‘Is the fleet ready Sergeant Manov?’ queried Astinon from his throne. The general of the Corvians had polished and repaired his armour himself for the occasion, with his dedication and hard work reflected in the newly painted markings the battle-plate was adorned with.
‘The Silamia is moving into position with the rest of the fleet now, Lord Commander,’ answered Manov. The champion also wore his full armour to mark the turning of events that had started with the arrival of Collector Idel aboard the battle-barge two weeks prior. The heraldry of his former chapter was proudly displayed on the left shoulder pad, a golden raven clutching a black spear.
Gathered on the bridge was the full senior cadre of the Corvians, captains and sergeants of all the disparate warbands that had once belonged to chapters descended from the Great Raven’s own, the Raven Guard. Like Astinon and Manov, they wore the full livery and heraldry that were their legacies, handed down from battle-brother to battle-brother for twenty thousand years. The drab green of the Raptors clashed with the purple of the Hawk Lords, the black of the Raven Guard with the silver of the Knights of the Raven, the grey of the Revilers with the red of the Imperial Talons, and others besides.
They all stood shoulder to shoulder as equals and brothers, facing the Astartes who had given them some of their greatest victories, who had shed blood with them and mourned lost brothers with them at the victory feasts. In his orange and black armour, a long cloak of deep yellow, and the Golden Aquila on his breastplate, Astinon cut an impressive figure compared to his brothers. His power sword Stormblade, a relic of his chapter from the Age of the Imperium, rested bared across his knees and his twin, black-gilded bolt pistols were secured in their holsters. With Manov’s reply, he looked across at the seventeen armoured Space Marines who stood around him in a rough semi-circle.
‘Brothers, this day marks a monumental chapter in the history of the Corvians,’ he began, his voice steady and filled with an infinite calm that he could feel deep inside him. At last he had been able to let go of his burdens of the last twelve years and had changed from his brooding self into the confident and decisive leader he had once been.
‘We stand on the brink of an era, with the confidence and experience of ages honed in countless battles, ready to take the next step into the unknown,’ he continued and spread his hands around to take in the entire bridge. The Corvian officers followed the motion of his hands and looked out into the void where their vessels danced soundlessly into cohesion. In their eyes Astinon could see a fire, a drive to achieve the heights of greatness their forebears would have been proud to acknowledge as worthy of their heritage. He drew strength from their belief in themselves.
‘We all know that our rag-tag fleet of warships and merchantmen makes ready to go to Armageddon, a world that is two months distant through the swirling eddies of the warp. We all know that we go to present ourselves to the judgement of one of the true children of the Emperor, the demi-gods of our past, a Primarch. Vulkan, Lord of Nocturne of old, and now Lord of the true Imperium of Man.’
He paused for a moment to look again at his brothers and pointed to each in turn. ‘He will judge us for our sins, for our loss of faith, for our transgressions and we will accept whatever punishment that he sees fit to reward us with.’ His voice became sadder now as he went on. ‘We have fallen far, my fellow Corvians. Two weeks ago we were scraping by for our continued existence in this faithless galaxy. But today, today we stand ready to begin our lives anew.’
Now his voice hardened, strong as steel. ‘Should the Lord Vulkan accept our oaths of allegiance and loyalty, we shall be as steadfast in his service as the Salamanders themselves. We are the truest of all the sons of Kiavahr, sons of the Great Raven, Corax, one and all. Victorus aut Mortis!’ he cried.
‘Victorus aut Mortis!’ they all thundered in response, even the serfs who served as the bridge crew joining in.
‘Leave for your ships now, my brothers,’ he commanded. ‘From this moment on the reins of our destinies are in our own hands. Let none dispute our legacies or challenge our collective might.’
The bridge of the battleship Hand of the Emperor was alive with activity as naval ratings ran back and forth between various terminals and consoles, checking and rechecking the vessel’s systems as they feverishly prepared reports for their commanding officer. Admiral Teluga observed the frenetic activity from his command perch at the head of the bridge like a bird of prey observing its target before attacking. A hushed and frantic looking conversation between two of his senior bridge officers near the vox-pit drew his cold, hunting gaze.
‘Lieutenants Lammer and Dequade, approach the throne,’ he commanded in his typical bridge voice, a high-pitched imperious tone which brooked no insubordination.
Their faces visibly paling, the two officers hesitantly approached Teluga’s perch, a vox-print clutched in Dequade’s shaking hands.
