Stunned silence gripped the bridge of the ancient vessel at Collector Idel’s unexpected words and every single gathered warrior, whether a mortal or an Astartes, stared at him with dumbfounded expressions. Lord Commander Astinon could hardly believe his ears. Was this really true?, he wondered. In the utter madness and turmoil that grips this galaxy can this ember of hope really exist?
‘No old friend, it cannot be true,’ he addressed the diminutive man, his shoulders heavy as he sat down on his battered and chipped black-ivory throne, suddenly feeling light-headed and weak. For one such as him, these weaknesses would have once been completely alien, but not in the terrible times that he now found himself in. ‘There is nothing in this galaxy but horror and terror. Utter damnation has wormed its way into its heart and corrupted it to its very core. Nought but oblivion awaits us.’ To the warriors on the bridge, their general’s pain was all too apparent in his tone and inflection.
The eager and youthful Collector shook his head in disapproval. ‘No my friend, it is very much true. I have seen him and the wonders he has wrought with my own eyes. There is a fire within him that compels all around him to seek out the best in themselves. His words drive them to heights of unimaginable greatness! If only you could see what I have seen brother,’ he mused, his mind still unable let go of the visions he had seen on that blasted world.
Astinon’s stunned expression turned to one of contempt and hate. ‘You lie, Idel. You tell me some fable, thinking that you can dupe me with such grand falsities, but I will not suffer that indignity. I once called you brother and friend, but no more. Your own ambition to take my place as the Master of the Corvians has doomed you. I denounce you!’ The Lord Commander turned to his champion, Sergeant Manov, and pointed at Idel. ‘Arrest this interloper, brother, and throw him in the brig. I will see to him later.’
Manov however, stood helpless next to Astinon’s throne, caught between his loyalty to his commander and his friendship to the Collector. For his part, Idel was as dumbfounded at Astinon’s order as the latter had been at his words only a few moments ago. Rage took hold of Astinon as his order went unheeded and he got up.
‘Sergeant Manov!’ he thundered. ‘You will arrest this traitor and put him in the brig, now!’
Before the Sergeant could respond, a voice full of authority and purpose challenged Astinon. ‘There will be no arresting of this man today or forever, Lord Commander Astinon Dras of the Corvians.’
The furious general turned towards the direction of the voice and was struck speechless for a second time in less than an hour. Stepping onto the bridge was a tall figure, a figure he had never expected to see again, not since the last time they had met on the blood-drenched fields of Gida Prime. In full battle-plate of polished dark emerald, the helmeted warrior’s presence had a distinctive affect on the tense atmosphere of the bridge. Many of the Corvians recognized the armour and its distinctive markings, markings which seem to have become even more complex and ostentatious, as if the wearer of the armour had risen high in rank and recently.
Astinon gazed at the new arrival in complete shock and awe, his senses unable to accept the evidence of his own eyes. One by one, the Corvians on the bridge couldn’t help but kneel before the new arrival; such was the magnificence that radiated from him. A surprised and awestruck Astinon, unable to accept so many changes in his chaotic and turbulent life, collapsed back on his throne.
‘You... you are... you are alive,’ he croaked. ‘But that is impossible! I saw you fall on Gida Prime!’
In a fluid motion and with apparent grace, the warrior removed his helmet, exposing his face to the Corvian officers in front of him. With cropped hair, patrician features, a confident bearing and three gold studs, he was the image of martial perfection as only a warrior of the Adeptus Astartes could be. He walked up to Astinon’s throne and shook the Lord Commander’s gauntleted hands in a warrior’s grip, wrist to wrist.
‘I survived, brother. The drug-crazed Kazan captured me as spoils of war and I was their prisoner for nigh twelve years.’ The warrior’s voice was just as Astinon remembered, strong, clear and, in contrast to his own, full of purpose. His world contracted to encompass just him and the green-armoured warrior in front of him, his fellow Corvians and Idel forgotten for the moment.
‘Twelve years? It has been only a mere twelve years?’ he whispered. ‘The galaxy has gone from one hell to another since I thought you lost, brother.’
‘The past does not matter anymore, Astinon, but what does is that I have returned. Seven years, my oldest friend, seven years I have spent in a holy crusade, bringing hope, truth and justice to a corrupted galaxy. And I bring you the most wondrous news brother, one to uplift even your sorrow.’
‘Hope? Truth? Justice?’ Astinon laughed maniacally. ‘Such concepts are meaningless in these times Sian’me of the once vaunted Salamanders. Meaningless I tell you, for the Emperor’s light has...’
Sian’me, once a sergeant of the Salamanders chapter of the Adeptus Astartes, raised his hand to stop Astinon in mid-sentence. The Lord Commander only looked confused at the interruption.
