destructive foes. Worlds would surrender pitifully, and their people would suffer for it. Hunted in the streets, and burned from orbit, or taken and indoctrinated in a creed which compelled them to murder everyone they loved, men suffered and died in great masses. The Oblivionites would then erect titanic monuments on each world they converted; mile-high statues built from filth and the wreckage of smashed cities, which proclaimed the crusaders’ own glorious disregard for everything and everyone in existence.

Valhalla was not such a world. When the Oblivionites burst into their system, their system defence fleet immediately charged to attack the incoming obsidian vessels, initiating a vast naval battle which lasted for almost a month before the SDF were eliminated. This bought the Valhallans time. Distress signals were hopelessly flung out into the void, trenches were dug, supply lines and armouries were stocked and prepared. The Draft saw almost every man and woman not employed in factory work thrust into the military. Orvec Chenkov, the grand dictator of Vahalla and a distant descendant of the infamous M41 Colonel that shared his last name, would not accept invasion or subjugation. Valhalla had weathered the second Age of strife and the decade of a thousand invasions from 234.M53-244.M53. They would not bow or prostrate themselves before nihilistic psychopaths. Valhalla would endure, always.

The massive icy cities of the Valhallan, built into mountainsides or beneath mile-thick ice sheets, were ever-more fortified. Seven Armoured Companies were stationed outside the city of Invenka, where the towering gold Dome of Saint Ciaphas rose majestically atop a volcanic ridge that jutted from beneath a glacier. Serf Soldiers of Krieg were placed in the most hazardous and inhospitable areas. Militias bearing the banners of their cities flooded the training barracks in their millions. All leave from factories was revoked, an workers worked 22 hours a day producing war materiel for stockpiling. It was said that there was an ammo dump on every street corner, and even the children had autopistols tucked in their belts.

On the evening beginning 284.399.M54, orbital bombardment began with a firestorm of fearsome scale, followed by kinetic barrages of kill-rods and heavy macro-cannons. The very tectonic plates themselves shuddered with the force of the assault. Earthquakes and fires erupted across Valhalla, but the forces simply dug themselves in. Defence Lazers stitched flaming patterns in the heavens, and wounded the sky until it seemed to ripple red with the onslaught. Torpedo silos embedded in cliff faces duelled with the enemy vessels also, hurling munitions the size of castle turrets towards the void-bound foe. Heedless of risk, many of the smaller Oblivionite vessels were struck and crashed onto the surface like city-sized meteorites. Mushroom clouds of plasma fire scorched the glaciers, and great rolling banks of nuclear steam, that boiled thousands of Conscripts and Serf soldiers as they ran for cover.

Soon after, the drop pods came, plunging through the fire and fury and punching holes through the glacial ablative armour which protected the cities. The ice confounded several pods, trapping them halfway between the sky and the crust in frozen tombs. Heavy weapon teams soon destroyed those immobilised invaders with their lascannons and missile pods. Others however, penetrated the ice and struck like lightning swift daggers at the heart of cities. Superhumans stormed bastions and charged through the streets with furious abandon. Their physical perfection and murderous might overcame the discipline and bloody-mindedness of the defenders, and they were forced ont he back foot throughout.

Meanwhile, on the surface, the conscript armies in their countless millions clashed with the human Oblivionite neophytes who swarmed from their large-bellied landing craft, while Thunderhawks covered with chained, wailing prisoners strafed the human waves of gun fodder, and delivered more Astartes into the fray. But the skies were contested. Valkyries and vendettas also blasted the invaders, while Marauder bombers dropped thousands of tonnes of high explosive across the blood-drenched glaciers. The Serf Soldiers showed their worth, demonstrating utter fearlessness in the face of battle. Those who died made sure to kill their slayer, or at least encumber the enemy enough to allow their vat-born brothers to finish them off. Basilisks and even larger fixed artillery positions cast an endless deluge of ordnance into the fray, and continued firing even when their defenders desperately tried to fend off Astartes strike teams of Night lord Oblivionites, who crawled down the cliffs like spiders to reach them.

The Oblivionites were posthuman gods of war, bred to destroy, backed by legions of zealots and gigatons of ordnance. But they faced an entire world of Valhalla soldiery, entrenched with an armoury which could last for months. The war drew on, and Valhalla soon became a world of crumbling icy slush, jagged mountain fangs all surrounded by oceans made from the melted remains of the ice world’s crust of permafrost. The Ice world became a waterlogged nightmare. Battles raged through the catacombs and sewers. Artillery duelled from the peaks of opposing mountains. The Tank Battalions clashed with the predators and raiders of the Oblivionite crusade in the shadow of the glorious golden dome, which was soon smashed into glittering shards amidst the fury of exchanged ordnance.

