He stands over the broken form of one of the False Emperor’s most faithful; her once ivory-colored warplate cracked and tinted red with the blood of her foes as well as her own; various marks from bolt rounds and slashes from close-quarters weapons covered her armor like a mosaic. Her wings were unfledged, hanging low, and her once graceful weapon had been cast from her grip. The demigod looked down upon her, with emotionless red eye lenses, and clamped his own weapons to his thighs. With armored hands, the demigod in night blue grabbed hold off the saint by the hair upon her head and dragged her down towards a broken cathedral that had been destroyed when her ship had crashed down to the surface.
War tore the world around them apart. Warriors dressed in armor similar to the broken saint fired upon their foes with boltguns and flamers, desperately trying to fend them off. In the end however, creatures covered in a regalia of night blue power armor that constantly sparked with white lightning descended upon the stragglers with claws and swords, tearing them to pieces. A few of the remaining sisters saw the demigod dragging their leader towards the broken cathedral, and raised their weapons in his direction. They were quickly put down as bolt rounds appearing from nowhere landing in between their eyes, their heads disappearing in a burst of bone and gore. Finally, he makes it to the cathedral, and quickly found a broken column of stone; the image of an Aquila carved into its surface. Unclamping his sword - a beautiful paragon blade that had been forged during the Dark Age of Technology – the demigod threw the saint against the Aquila carved in stone and drove his weapon into her abdomen.
A cry of pain tore through the battlefield as the saint’s body was filled with agony. The demigod nodded at this, before he turned and began to search the area around the broken cathedral. It did not take long to find the corpse of a fallen brother, whose helmet had been caved in by a well-placed bolt round. The demigod knelt down and found black chains hanging from his fallen brother’s pauldrons; and quickly detached them. He noticed bleached skulls hanging from the ends of the chains, and knew that they would only get in the way. The demigod proceeded to pound the chains against the stone of the cathedral, cracking the skulls open before they were clear of any bone.
Returning to the saint, who still clutched onto life, the demigod tied her arms to the wings of the stone Aquila with the chains of black iron he had taken, before withdrawing his paragon blade. The demigod then hoisted the column of stone upwards, so that all could bear witness to the defeated saint. The sisters dressed in ivory armor lowered their weapons at the sacrilegious sight, before the fell down to their knees and wept. The beasts in night blue, simply turned back to their prey and continued the hunt, though the demigod knew they were all smiling underneath their emotionless faceplates.
It was now, after she had been beaten and chained, that the saint did speak to the demigod; her eyes filled with enmity for him and his brothers, and misery for her sisters that were now mere lambs to the slaughter.
“Have you no shame, heretic; for betraying the Imperium, for betraying your Father the Emperor?” She demanded, even as her blood flooded out of her lips and down her chin.
The demigod looked upon the saint, and once again clamped his weapon to his thigh. “I hold no shame in my heart for what I have done, saint.” He growled through his helmet. “Know this however, as you lie here broken and defeated; the Emperor is not my father. I am no more his son as you are his daughter.”
With those words, the demigod brought up his hands to his helmet, and with a hiss removed it. Now, the demigod looked upon the saint not with red eye lenses and a winged helmet, but with his true face. His skin was chalk white; pale enough so that the veins underneath were visible, while his eyes were pools of pure blackness, devoid of any pupils or irises. Once again, the demigod spoke.
“I am a son of the Night Haunter, of the Eighth Legion, of the Sunless World. I am a Night Lord, and we have come for you.”
He finds himself stumbling through blackened alleyways, light unable to pierce the planet's veil of eternal darkness. He is not a demigod now; not yet. Instead he is young, thin, and weak. His skin, a cadaverous white that borders on transparency, is covered by scraps of skinned flesh that are as comfortable as soaked feathers. His eyes see through the darkness, searching for his next victim. In one hand, his bony white fingers grip the serrated edge of broken glass. In the other, he holds the organ that once pumped lifeblood through the veins of a criminal.
The taste of rich meat and blood still lingered in the back of his senses, urging him onwards.
It had been weeks since he had eaten something other than human flesh. His parents had suffered an inglorious death many moons beforehand, and the filth-ridden rats of the alleys had never given him the nutrients – or taste – he so craved. No, only the flesh of man could drive him forwards, reminding him of the task that he had set out to complete the night his parents had died.
Underneath his cloak of flayed skins, the boy who would ascend to immortality had the heads of those he had butchered tethered to ropes he had tied around his waist. At the start of the week, he had counted eight heads. Now, three days later, he counted thirteen.
Now he was here; lurking in the bowels of the underhives, searching for those who deserved to die a gruesome and ignoble death. He wandered aimlessly for several moments, passing through corridors darker than the last, stepping over the already rotten bodies of those who had died to underhive gang warfare.
Finally, he heard screaming.
The boy’s eyes darted to the east while his tongue danced across his bloodstained teeth. He broke down into a hunched sprint, his bare feet kicking up rainwater as he ran through recently wrought puddles. His grip on the glass shard tightened, and he felt a brief sting in the palm of his hand as it drew blood, but he didn’t care. He pushed the sense of pain into the back of his mind, too focused on the hunt, too focused on the screaming.
