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Angel exterminatus, p.1
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       Angel Exterminatus, p.1

           Graham McNeill
 
Angel Exterminatus


  Table of Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  The Horus Heresy

  Dramatis Personae

  Book One: Terra Figula

  One

  Two

  Three

  Four

  Five

  Six

  Seven

  Eight

  Book Two: As Above, So Below

  Nine

  Ten

  Eleven

  Twelve

  Thirteen

  Fourteen

  Fifteen

  Sixteen

  Seventeen

  Book Three: Coniunctio

  Eighteen

  Nineteen

  Twenty

  Twenty-One

  Twenty-Two

  Twenty-Three

  Twenty-Four

  Twenty-Five

  Twenty-Six

  Twenty-Seven

  Afterword

  About The Author

  Legal

  eBook license

  The Horus Heresy

  It is a time of legend.

  The galaxy is in flames. The Emperor’s glorious vision for humanity is in ruins. His favoured son, Horus, has turned from his father’s light and embraced Chaos.

  His armies, the mighty and redoubtable Space Marines, are locked in a brutal civil war. Once, these ultimate warriors fought side by side as brothers, protecting the galaxy and bringing mankind back into the Emperor’s light. Now they are divided.

  Some remain loyal to the Emperor, whilst others have sided with the Warmaster. Pre-eminent amongst them, the leaders of their thousands-strong Legions are the primarchs. Magnificent, superhuman beings, they are the crowning achievement of the Emperor’s genetic science. Thrust into battle against one another, victory is uncertain for either side.

  Worlds are burning. At Isstvan V, Horus dealt a vicious blow and three loyal Legions were all but destroyed. War was begun, a conflict that will engulf all mankind in fire. Treachery and betrayal have usurped honour and nobility. Assassins lurk in every shadow. Armies are gathering. All must choose a side or die.

  Horus musters his armada, Terra itself the object of his wrath. Seated upon the Golden Throne, the Emperor waits for his wayward son to return. But his true enemy is Chaos, a primordial force that seeks to enslave mankind to its capricious whims.

  The screams of the innocent, the pleas of the righteous resound to the cruel laughter of Dark Gods. Suffering and damnation await all should the Emperor fail and the war be lost.

  The age of knowledge and enlightenment has ended. The Age of Darkness has begun.

  ~ DRAMATIS PERSONAE ~

  The III Legion ‘Emperor’s Children’

  Fulgrim, Primarch of the Emperor’s Children

  Fabius, Apothecary of the Emperor’s Children

  Eidolon, ‘The Risen’, Lord Commander

  Julius Kaesoron, ‘The Favoured Son’, First Captain

  Marius Vairosean, Captain, 3rd Company

  Lucius, The Eternal Blademaster

  Kalimos, ‘The Whipmaster’, Captain, 17th Company

  Lonomia Ruen, Captain, 21st Company

  Bastarnae Abranxe, Captain, 85th Company

  Krysander of the Blades, Captain, 102nd Company

  The IV Legion ‘Iron Warriors’

  Perturabo, Primarch of the Iron Warriors

  Forrix, ‘The Breaker’, First Captain, Triarch

  Obax Zakayo, Lieutenant, 1st Grand Battalion

  Berossus, Warsmith, 2nd Grand Battalion

  Galian Carron, Techmarine, 2nd Grand Battalion

  Harkor, Warsmith, 23rd Grand Battalion, Triarch

  Kroeger, Lieutenant, 23rd Grand Battalion

  Soltarn Vull Bronn, ‘The Stonewrought’, 45th Grand Battalion

  Barban Falk, Warsmith, 126th Grand Battalion

  ‘Honourable’ Soulaka, Apothecary, 235th Grand Battalion

  Toramino, Warsmith, Master of the Stor-bezashk

  Cadaras Grendel, Legionary

  The Sisypheum

  Ulrach Branthan, Captain, Iron Hands 65th Clan-company

  Cadmus Tyro, Equerry to Captain Branthan

  Frater Thamatica, Ironwrought, Morlock veterans

  Sabik Wayland, Iron Father

  ‘Karaashi’ Bombastus, Dreadnought

  Vermana Cybus, Morlock veteran

  Septus Thoic, Morlock veteran

  Ignatius Numen, Battle-brother

  Nykona Sharrowkyn, Raven Guard Legion, 66th Company

  Atesh Tarsa, Apothecary, Salamanders Legion, 24th Company

  The Ebonite Archymsts

  Karuchi Vohra, Ovate Seer of the Paths Above

  Varuchi Vohra, Ovate Seer of the Paths Below

  The VII Legion ‘Imperial Fists’