Every week the war dragged on, more commanders began to question Chenkov’s attrition-based approach. Every week, more and more commanders were executed, and more and more soldiers were drafted to face off against the might of the vast crusade force of the Dread Marshal. The factories began to use up the stocks of adamantine and promethium which had been gathered the previous year from nearby trading worlds. Valhalla was being bled dry, and still the mad Astartes poured all their fury and self-destructive hate into the war, which had spread to the other planets in the system, which each fell one by one, until Valhalla was all that was left. Newly deranged converts to the Oblivion cult flocked to Valhalla from the other planets, eager to die in the fires of warfare. Chenkov obliged of course. There were so many water-logged corpses upon Valhalla, that they formed vast battlements of dead that stretched for miles around each city.

After a year of gruelling sieges and desperate battles fought in the shallow war-born oceans, the dread marshal’s heralds began to address the world on an open vox, carrying across the system to every commander taht could receive such signals. It was a voice of cruel mockery and merciless intent. The heralds screamed from their fleet-ships;
“We shall carve you into bloodied ribbons of flesh, and pound your world to dust. The Emperor’s sight has been put out, and deviancy reigns in its stead. There is no guiding Astronomicon beacon! We are alone in the dark! You shall die here, and you shall welcome it! Oblivion has come to your world. We feast upon your flesh tribute, and we grow strong from this destruction, while you grow weaker. Offer your bodies, your flesh, unto the wardship of the herald of the End, and he will ensure its passage is a swift and glorious one! With your flesh and your strength, we may put out the eyes of man’s foes, and gain apotheosis in degradation. The flesh is strong, and you can be strong!” they spat.

Before the defenders could reply, another message cut into the transmission. It was a harsh, metallic tone.

“Nay, heathen dog; the Flesh is Weak. Lord Vulkan sends his regards,” the Iron Hands Force Commander responded bluntly, as his vessels emerged from interstellar space, where they had lain in wait for a year, slowly re-entering the system under minimal power. The perfect sneak attack.

Chenkov had never intended victory over the Oblivionites. Chenkov’s strategy had been one of containment; he had been ordered to keep the focus of the crusaders upon Valhalla, and to ensure that all the Oblivionites converged upon the system. He had been ruthless in his acceptance of this plan, and the sacrifice of his people to achieve it. He had known they would suffer, and he cared not; a legacy of his ancestor’s bloodline. Apparently Chenkov died in his sleep shortly after the liberation of the ruined Valhalla.*

The Dread Marshal’s fleet was caught off guard by the Iron Hands and their cold metal vessels that soon shuddered to life and unleashed hell on the twisted Astartes. Battlebarges and cruisers duelled in the heavens at colossal distances, and ships burst apart like stricken whales in the deep, spewing fiery viscera from mechanical bowels.

Yet, for all their joyless mechanical power, the Iron hands could not contain the Eternal Crusader. Battered and bloody, it fought its way clear, almost breaking the iron hands fleet on its own. The Iron Hands Commandery Master, Murgon , managed to destroy the Crusader’s warp drive, and forced it to flee into the void itself. Wounded but still very much armed, the crusader was harried from the system. Yet, the Iron hands could not sustain any mere losses in pursuing the stricken craft any further. They left that seemingly-banal mission to the Fire beasts, who translated into the system alongside the Purple Vipers and the Heartrender Space marine Commanderies to mop up the surviving crusaders.

When the Fire beasts finally caught up with the Crusader, it was running on minimal power. Hoping to capture the vessel for Vulkan (as the primarch had done with Phalanx during the battle of Falling Skies a century before), the Fire Beasts eagerly boarded the vessel. What happened on board the Eternal Crusader is a mystery, but many hours later, the beasts left the ship, and bombarded it until it collapsed upon itself and was finally wrecked. The Fire beasts rarely speak of what occurred inside the vessel. All that is known is that they lost almost 200 Marines inside. All they say when explaining what happened there is the simple phrase; ‘Malice has seen the wheel behind the world,’ and that is all they ever say in reference to that dark day. The day the Black Templars were put down.


* [It took several dozen disgruntled soldiers, fourteen rounds of a heavy stubber, an overdose of tranq, a vial of neurotoxin, a hatchet and three bayonets to make sure he died in his sleep, but eventually he did. The legend of Chenkov’s death subsequently did get amplified in the telling, but his remains suggest at least the stubber shots were accurate...]
Check out the start of my new serialised novel, Gingerbread, published with Jukepop Serials (It is free to read, so please read and comment). Here's the link, enjoy:
https://www.jukepopserials.com/home/read/1367/?chapter=2&p=0&sl=10
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Re: The Age of Dusk [60K]

Postby Gaius Marius » Sat Mar 26, 2011 3:02 am

Fire Beasts, in at the kill. Woot 8-)

Also, awesome chapter. The combat was really well described, as was the Black Templar's descent into madness and the presence of Malal driving them all crazy like. The small touches like the St. Ciaphias cathedral really showed out here for the better I think. Also, the typos I had mentioned earlier have been cleared up a lot.
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Re: The Age of Dusk [60K]

Postby Sipahi Commando » Sat Mar 26, 2011 4:11 pm

EPIC. However...