He took a right turn near the end of the alley, and was greeted by a sight that filled him with both joy and disgust. There, in the soaked corridors of Nostramo’s underhive, lay a woman who wore torn cloth that might have once passed for a dress. She was frantically crawling away from the brute of a man that stood a few paces behind her. In the way that one might stare into a cracked mirror, the boy saw a similar look plastered upon the man’s face as he stepped towards the woman; rusted crowbar in hand.
With a corpse’s grin, the boy charged forward, his cloak of skins flaying about, and the heads on his belt bumping into one another. Even as adrenaline pumped through his body and quickened the beat of his heart, the boy noticed that the man had not yet seen him. When he was half a dozen steps away from his prey, the boy came to realize that the man was intoxicated. From the way he stood, to his enervated gaze, the boy doubted that his target even knew what was transpiring.
The woman on the other hand, saw the boy rushing towards them, and proceeded to scream louder and throw her hands over her head. Not that the boy could blame her. Rare was the circumstance in which a revenant clad in the wet skin of the dead meant safety.
When he was four steps away from the man, the boy crouched down to a point where his knuckles could touch the floor, and leapt forward. By now the boy had tossed aside the heart of his previous victim, his free hand lunging for the man’s throat. The boy did not weigh enough to force the man to the ground by jumping at him, but the sudden pain of a glass shard digging its way into his gullet sent him sprawling to the ground, hacking up a torrent of blood and spittle. In less than three minutes, the boy was already parting the man’s flesh from bone as the corpse sat in a pool of rainwater of dark blood. By the end of the seventh minutes he was already stitching together the man’s face to his skin cloak with threads of entwined hair. Twelve minutes had passed before the boy pressed onwards into the darkness, leaving nothing more than a headless corpse behind; the front of its body torn open...and its organs missing.
The man was not the first, and he certainly would not be the last to fall victim to the Man Eater’s twisted sense of justice.
The Sea of Souls often served to remind him of failure. Or rather, it served to remind him as to why they had all failed in the first place. Its twisted and harlequin waves caressing the sleek, cool plates of his vessel. His gaze having to turn away from its depths, elsewise his eyes begin to well up with tears and ache. The incessant whispers that danced in the back of his mind in the hours that followed, with no sense to be made from them.
He lowered himself to chuckling for the briefest of moments then, a sound that compared itself to the rhythmic hum of his vessel’s engines. Was it weakness, to cling so often to thoughts of past failings, he wondered. No doubt many in his company would believe so, despite their own musings. Failure, after all, now stood as one of the core pillars from which all those who fought for the Ruinous Ones built their residence. Each failed campaign since Horus’ Betrayal adding another brick to the mound.
Failure then, was something all traitors pondered on. Whether it be to reminisce, or convince themselves that the next time would not end like the last. And yet time and time again they were defeated. Driven back through here, to this place that served as both a place of refuge and a reminder of their failings. The question that always followed was a simple one, with a relatively straightforward answer.
Why? He would ask him time and time again. Why do we fail?
The answer he had not thought of himself, mayhaps because he had still been blinded by pride, anger, or ignorance. No, the answer came to him from one who had both been gifted and cursed with a much more humbled position. His equerry, a grizzled and haggard man by the name of Cantor Rayn, had answered his long insoluble question in the weeks that had followed the disastrous campaign upon Terra’s very own soil.
“Because we are Chaos.” Cantor had begun. “We are those who serve the Ruinous Powers, directly or not.”
“Speak sense, Rayn.” He had told him then.
“Your brothers, like your father and his brothers, saw the Ruinous Ones as a side to choose over that of the Emperor’s. Or perhaps they saw it as the side of the Warmaster, yet he too served them. But there is no side in Chaos. The very definition of the word opposes the concept of sides to be taken. There is naught but clashing ideologies to be had in this ‘side’ you’ve all taken, sire.”
And there it was. His answer, staring at him throughout all the years. They had taken up defeat. Brandished its blades. Raised its banners. Sacked worlds and put countless to the sword in its name. They fought for failure. They killed for failure. Failure, disguised as a side to be taken up. Failure, masked as a method of securing power over peers and rising to become greater than your betters. Failure, disguising itself as deities to grovel over.
For a time, the answer haunted his thoughts in a way that had overshadowed the question before it. They had chosen defeat. They had been destined for it. They had been wrong. Why then, did they still fight this war? What point was there to be had in spilling their foes blood? For some, it was vengeance. Others merely reveled in the carnage they could sow.
It had taken him some time afterwards to rediscover his reason for fighting.
He did not fight in the name of failure. He had not taken up its colors as so many of his brothers had. His Legion, in its majority, scorned the Powers and those who willingly served them. It had not been their side to take, and it never would be. He soon came to realize why he and his brothers, why his Legion, had failed. For they had followed and taken orders from those who had taken up that mantle of failure. They had served the Warmaster Horus, a puppet whose strings danced to the tune of his false gods.
No more. They would carve their own path. Find their own way. Fight the same fight, but not for the same side, nor the same goal. He and his brothers would fight to sow fear to countless worlds. In the memory of their father. In the memory of their Legion.
And they would not fail again.