  Felix Cassander, Captain, 42nd Company

  Navarra, Legionary, 6th Company

  ‘The call of death is a call of love. Death can be sweet if we answer it in the affirmative, if we accept it as one of the great eternal forms of life and transformation; the moment where man becomes something greater than his rude beginnings: a flying, godlike, shimmering, diaphanous, beautiful creature. That will be my apotheosis, where I become a general principal of Being, instantiated throughout all of the vistas of the Imperium.’

  – The Primarch Fulgrim, My Phoenician Imago

  ‘Guilt upon the soul, like rust upon iron, both defiles and consumes it, gnawing and creeping into it, until at last it eats out the very heart and substance of the metal. But if all the world hates you, and believes you wicked, while your own conscience absolves you from guilt, you will not be without friends.’

  – The Primarch Perturabo, In Willing Sacrifice

  ‘And I assure you, my children, it will not be long before your domain has become a place of insanity as the Angel Exterminatus sends his consorts, daemons in human flesh, to kill and maim. All shall suffer at the hands of this avatar of debauchery, and from its heart shall be loosed countless numbers of daemons, for the gates of damnation are opening wide.’

  – Fragment of Firenzii manuscript, The Division of the Prophecies

  Theogonies – I

  Death below, the unknown above. One choice. A moment’s inattention or a single slip and he would be dead, broken on the knife-bladed rocks below. His fingers were bloody, gripping the cliff by the narrowest handholds. The muscles in his calves were vibrating like plucked strings, and his arms burned with acids, though he had no memory of exerting himself.

  How had he come to this place?

  He had no answer to that, nor did he know much of anything save that the rugged wall of rock before him was slick with water and vanished into the mists of rain above him. What lay at the top of this cliff? No answer was forthcoming, but what lay at the bottom was clear enough. His right hand was cramping, and he eased each finger from the rock with the gentlest effort, trying to lessen the pain in each joint.

  Long black hair hung before his eyes and he shook his head to clear his vision. The motion almost hurled him from the cliff and he clamped his fingers even harder onto the rock. He spat rainwater and looked up into the grey smirr of misty clouds. How close was the top of this cliff? Would it be easier to climb or was the ground, distant as it was, closer?

  There was no way of knowing, but he had to make a decision soon.

  A bad decision was better than no decision, and he understood that he had only two options. Retreat to a known fate or climb to an uncertain future. Though he had no memory of himself, he knew that going backwards was not in his nature. A decision, once made, had to be seen through to the end, for good or ill. How he knew this about himself he didn’t know, but with the decision made, he knew it was the right one.

  He lifted his right hand and
slid it up the cliff, looking for a higher handhold, and, finding one, gripped it tightly. Gently, he eased his left hand up and took hold of a thin slice of protruding rock. With his hand safe, he lifted his foot, the bare sole torn open (by climbing this far?) and placed it securely. He pushed down and lifted his body higher, feeling a potent sense of victory at even this small distance.

  With agonising slowness and patience, he climbed upwards again, each movement painful and dangerous, but achieved with a relentless determination that he would not fail. The rain intensified and lashed his body with icy needles, as though spitefully seeking to dislodge him from the rock.

  Rain, exhaustion and pain all conspired to weaken his resolve, but the more their combined efforts attempted to prise him loose, the harder he gripped. Hand over hand, one foot after the other, he pushed himself higher and higher. Each moment of ascension was a rebirth, each continued breath a revelation. The rocks below diminished as he climbed, yet the clouds above seemed to climb with him, revealing yet more of the cliff, but no sign of a summit.