Orvec Chenkov, the grand dictator of Vahalla and an ancestor of the infamous M41 Colonel that shared his last name


How is that even possible?
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Re: The Age of Dusk [60K]

Postby LordLucan » Sat Mar 26, 2011 5:38 pm

Crap.

Descendant. I meant descendant. well that's me looking silly...

:P I'll fix that right away.
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Re: The Age of Dusk [60K]

Postby Colonel Mustard » Sat Mar 26, 2011 9:25 pm

Where the towering gold Dome of Saint Ciaphas rose majestically atop a volcanic ridge that jutted from beneath a glacier


Ha!

A very interesting part, LL, and a highly enjoyable read; especially the description of the Templar's madness. The battle for Valhalla was absolutely epic, and the use the of the Fire Beasts at the end was a nice touch, not to mention your footnote.

That said, I did notice this rather odd line.

This was the Crusade of Madness. They increasingly referred to each other as Oblivionites; agents of sweet annihilation. For only in destruction on the battlefield, surrounded by thousands of slain foes, could they find piece.

I imagine that they would find just one piece. In fact, I imagine that they would find a very large number of pieces indeed.

I need to do something for the Sons, as well.
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Re: The Age of Dusk [60K]

Postby LordLucan » Sat Mar 26, 2011 10:32 pm

Yeah, I liked the fact others were adding to this 60K setting, so I'm deliberately placing references throughout. I have also been adding in single line references to foes and factions, such as the twisted Allies of the Thexians who eat chidlren bones, the plasma-commandoes and so on, which may or may not get their own sections (but I would not be adverse to these factiosn appearing in other folks' stories).

I have corrected the offending typo. Piece be with you dear Mustard. ;)
Check out the start of my new serialised novel, Gingerbread, published with Jukepop Serials (It is free to read, so please read and comment). Here's the link, enjoy:
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Re: The Age of Dusk [60K]

Postby Falkenhayn » Mon Mar 28, 2011 6:18 pm

I am enjoying this.
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Re: The Age of Dusk [60K]

Postby LordLucan » Mon Mar 28, 2011 11:12 pm

Additional Background Information 8: The Burden of restraint: Gathering Allies.

Though innumerable were the wars and campaigns of conquest conducted by the Vulkan regime, such constant antagonism would be futile if he wished to unite and make prosperous his new Imperium. Born upon Vulkan, he and his Salamanders knew all too well the values and limitations of empathy, and were almost as eager to forge alliances and treaties with those divergent realms they encountered as they were to defeat and occupy them. Some, such as Grand Sicarium and the Ophelia-Tallarns, did not wish to join with Vulkan’s project, while others, such as the monstrous Chaos Imperiums, or the vile Tenabrian Contingent, were too repellent and evil to parley with, and could only ever be enemies. However, not every rival power was such.

In the middle decades of M53, the Empire of Vulkan was a vast and glorious thing; perhaps a golden age. The Promethean Lodges on Armageddon collected and deciphered more and more captured technologies from colonised worlds. The Shipyards of the Fifteen Thousand world empire were in constant use, as were the Commandery worlds. Artwork and architecture was at its height, and every city and every world were strong and sombrely beautiful places; as glorious as only the master Artisan-Primarch could make them. Every year, world would reach the civilised interior worlds or new members of their Imperium, and there was rejoicing. Warp travel remained ponderous in the continued absence of the Astronomicon, but Vulkan had already begun a project upon the world of Venlaik to attempt to create a form of psychic beacon. Though the projects ended in failure and the year of nightmares seven years later, the fact he was confident enough to attempt this project while still at war demonstrated how secure and entrenched the Vulkan Imperium had become.

There were several empires of note that were brought into the fold relatively peacefully. The so-called Ryzan-Catachan ‘Oath-worlds’ were a cluster of six dozen systems in the local sector directly around the two main worlds. They were relatively easy to bribe and coerce into the fold. The Ryzan tech priests were bribed with Archeotech and a promise to allow their Forge-world Noosphere to link up with the Noospheres of other liberated Forge Worlds, allowing them to share data. The Catachan side of the alliance merely joined because they saw little difference between working alone with the Tech priests, or with the black giant’s folk. They just liked warfare.

