+ inload: In Which a Primarch is Sighted +


The roar of battle is overwhelming, deafening and constant. Small pebbles and dust jump and move around our feet, as though impatient, as though waging a war of their own. Catabin waves us on. Now we know where we are to fight, the uncertainty washes off us. I feel my breath tightening in anticipation; can detect the nervy pre-battle excitement that infects every man. I feel part of the Iron Hands, part a Legion of retribution. 

There is no fear as we approach the edge. That sullen, fogging confusion has been replaced with clarity. If I have shown helplessness and uncertainty in my leadership, it has been boiled away by practicality, drill and duty.

Artillery shells, missiles and rockets crest the lip of the Depression, distorted by a hot wash of air and smoke streaming up from below. My breathing is heavy and loud, muscle-hot and sweaty as it escapes the edge of my damaged rebreather. Sweat and ash prickle my brow as we jog upwards, the black soil tinkling and crackling under our heavy tread.

Ahead, I see Catabin pause. He has reached the edge. He stumbles.


Look down.

In casting your eyes downwards, your head tips involuntarily. Casting your eyes downwards creates biofeedback. The heart rate slows. Breathing becomes slower, but shallower. It is the root of the bow – a movement of respect. 


One by one we reach the lip of the Urgall Depression, a huge sunken plain, and stumble to a stop. The noise. Without the lip of the Depression blocking it, the sound is a physical force. 

Half-stooped, bent before the roaring wind cascading over the lip, I become aware of the plates of my armour thrumming. The finer columns of my bionic arm and hand are vibrating, giving off a continuous high-pitched chime. War-song.

The battle is like nothing I have ever seen. The opposite side of the Depression is lost in roiling smoke and whipping fire. A churning mass of bodies, war engines and debris seems to cover the space entirely. A roiling blanket of of red-edged steam, choking black smoke and smouldering green fog hovers like marsh-mist, eddying and twisted in places where weapons fire or movement stirs it. 


Look down. 

If one allows one's back to bend or knees to buckle, the respect in the gesture becomes supplicatory, craven. Shoulders cave in, defensively. A sign of weakness. 

Humanity has instinctively looked downwards when defeated or dismayed. 


The fog looks almost sentient; a malevolent djinn-fire that lazily turns one of its many heads when gouts of fire or rocket-streaks puncture it. Mostly it squats, thick and almost green in its blackness, in the centre; though where it meets the walls at the edges of the Depression, it is forced upwards by the pressure of the air changes. 

Such is the scale of warfare below, the Legiones Astartes have altered the weather. 

I had half-expected lines of tanks and infantry connecting nodes of Titans and super-heavy engines, wings of air support, pockets of drop-bunkers, but there is no shape. It is too complex. There is no pattern my post-human eyes can find, and the Iron Warrior-led battle-network is still down, so we have no noospheric sight, either. Tracer fire looks like stitches in a monstrous coverlet; with no source-profiler overlays appearing. Ugly burps of matter cannons and vape-rays punch random holes in the fog like gasping fish in stagnant water; and no reassuring runes offer clarity. There is no shape to the war. This is raw madness. 

It is bewitching. Only the physical pressure of the wind and roar sweeping up the edges make it feel real. 

"Look!" cries Coalstan, gesturing. "Avernii! The Primarch!"

I look down. He is right. At last, some sense is stamped on matters. Sanity coalesces around my father, my Primarch. Even from this distance, I see a wedge of armour pushing itself inexorably forward and inwards, like the arc of an adze, towards a peak barely visible from here.


I look down into a black sea of uncertainty, I lead a group of eight. There is not a moment's hesitation. 

Neither man nor machine will block the Iron Tenth from the Master of Medusa.

"For the Primarch! Advance on the Avernii's position!"


Unknown said...

I can't seem to find your Roboute workings post. Is there any chance I could get a copy/link? (Really not sure how?) - Was inspired to give it a go myself and have just got the bits...but...

apologist said...

Hey Luke, are you after the building? These noospheric inloadlinks might help:
If you've got some bits spare and fancy letting 'em go, let me know - I fancy making a new Ferrus Manus and flogged off the bits I had :)

slovak said...

Fantastic scene. I always check back to read your fiction, thanks.