  For all he knew, there might never be an end to the cliff. He might climb until his strength finally gave out and he fell to his death. The thought did not trouble him overmuch. Better to fail after all effort has been expended than to die never having found the limits of his endurance. That gave him strength, and he climbed onwards, faster now that the mountain had become his enemy, a thing to be overcome. With an enemy to focus his thoughts, his strength grew and his will to succeed sharpened to a razor’s edge.

  Now all he could see above or below him was the cliff face, an implacable black wall that wanted him to fail and die. He gritted his teeth and spat at the rock before him in anger. Blood ran down his arms in thick runnels, his hands torn and opened to the bone by the jutting slivers of rock bearing his weight, but the pain was nothing compared to the thought of letting this ascent beat him.

  Why the thought of defeat should be so painful to him when he did not fear to die he did not know. After all, what did a man with no memory or future have to fear? On the heels of that thought came another. Looking at the thinness of his arms and his imagined height, he guessed he was not a man, but a boy.

  His body was that of a youngster, one with a solid and muscular physique, but a boy nonetheless. Was this climb the result of some boyhood dare or initiation? A test of his manhood or some coming-of-age ritual? A thought danced on the edges of recall, a brusque figure of towering proportions instilling a will of iron within him, daring him to fail and knowing that he would not.

  The memory faded, but with its departure another feeling stole upon his thoughts.

  He was not alone.

  Someone – or something – was watching him.

  That was surely ridiculous, for who else would be so foolish as to climb a sheer cliff in the rain? Yet the thought persisted. Finding a ledge where he could rest without tearing open the many gashes on his feet, he eased his body around so that his back was to the cliff. The mist had descended, and an impenetrable sheen of moist fog obscured whatever lay before him, but in descending, it had revealed a measure of the sky above.

  He saw the stars.

  A veil of beauteous darkness strewn with pinpricks of brightness, sprays of light from unimaginably distant suns. He knew of stars: what they were and the chemical anatomy of their life-cycles, but where he had obtained this knowledge was as mysterious as how he had come to be on this cliff.

  They wheeled above him in a sweeping arc, constellations and auroras like sunbursts.

  And at the heart of it all was something else, something that had always been there, always watching him, and which always would. Dimly he sensed that this was no benevolent guardianship, but the patience of a hunter stalking its prey.

  Like an ocean maelstrom lifted from the seas and set amongst the heavens, it spun with sickly colours and diseased froths of matter and light. A region of space that swallowed time and spat out its doomed fragments, it stared down at him like the eye of something monstrous and colossal, a power young to the universe yet which would outlive the stars themselves.

  It made him sick to his stomach to see it and he closed his eyes as a lurching sense of vertigo slipped over him. His legs wobbled and he was suddenly dislocated from control of his body. His back came away from the cliff face and he felt the vast empty space in front of him, the dizzying sense of standing on a slender ridge of stone thousands of metres above the ground.

  His hand scrabbled at the rock, but found no purchase. His body leaned out over the abyssal depths as his mind screamed at him to fight this weakness. A scratching finger found a thin crack in the rock and he jammed his hand into it as his body swung out into empty air.

  Pain tore at his arm as his entire weight fell from the ledge. He bunched his fist as he felt his grip slipping, skin tearing back from the top of his hand. He gritted his teeth and fought against the flailing panic welling up within him. Anger fuelled him and forced it down.

  Someone had abandoned him on this rock face and left him to die. He knew this with a certainty that was unshakable as it was unknown. Why would anyone leave a youth with no memory to die? What purpose would it serve? His anger at this needlessly cruel baptism of fire imposed an icy calm on him, and he took a deep breath as he blotted out the pain from his injured hand.

  And then he saw something emerging from the mist above him, a length of rope being lowered down the sheer face of the cliff.

  ‘Grab hold, boy,’ said a voice above him. ‘Hurry now.’

  The mist parted and he saw the top of the cliff, perhaps fifty metres above him, its lip fringed with thick gorse and wiry bracken. A group of men in white and gold armour were silhouetted against the night sky. Two of them held the rope, while another in a red-crested helm shouted to him again.