The Confederation of Justice was harder to convince. They were the remnants of the Elysian, Harakoni and Varseen Droptroops, who over the millennia had morphed into an elite band of peacekeeping thugs in the southern Segmentum Solar region; attacking worlds and shipping at random on the assumption they had ‘subversive’ elements amongst their populations. When Vulkan’s soldiers eventually encountered these men in battle, it was through ambush. The world of Kaniir was in the process of being brought into the Imperium through the signing of a treaty at their capital. Clerks from one of the many Councils of Armageddon had arrived on the war-battered world, guarded by two Companies of the Commandery of the Dorn Revenants, in their burnished war plate.

Halfway through proceedings, the warships of the Confederates arrived and declared the Vulkans traitors to the original Terran Imperium, and attacked the Revenant Fleet. The Confederates were outnumbered and their ships were under-gunned, and Vulkan’s troops easily routed the fleet. However, their ships were converted to carry large troop transport facilities, and they swiftly deployed their drop troops onto the world before they retreated. The battle raged for weeks, and the skilled mortal soldiers, despite being attacked by the PDF of Kaniir and the might of Mark II Astartes, they held their own. Kowl, the Commander of the Dorn Revenants, was quoted as saying;

“Determined as Fists. Damn them, but you cannot help but admire their conviction!”

Eventually their forces were surrounded and captured. They surrendered honourably, and congratulated the Revenants for their well earned victory [which unsurprisingly, took the Astartes aback somewhat, for they were rarely praised by their foes.]. After questioning, the prisoners would not give up their homeworld, claiming ‘every world that needs us is our home, for home is where the honour is.’

As it transpired, Promethean cultists with the fleet managed to track the warp trails of the retreating fleet (though they were masked well), and found the location of their base of operations; a vast Ramillies class star fort, which had become clad with additional living quarters and blister-like bio-domes that made the space station look like a vast shanty town. Kowl and his negotiators managed to gain an audience with the Muster-Lord of the Confederated Drop-Troopers, who listened to their proposals, and perused the files given to him that proven the Vulkan Imperium was a worthy successor to the Terran Imperium, which had fallen long ago.

The Muster-Lord listened and took it all in with patience and good grace, before calmly pointing out that his men had discreetly infiltrated the Vulkan ships, and had taken over the engineering sections and gun batteries. Elite assault boat teams had stormed the ships, and the prisoners held in the vessels had rigged an explosive from inside their cells, and had blown themselves free, before coming to the aid of the strike teams. The Muster-Lord, after informing Kowl of this fact, then requested that the Revenants surrender.
Kowl snarled, explaining that his men could rip apart his paltry boarding forces and retake the ships within half an hour. The Confederate Lord then countered by explaining simply;

‘That is half an hour without motive power or guns, while being within range of the full firepower of a star fort. I hope your men could re-take the vessels in less than half an hour; otherwise your vessels will be scrap. I humbly request, therefore, that you surrender, and save us having to slay brave Astartes.”

Kowl had little choice other than to surrender to the mortal General. Word reached Vulkan of this setback, and he deployed two battlefleets to the area, to locate and free his men, before destroying the enemy. In the year it took for this force to be assembled and deployed, Kowl and his men were imprisoned, and learned of the culture of their foes. They were not degenerates or villains, but merely broken soldiers, desperate for a central command and a reason to fight on. Everywhere they looked over the millennia had been horror and war; the ophelians were murderers and maniacs, and their worlds burned with hate and misery. Space marines rampaged and laughed as they torched worlds at random. Daemons and twisted xenos fiends capered and spread their malice across countless worlds. The confederacy had looked upon the Vulkan Imperium, and they refused to believe that such a realm could exist in such a galaxy of horror. Kowl explained it was so, but it was only once his men had broken free of the prisons and had efficiently taken over the star fort by force, that the Muster-lord reluctantly heeded his words.

When Vulkan’s twin fleets tracked the star fort down amidst the swirling eddies of the warp lanes, they found that Kowl’s men had made an ally of the Troopers, who eagerly pledged oaths to the new Imperium, and sent delegates to Armageddon for formal training and establishment of their official regiments. In exchange, clerks and administrators were brought to the fleets of the Drop troopers, to help them organise their new territories. The planets that they had madly protected against all-comers for centuries, became their official domain.