‘I am no longer Sian’me, Astinon,’ said the warrior gently. ‘I am reborn, and in my rebirth I have a new name. A name bestowed upon me by my new lord. I am now Dalmor, Captain of the Salamanders Commandery, the Lord Nocturne’s Own.’
Astinon’s world shattered at those words, words which wormed their way into his thoughts. Rebirth. New lord. Lord Nocturne’s Own. Thoughts of lost glory, of nobility, of sacrifice, of duty, of purpose came unbidden to him. The dream-haze that had for so long clouded his mind suddenly disappeared in an instant. And with it gone, came clarity, a clarity he had lost all those years ago.
Comprehension flooded his mind, a mind bred for war, for service, for loyalty. His shrunken world expanded and suddenly he became aware of his battle-brothers near him, of the throne he sat upon. He realized where he was and looked to his champion.
In his eyes Manov saw all the pain and guilt his general had carried with him for the last twelve years disappear in a flash. In his poise, he saw the return of unyielding confidence, the surety of purpose. He nodded in approval at Dalmor, who continued to look at his friend.
‘He has returned, Astinon, well and truly returned!’ exclaimed the Salamander, his tone conveying all the emotion he could not express with any action. A sense of wonder filled him, and all could see it, could feel it. ‘Armageddon has been purged in blood and fire, the filth of the Emperor’s Children and their dupes scoured clean from its surface. The Master of Nocturne, the true child of the Emperor has returned to guide us to new beginnings. To unite all the disparate and warring factions of humanity and restore the true ideals of the Imperium, bringing the Emperor’s light to all the corners of this damned galaxy!’
Lord Commander Astinon Dras, general of the Corvians, glanced at his old friend, a friend he had thought long gone, and whom he had mourned in his grief for twelve long years, twelve years of self-chastisement and self-torture. To everyone around him, Astinon appeared remarkably changed from whom he had been just a few moments prior, and they saw their old commander return in his bearing.
‘I need to see him myself Dalmor,’ he addressed the Salamander. ‘I must ask forgiveness for my sins, sins that I have committed against the Emperor and my own lord.’
‘Indeed, my brother,’ Dalmor smiled at his friend’s words. ‘He himself has asked to meet with you on Armageddon, the capital of his new Imperium. It is why I accompanied Collector Idel,’ he said, pointing at the scion of a long-line of those who had once called themselves Rogue Traders.
Astinon looked at his hands, hands that hadn’t wielded a weapon in two years, and bunched them into fists, smashing them down on the arms of his throne. The sound reverberated across the entire bridge of the ancient vessel, the venerable battle-barge Montisgarre, once the fortress-monastery of the infamous Angels of Retribution.
‘I am done hiding,’ he spoke, with absolute conviction in his voice. ‘I am done running away from the bastard dogs that once were as dust beneath my ancestors’ feet. I once had honour and purpose. I was once loyal,’ he whispered.
The Corvians gathered closer and knelt together in fealty before him, acknowledging his authority as their Lord Commander. Dalmor stood where he was, full of pride at the warrior who stood before him, one who had been a broken shell of himself for the last twelve years.
‘We are the Corvians, the truest of all the sons of Kiavahr,’ he continued. ‘We once stood as a bulwark against all the enemies of mankind, from within and without, whether they be traitors most foul or aliens too horrible. And we shall be so once again. Once we were known as the Raven Guard, Raptors, Black Guard, Revilers, Angels of Retribution, Imperial Talons, Knights of the Raven, and by dozens of other names.’ No one interrupted and all listened raptly to his rousing words.
‘In those dark days, we were as islands to each other, like scattered sticks of wood. That is why the Imperium fell for we failed it utterly and completely. We were once the Angels of Death, His own vengeance that would strike all those who would oppose us, but we weren’t united.’ Astinon made eye contact with every single Corvian, even with Dalmor, before continuing.
‘But that changes, now!’ he shouted. ‘We have lived the last ten thousand years as scavengers and opportunists, mercenaries in all but name. This is the Age of Dusk for Mankind and in these terrible times we will rise again from the ashes of our defeat to take our due from this uncaring galaxy.’
Astinon drew his power sword from its scabbard and thrust it high into the air. The silvery-blue surface of the sword caught the light from the bio-lumes aboard the bridge and reflected it to create the illusion that the weapon was radiating an intense, near-blinding light.
‘We will live with honour, fight with honour and die with honour!’ he cried, his voice full of passion in a cause he had long thought he had forsaken but had now rediscovered. ‘FOR THE HONOUR OF CORAX!’
‘WE BRING RETRIBUTION AND DEATH TO OUR FOE!’
Sons of Corax
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