  ‘Come on, boy, we’ve got better things to do than haul your sorry arse up the cliff.’

  His lip curled in contempt at the man’s dismissal of his chances of making the climb unaided. He reached up and secured a hold with his free hand, and let out a pained breath as the tension in his other hand eased. His feet found purchase after a quick scrabble, and he eased his bloodied hand from the crack in the rock.

  ‘I’ll climb myself,’ he said. ‘I don’t need anyone’s help.’

  The man shrugged and said, ‘Suit yourself. Climb or fall, it’s all the same to me.’

  The rope slithered back up the cliff and, with the end of his ordeal in sight, he found fresh reserves of strength to climb. Hand over hand he ascended, his confidence growing with every metre he gained in the war against the cliff. The closer he came to the top, the more numerous the handholds became, as though the cliff had finally accepted it would not claim his life. He pushed up once more and groped for a handhold, but his hand met only air, and he realised he’d reached the top.

  Armoured gauntlets reached out to him, but he shucked them off and stood, exhausted, at the top of the cliff. His heart battered his ribs and the blood surged around his body in triumph. Despite the pain, he knew he was grinning from ear to ear. He sucked in a great draught of air and blinked grit from his eyes.

  And saw the fortress.

  It dominated the skyline all around, a squatting immensity that looked to have been carved from the very summit of the mountain. Surrounded by high walls of impervious stone and rounded, weapon-studded towers, only the roofs of its grand temples and glittering palaces were visible through marble embrasures.

  He had no knowledge of this place, but knew it was where he was meant to be.

  He took a step towards its great bronze gates, but white-armoured warriors surrounded him, raising weapons with fluted barrels and elaborate firing mechanisms.

  ‘Don’t take another step,’ said the man in the crested helmet, drawing a long, slender-barrelled pistol of chased gold and silver steel from its holster. Caged lightning crackled in a glass cylinder breech.

  The boy looked at the pistol aimed at his chest, but he was not afraid.

 
You threw me a rope and now you’re going to kill me?’ he said. ‘I don’t think so.’

  ‘Who are you, and why do you approach Lochos in secret?’

  ‘Lochos?’ he said, pointing to the fortress. ‘Is that Lochos?’

  ‘It is,’ said the man, his pistol wavering as their eyes met.

  ‘Who is its master?’ he asked in the voice of a much older body.

  ‘Dammekos is its master, the Tyrant of Lochos,’ replied the man, as though surprised he had answered at all.

  ‘And who are you?’

  ‘Miltiades…’ said the man, hesitantly. ‘Sub-Optio in the 97th Grand Company of Lochos.’

  ‘Take me to Dammekos, Sub-Optio Miltiades,’ commanded the boy, and Miltiades nodded.

  He swept his eyes around the rest of the warriors, meeting each man’s gaze and watching as, one by one, they lowered their weapons.

  ‘Yes, of course,’ said Miltiades, still sounding confused at the words he was saying, but unable to stop himself from speaking. ‘Follow me.’

  The boy walked with Miltiades over the rough terrain, following the line of the rocks until the edges of a road came into sight. As he set foot on the hard-packed earth of the road, he turned back to the cliff edge and looked up into the night sky at the leering, unnatural maelstrom of dark light. It seemed much closer now, blotting out the sky with its immense presence, as though spreading over the heavens like an infection.

  ‘What is that?’ he asked Miltiades.

  ‘What are you looking at?’

  ‘That,’ he said, pointing to the malignant wound in the sky.

  Miltiades shrugged. ‘I just see stars.’

  ‘You don’t see the star maelstrom?’

  ‘Star maelstrom?’

  ‘You really don’t see it?’ asked the boy. ‘Any of you?’

  The warriors around him shook their heads, oblivious to the sight it appeared only he could see. That it was invisible to them was just another of this night’s many mysteries.

  ‘Who are you?’ asked Miltiades. ‘I should have let you fall, but…’

  A number came to mind, but he was so much more than just a number.

  He had a name, and now that it had been asked of him, he found that he knew it.

 
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