Vulkan himself parleyed with the leader of the World of Secae; a world of shadowy smog and blazing lava-canals and plasma pits that fuelled its sparse industry. The world was almost useless in almost every way. However, the world was a known hub and control centre for the Order of Heracles. This Order was a group of fearsomely competent assassins and spies that bore the heritage of the once-infamous Officio Assassinatorium. Vulkan met with veiled associates of the Order here, and they agreed not to target Vulkan’s officials in exchange for Secae being left as their personal dominion, and unmarked properties upon Armageddon. Vulkan agreed, but it was an uneasy truce. The unmarked towers of the Assassins are discreetly spied upon by Salamanders and Imperial operatives daily, while Secae is a forbidden zone for diplomats and reporters for the Grand Journal (a journalistic mega-project devised by experts of the Gathanar system to document the entire history of the Vulkan Imperium). What the Heracles agents are actually up to is known to a scant few people, and will be covered in a later section.

A Sector spanning Human Empire known as the ‘Realm of Fathers’ [this is a rough translation] was encountered by the Vulkan Imperium on its fringes, close to the Ophelian area of influence, but beyond their control. This realm was filled with hundreds upon hundreds of productive, peaceful and efficient worlds, full of quiet, diligent workers and citizens. There was no unrest, and everyone seemed to be happy and content; they rarely even seemed to speak to one another. When Vulkan’s armies came, they were welcomed by the Court of the Regents, and within a few months of their arrival, had signed treaties and pledged oaths in blood and stone. Their factories and produce yards were so very efficient that they had a major surplus of materials, which they traded within the Vulkan Imperium and provided a massive amount of goods to the expanding Imperium. They even paid double the standard tithes asked of them.

However, the realm of fathers held a terrible secret. For they bore a legacy of ancient corruption in their very blood; they were, to a man, all genestealer cultists. With the abandonment of the genestealers by the Hive Fleets thousands of years ago, the genestealers had merely continued to do what they were born to do; survive and reproduce. Every other den of genestealers had been eventually slain over the years by various powers. Yet, one cult had survived. And, surprisingly, without the Hive Fleets, the genestealers were allowed to flourish. Nobody had ever seen how far a genestealer infestation could develop, until then.

There were hundreds of Patriarchs ruling the Empire in well shielded bastions within the main capital worlds of the Empire. Every single human was a hybrid to some degree, even if the vast multitude were merely smiling drones, infested at birth with the love of the bulbous beasts that ruled from the depths of their worlds. Every mind was linked by the fearsome brood telepathy of the Patriarch Prime and his brothers and sons. There was no dissent or hate between the people, for they knew each other as well as they knew themselves, and they all loved the Patriarchs. As every mind was linked, they produced mega projects and produced vast quantities of material with frightening rapidity. Though no one had ever seen the Prime Patriarch, it is said he swelled with to an impossibly vast scale, bloated with psychic power until his magnificent potential made his presence visible to Vulkan himself.

If Vulkan had known of the nature of his new ally, he neglected to mention it to his own Councils, who only learned of their nature after an accidental shuttled crash had dropped one of their officials into the subterranean feeding pits for the Purestrains. There was outrage and furious debate amongst the rulers of the Imperium. The Commanderies were in two minds over the matter; some wished to invade at once, others wanted to wait for Vulkan’s decree. Some of the mortal rulers debated over the matter with more nuance; they had become reliant upon the exports and tithes of this new allied territory, for good or ill. Humanity had a long history of hatred for the xenos, but the genestealer held no specific dread amongst the councils of Armageddon; most were too young to remember the Tyranids as anything other than mythical monsters from the primordial times (from their perspective); creatures as far distant and irrelevant as the dinosauria of the long-forgotten home-world of Terra. Indeed, there were carnifex bones in several museums across the central worlds of the Vulkan Imperium. In the end, it was Vulkan that decided what happened next; he arrived unannounced into the council halls of the Tower of Governance upon the rebuilt Hades Palace, flanked by his robed Salamander Custodians, interrupting a policy meeting of the Grand Lords without a single care. He asked them to show leniency to the Cultists; they had never made war upon him, and their industry was required if the Imperium was to face the ‘troubles ahead’ effectively. Not only this, but a war with the cult would cripple his fledgling Imperium even if they won; the cult had a vast military machine of elite fighters and abundant equipment, supported by legions of Purestrain Shocktroops to serve as their Praetorians. Vulkan asked this of his councils, but never made an order. He desperately wanted his mortals to run their own Imperium; he was merely the agent of their survival.

The Councils agreed. The cultists were to remain upon their worlds, however; they were not to interbreed and subvert any humans in unwilling communities. Every world and every merchant vessel that traded with their realm was required to take genetics screening to detect any possible infections. Additionally, their status as xenos hybrids was to be suppressed and classified; normal citizens need not know that aliens supplied much of their products. Indeed, did not Jokaero smiths make many of the esoteric items of the Imperium of old?