‘Do not make me ask what in the name of the Regent is wrong, you blundering buffoons,’ he snapped at them. ‘What does that vox-print say?’
‘Afleethasjustexitedwarpspacenearthemonitoringstationmaanheimlordadmiral,’ said Lammer in a rush of words, completely intimidated by the Admiral.
Snarling, Teluga turned to Sergeant-at-arms Veol, the ranking bridge security officer. ‘Sergeant, throw this man in the brig, he is charged with incompetence and gross negligence of duty.’ Veol offered a smart salute to Teluga and then dragged a whimpering Lammer away from the bridge. Before the lieutenant could get hysterical, the beefy sergeant gave him a short tap on the head, knocking him out. Teluga watched the spectacle with some distaste then turned back to Lieutenant Dequade.
‘Well Lieutenant, what do you have to say?’
His face nearly white with shock, Dequade nevertheless managed to make his report in the appropriate manner. ‘A fleet of ships exited warp space near Monitoring Station Mannheim II approximately thirty minutes ago, Lord Admiral. It is comprised of 7 warships of varying size, two transports and as best as we can estimate, five merchantmen.’
The Admiral’s only expression was a raised left eyebrow as he considered Dequade’s report.
‘Identification?’ he asked tersely.
‘The fleet claims to be the entire force of the Corvians, a warband of renegade Space Marines and unprofessional soldiers, sir. The Steel Legion has had some dealings with them in the past,’ Dequade pointed out calmly, now slightly recovered from Teluga’s initial outburst.
‘Corvians,’ spat Teluga and continued with contempt in his voice. ‘They are nothing more than a band of petty mercenaries. Have they stated their intentions?’
‘They claim that they have come to parley with the Lord Regent, Admiral. They also claim that they have authority to pass through the blockade from Captain Dalmor himself!’ responded an incredulous Dequade.
Too fast for Dequade or anyone else to have noticed, a calculating look flitted like a shadow through Teluga’s eyes at the mention of the senior-most officer of the First Commandery, the Salamanders. Before he could say anything however, a serf from the vox-pit hurried over to him.
‘Apologies, Lord Admiral. But we are being hailed by the Promethean Sun. Lord Captain Dalmor himself wishes to speak with you.’
Cursing under his breath at the unfortunate interruption, Teluga tapped a series of buttons on the arms of his command throne.
‘What seems to be the problem, Captain Dalmor?’ he asked, his voice betraying no emotion.
‘Why has the Corvian fleet not been given safe passage to Armageddon, Lord Admiral?’ the Salamander’s clear voice came across as a blunt hammer to Teluga’s ears. ‘Escort them with a full honour guard to the planet; this is an order from the Lord Nocturne himself.’
Cursing once more at Dalmor’s impertinent tone, Teluga forced himself to respond as politely as he could. Space Marines had brought the ruin of the Imperium upon the galaxy and now they were running things once again like in the olden days. Shadows of what they once were, yet seemingly powerful enough for one of them to order him, Admiral of the Armageddon Defense Fleet, around. He would teach the upstart captain a lesson someday, he promised to himself.
‘Very well, Captain. We were just about to clear them through to Armageddon. Dalmor out.’ Teluga cut the connection and looked up to see Dequade still standing nearby.
‘Order the Steel Force and the Legion’s Wrath to escort the Corvians to Armageddon. The Hand of the Emperor is to maintain position here in high orbit.’ He looked through the viewports out at the void and then muttered to himself as Dequade went over to the vox-pit once more. ‘More damned Space Marines, as if the hundreds already flocking to the homeworld were not enough, now we have a full fleet of those bastards coming to play.’
As per some of my last few blogposts, I have started writing for LL’s Age of Dusk setting, which is set in the years M51 and on. My first piece for this, entitled Sons of Corax, is now available on the Bolthole in the General Warhammer-verse Fiction section. So far, I have four chapters up which have set up my characters, the particular setting within the larger background, and hopefully the motivations of my main characters.
Chapter 5, which will nicely and quite explosively be the first action scene of the piece, shall be up either tonight or tomorrow. Expect lots of bolter-action, screaming, dying, mutilating, decapitating, gut-ripping, and all that jazz that people love in Warhammer 40,00o or, should I say Warhammer 60,000?
So far, this has been really fun to write, and I have all sorts of crazy ideas on how to turn things on their heads and twist perceptions. This is going to be a wild, wild ride people and you don’t wanna miss it! Stay tuned for more on this!