Why Vulkan championed the cultists remains a contested topic. It was claimed he had foreseen the Time of Alignment, beginning M55, which threw the galaxy into the greatest conflict in all the eons of galactic history before it, and saw the worth of the cult in this Great War. Others claim it was a more personal reason. They claim Vulkan travelled into the heart of the Cult’s sector, and straight to the heart of the Chitin Keep, the throne-city of the Patriarch. It is claimed he looked into the golden reptilian eyes of the patriarch, and confronted it, ignoring the oceans of Genestealers that surrounded him silently. The patriarch, they say, promised Vulkan a mighty prise in exchange for a union. It claimed (through its Magus proxy, which allowed it to speak as men speak) it had had a vision of a world of pulverised stone, and an empty throne, guarded by sullen Angels. It had seen some great force sweep in and take the unmoving King. It had witnessed the obsidian juggernaught, Vulkan himself, arrive and find the tomb empty. The Patriarch knew what Vulkan so desperately searched for, but could not find. Something the Patriarch alone knew.

For it knew who had stolen the Lion of Caliban from his undying slumber. And what was more, the Patriarch knew, with all its psychic might, where he had been taken...
Check out the start of my new serialised novel, Gingerbread, published with Jukepop Serials (It is free to read, so please read and comment). Here's the link, enjoy:
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Re: The Age of Dusk [60K]

Postby Gaius Marius » Mon Mar 28, 2011 11:55 pm

DUM-DUM-DUUUMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Interesting, I had wondered what had happened to the stealers. I could see how they would be useful, if dangerous allies.
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Re: The Age of Dusk [60K]

Postby zolohunter » Tue Mar 29, 2011 3:14 am

It claimed (through its Magus proxy, which allowed it to speak as men speak) it had had a vision of a world of pulverised stone, and an empty throne, guarded by sullen Angels. It had seen some great force sweep in and take the unmoving King. It had witnessed the obsidian juggernaught, Vulkan himself, arrive and find the tomb empty. The Patriarch knew what Vulkan so desperately searched for, but could not find. Something the Patriarch alone knew.

For it knew who had stolen the Lion of Caliban from his undying slumber. And what was more, the Patriarch knew, with all its psychic might, where he had been taken...


Nice work on this, LL and loving it still. This last part sent chills down my spines.

A question: since you mention Loin El Jonson does that mean He is alive and will be together with his brothers or in this case Vulkan again? or do i have to wait to find out more?
This is getting very intense.
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Re: The Age of Dusk [60K]

Postby Tyrant » Tue Mar 29, 2011 9:23 am

Excellent stuff, really liked how the genestealer cult developed into an almost benevolent interstellar power. Can't wait for the next part!
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Re: The Age of Dusk [60K]

Postby Sipahi Commando » Tue Mar 29, 2011 11:00 am

What a tweest!
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Re: The Age of Dusk [60K]

Postby Colonel Mustard » Tue Mar 29, 2011 6:53 pm

Well the idea of an extremely old, peaceful Genestealer Cult is a very interesting one indeed. And with the Hive Mind corrupted with the Waaaagh! to make the New Devourer, they wouldn't fall under its sway, I assume.

And I'm wandering what this big punchup is leading to.
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Re: The Age of Dusk [60K]

Postby LordLucan » Fri Apr 01, 2011 10:44 pm

Additional Background Information 9: Shadow Play: Espionage and unknown missions.

The galaxy in the Age of Dusk was one of great bombastic light; the light granted by great wars, and the glow of towering civilisations rising to their very heights, moments before the precipice. Yet, a bright light casts long shadows. And just as light casts a shadow, so the vast battles and politics of the struggled for reality conceal lingering oceans of events, betrayals and schemes unseen and unrecorded by the histories of man and beast.

Until this day. Until this day, where I was able to breach this vault’s walls and-

I say too much. How this history has come to you, my surviving readers, shall be related in due time. But this section shall cover the hidden missions and events that guided events throughout this time.

The Cult Heracles continued a secret war against the agents of the Hydra-Lords and their infinite familiars and ciphers. But the Order of Assassins named Heracles was not solely interested in thwarting the Hydra at all costs. They loaned their services as spies and killers to the highest bidders; moving discreetly through human and xenos society alike in their desire to achieve their mercenary ambitions.

Other assassin cults worshipped the Murder God Khaine, and spoke forbidden words and performed rituals which they hoped would bring them closer to the eternal kill. These cults were not species-centric; if you could kill one of them, you were worthy of becoming one of them (provided you survived the reprisals). Dark Eldar sometimes sponsored such cults (but invariably ended up hunting them for sport within Commorragh once they were bored with them).

Yet, there was talk of a dark force; a shadow unseen, which was moving through the disparate fraternity of slayers (be they Heracles-bonded killers, freelancers, or even the Malicite Stalkers and Semi-daemonic assassins employed by the Ordo Hydra and the Chaos Imperiums in general. The Grand Lords of the Orders became paranoid, desperate and ever more deadly; for there was naught more dangerous than a cornered assassin.

They gathered clues and snippets of information from across the galaxy on news of this killer and where it could be located and destroyed. From the sterile, drug-controlled ‘lobotopias’ of the Tau Empire’s capital Septs, to the badlands and feral outlands of trading posts and warp-tainted drinking dens, the agents of the assassins exhorted information from contacts by force, murdered and stole data-cores, or otherwise overheard conversations and conspiratorial whispers. All in the hope of finding their elusive predator. The rumours and whispers spoke of a cluster of grim worlds, in the shadow of the ancient star of Tovinas. The rain-racked world of Colobar was a world of miserable citizens leading pointless, short lives beneath the lash of bureaucracy for all eternity. In the year 883.M53, monsters descended upon Colobar. Some had arrived years earlier, disguised by chemicals or more paranormal techniques. Others slinked amongst the sewers and rooftop gutters of the grey cityscape, hungry for the blood of their foes. They each came of their own volition; each supreme killer had followed their own trail of clues and brutally-obtained truths. Swiftly and silently, they closed in upon their target.

It was known as the Collectioner’s Court; the tax offices of Colobar city. This was where the dark force was hiding, and they attacked with fury born of selfishness. The carapace-armoured Enforcers guarding the lobby were suddenly assailed by blood-drenched beasts with crazed Eversor-descendant strains. With a howl and a storm of blades, the assassins butchered the enemy even as they screamed in terror and unloaded clip after clip of shotgun and autogun shells into the blood-maddened killers. The place was a charnel house.

The windows of the offices high within the Taxman’s tower splintered as high-velocity rounds punched through them, pitching scribes and clerks from their feet in puffs of blood and vaporised bone. Some office workers turned on their own, blades shuddering into existence in place of their hands, before they slaughtered everyone they could find. Some, bearing serpentine tattoos, pulled handcannons and boltguns from their desk drawers, and gunned down their fellows at random. Though the assassins worked individually, the fact these individuals attacked at once meant the tower was swiftly depopulated. After ten minutes, the tower was full of nothing but corpses.

The assassins coldly began to search the offices, for the chamber they all knew was hidden within the labyrinthine complex. They tore the place to shreds, keen eyes glowering as they scanned every document and schematic they could find. Eventually, they found it; a chamber which was not found upon the plans, or marked in any way by the former staff of the Collectioner’s Court. They converged upon this prize like a pack of jackals brought together temporarily for a great feast.

Melta bombs boiled away the heavy adamantine doors, and the assassins burst into the darkness eagerly. There was darkness there, and little more. Darkness and a series of heavy crates that is. The more prescient assassins instantly leapt from the room, as the bombardment cannon shells in the crates, rigged up to simple proximity fuses, detonated with the thunderclap of titans. The grey skyline of Colobar was illuminated for several long seconds, as the fusion fires boiled away the storm clouds above the tower for miles around.

Within the burning crater that was once a hab block, those surviving assassins pulled them-selves free of the flaming debris; skinless and screaming in fury. They noticed the ring of hulking shadows surrounding the crater far too late. Bolters rang out in the night, as the dark-armoured Astartes murdered the assembly of assassins with thoughtless efficiency. Only two figures did not add their weight of fire to the fusillade; both were hooded, both were faceless. The first was a giant amongst giants, and bore a mantle of wilting midnight feathers about his vast shoulders; his identity remained a mystery to the wider galaxy until the War fought upon the armoured skin of a god (which shall be related to you in due course, once my surviving servitors can traverse this... realm... if I could truly call this place a realm). The other figure remained a mystery; we have no information upon him. We only have the whispered intrigues of clerks and scriveners the galaxy over, who speak of a man without fear. A man who, they say, was like water; un-trappable, and unstoppable.

Within the Tau Empire’s tightly controlled society, the Psyker-Caste of the M’yen were used to locate and eliminate subversive elements within their great worlds; using their gifts to probe the minds of all who fell beneath their gaze. They also helped run the re-education centres, and used telepathy to perfect the correct drug cocktails required to crush any un-unified thoughts within the tau and their closest vassals. The M’yen were also essential in combating the Deceiver’s infiltrator units of modified Necrons, who constantly sought to undermine the war effort of the Tau and their allies, who were still engaged in a vast, desperate war to contain the Nightbringer and his Legions of silver destroyers. Ammunition factories that supplied specialised Necron-slaying rounds to the front-line military units were often singled out for destruction by Necron doppelgangers. Only a psyker’s second sight could reveal the cold stunted souls that writhed beneath the stolen facades worn by the nightmarish creatures.

Unbeknownst to the Thexian Alliance, members of their own race began to parlay with Necron envoys; each desiring to gain economic or social dominance against their rivals. In particular, a rogue group of Thexian Elite that called themselves prospectors of Cythor, made a terrible pact with the smiling silver fiend known only as Ralei; in exchange for Necron immunity, the vile shape-shifting fiends would let necrons build Tomb complexes beneath the surface of almost a hundred of their worlds, and would provide the souls necessary to pilot the Necron constructs that would rise from these tombs and bolster the swelling Legions of the Deceiver (who had always had the least necrons under his control, compared to his more powerful brothers). This betrayal was only revealed when the Thexian Alliance began to collapse in M55, after their heartlands were ripped out by Necrons phasing into battle from nearby turncoat worlds. It is thought the Cythor Fiends helped prolong the war for millennia, counteracting the sudden appearance of elite Ork War-Hulks in Tau space, who had aided in pushing the nightbringer’s forces back slightly on multiple fronts.

During the first half of the Age of Dusk, worlds, at random, were often attacked by bands of towering, howling mutants of twisted flesh and gnarled claws; sometimes two factions of monsters descended upon them, and proceeded to tear themselves apart alongside the helpless natives. There was no order to these incursions, and no pattern. Random Imperiums and Empires across the galaxy suffered these bizarre terrorist assaults. As it transpired, what was happening was at once horrifying and surprisingly mundane; it was a competition. This was a contest between artists; each as twisted and unthinkably horrifying as each other. One was a perversion of human science and daemonic cunning, the other the pinnacle of xenos perversion.

Urien Rakarth and the Coven of the Flesh Tower of Commorragh had built monsters and living flesh-sculptures since the fall, and they had become supremely inventive in their creations over these long millennia. Yet, they had a rival who had learned at their withered feet in the Age of Imperium. Fabius Bile and his Cabal of degenerates were also makers of monsters and animators of unclean beasts. The two factions developed an obsession with proving they were original and most original of flesh-smiths. Thus, over the years, they unleashed their grotesques and their ‘new men’ out into reality to test them. Wherever Bile travelled, he was pursued by slavering beasts that sought to protect him, and others to kill him. In turn, he would allow his own creations to be captured in Dark Eldar Slave raids, and into the hands of the haemonculi, who were often temporarily slain by cunning chaos-abominations. Each time an attack failed, the creators would send polite notes to their opposites, explaining why their monsters had failed, and pointers on how to improve their art. This was the correspondence of scholars, delivered by monstrous couriers, who tore apart thousands of innocents over the years.

Yet, not every covert action in the Age of Dusk was born of spite and menace. The Councils of the Vulkan Imperium created ‘The Brethren of the Willing’. This was a group of adventurers and investigators, founded in M55, to uncover the dark secrets of the galaxy, and figure out a way to defeat them, or to prevent their terrible prophecies coming to pass. Their leader was Imogen Kaltrane, a female scholar of stupendous intelligence and matchless bravery. The group she gathered was recruited from many diverse sources across the Imperium; outcasts and heroes, mercenaries and ideological prodigies. At one time or another, several Mk I and Mk II Astartes were known to have joined the brethren at one point. It was never a big group, and its membership altered several times over the course of history. However, they were clever and brilliant to a man (or indeed woman); they worked to save and protect Vulkan’s people. They had unofficial sanction from Vulkan, which often meant they had to avoid censure by unwitting local authorities, but this was how Imogen preferred to work; ‘on the seat of my britches mostly!’ she was quoted as once explaining to a bewildered scribe who attempted to collate her history.

They discovered much during their time; they helped decipher the various prophecies of the old races, they discovered and fully realised the dark potential of the Necrons and proved the existence of their Gods once and for all, they who helped gather the various artefacts scattered across the galaxy. This account can only give a few examples of their many missions, but there were far more, all hidden from the eyes of history by centuries of secrecy and the gulf carved into history by this war which still threatens to engulf us all. But they were as heroic in deed as any of the expeditionary leaders of Vulkan’s many armies.
Check out the start of my new serialised novel, Gingerbread, published with Jukepop Serials (It is free to read, so please read and comment). Here's the link, enjoy:
https://www.jukepopserials.com/home/read/1367/?chapter=2&p=0&sl=10
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Re: The Age of Dusk [60K]

Postby Colonel Mustard » Sat Apr 02, 2011 7:49 am

The first was a giant amongst giants, and bore a mantle of wilting midnight feathers about his vast shoulders

I call Corax!

A nice, interesting part, LL, especially the Tau's 'Lobotopias' (awesome word, by the way), while the rivalry between Urien Rakarth and Fabius Bile was an unexpectedly hilarious touch. Enjoyed it immensely, and looking forward to Part Ten
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Colonel Mustard
 
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