inload: Lore of the Officio Monstrosa

+ Officio Monstrosa +

[+Collected text-scraps – part I+]

+ Recently I've been gathering together and tidying up a few loose ends – reorganising my storage space, clearing out old junk and generally having a bit of a Spring clean. This has included some draft inloads here on Death of a Rubricist that I thought would be fun to share. For example, I've been collecting together the text excerpts from my Bolter and Chainsword forum Iron Warriors blog [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+], which were intended to link together into a short story – though they ended up becoming novella length(!) +

+ For those of you following the project, I hope it's a nice refresher – there's lots of previously unpublished material – and for readers who haven't seen the project, I hope you enjoy it all linked together. +


+ Officio Monstrosa Part I +

'The Eagle soars to the heights, the bird of mighty Jupiter carrying thunderbolts; it is a bird worthy of Jupiter and the sky, which it furnishes with awful armaments. This bird brings back the thunderbolts which Jupiter has flung and fights in the service of heaven.  
He that is born on earth in the hour of its rising, will grow up bent on spoil and plunder, won even with bloodshed; he will draw no line between peace and war, between citizen and foe, and when he is short of men to kill he will engage in butchery of beast. He is a law unto himself, and rushes violently wherever his fancy takes him; in his eyes to show contempt for everything merits praise.  
Yet, should perchance his aggressiveness be enlisted in a righteous cause, depravity will turn into virtue, and he will succeed in bringing wars to a conclusion and enriching his country with glorious triumphs. And, since the Eagle does not wield, but supplies weapons, seeing that it brings back and restores to Jupiter the fires and bolts he has hurled, in time of war such a man will be the aide of a king or of some mighty general, and his strength will render them important service'. 
Astronomica Liber V, Manilius


I am bound not by fetters, but simply by the knowledge that the figure opposite me, injured as he appears, is capable of killing me. We are squatting in a trench dug – maddeningly – into a soaring buttress over three thousand feet in the air, which itself is deep within a distant wing of the Palace. I am not sure why I am alive. The Iron Warriors, when they marched into the local square, were unopposed.

The Palace is so vast, and the horrors of the invasion so widespread, that it is possible this area was forgotten or overlooked. I tell myself this to bring sense and comfort to my heart. The alternative is that the Emperor, and his generals and his mighty armies – that have spanned the galaxy, yoked worlds by the thousands and driven out all enemies – have decided that this place is simply not worth defending; an area of little strategic worth.

With little else to do in the trench, I have plenty of time to think.

My thoughts churn and curdle in the unhealthy atmosphere. There is another possibility. Perhaps they cannot defend us. The Warmaster's title is said to be more than mere pomposity. Indeed, it is said to be a tautology – that Horus defines warfare. Never mind this down-at-heel district of his Palace; in the face of his perfect creation, can the Emperor even protect himself?

The Iron Warriors entered the square uncontested, but not unmet. Over fifty thousand souls – scribes, servants, charwomen and the like – had gathered to watch the grimy procession. It was a peculiar parade. The tanks had whispered in, some form of sound-muffling technology masking the advance of even the largest. The Space Marines had followed, marching in perfect lockstep, as silent as cats. Even the heavy artillery gun carriages had been silenced by padding – discarded clothing? – to muffle the noise of the great metal wheels on the cobbles. There were no cheers. Somehow the creeping way the soldiers arrived was worse than a crashing, crowing triumph.

Worse than the stomach-knotting thought of being conquered was the uncertainty. Even then, we were uncertain whether these troops marched for the Emperor, or for the Warmaster. The kernel of hope made the fear colder in contrast. I do not know what happened to the crowd. Someone, perhaps overwhelmed at the curious quiet, panicked, tried to fill it. The crowd bucked as though vomiting, pushed, cried out, fled. I do not know how or whether – the Iron Warriors reacted. Suddenly there was pressure and sweat, and the stink of urine. I was trampled.

When I awoke, it was to the reverberation of an Astartes' voice, reciting what seemed like a catechism or meditation. I am sure he knew I had awoken. I am told that their senses are finer than the rest of us. If he did not detect the change in my breathing, he might have heard my heartbeat race.

'Saramanth, I was there.' It did not have the air of confession. The words had the air of a dry legal statement. 'Dheneb, I was there.' The statements were accompanied by the sound of a whetting knife being drawn slowly, repetitively. The scraping was so quiet that my ears, quite unconsciously, began to pick up the myriad other sounds of the trench. The crackle of a smokeless, lightless chem-block fire. 

Occasional trickles of dust as distant ordnance fired off, setting the hurriedly-dug trench walls trembling. Dead soil settling.

'Tallarn, I was there.' I do not think the litany of planets was for my benefit, though I had heard of scant few he mentioned. Distant worlds, unheralded, unmarked. Certainly none of interest to me. 'Compliance – hm. I was there.' This last campaign was punctuated differently by the Legionary. I could not be sure whether the warrior had coughed, hesitated, or given a mirthless laugh. He paused, and I tensed, and then he continued sharpening his blade, and I relaxed.

Perhaps that is the wrong word.

My name is Anatol Charas, and I am a captive.

I am bound not by fetters, and my mind, in any case, yet remains free.

Tentatively, I reach out. If the figure notices the feathery psychic touch as I wear his memories, he gives no sign.

I wince. My Strange is vestigial; instinctual. It comes and goes – with tiredness, stress, or excitement. Memories are not like reading a book. Some are personal, understandable. Others... well, concepts bleed in – things that could never be witnessed personally. They are gestalt memories; unconscious future echoes of humanity as a whole.

I suppress my nausea as the first memory washes over me...
The Crusade sweeps outward from Terra, from Sol. Not steadily; not in an expanding halo, but in jagged bursts that followed void-routes and steered past grumbling warpstorms. The maps of the nascent Imperium grow quickly – too quickly for detail. Overlaid and revised and replaced, the lines and nodes start to resemble a river delta, or nervous system. 
Lanes that carry pioneers, forerunners and scouts expand and swell to encompass battle groups, merchant shipping and Expeditionary fleets. The routes change and stutter and overlap, overwhelming the astromancers and cartographic staff. Admirals and Generals push on eagerly, heedless of the flagging scribes and recordists grasping at their backs – calling out warnings, too fast! too much!

'Dheneb. The inhabitants might not call it that, but it is. It's an old one.' Zaricus Cjarn sat in the cold chamber alongside a scattered few of his Mustermates, listening to the gritty voice of the Palatarch of the Chain. He couldn't remember the speaker's name; or rather, like anything of little importance to him, he had determined not to remember it. The Kheledakos demanded discipline; and sometimes that required wilful ignorance. The lodge could always rely on its brethren to be circumspect.

The Palatarch continued. 'It's the last star in the zodiackal chart for the region.' Cjarn had remembered that. The fanciful shapes the Ancients had drawn between the stars might serve little practical use, but they were somehow iconic, unforgettable. They spoke to something deep within Cjarn, within the Iron Warriors as a whole: a need to draw patterns, forms connections. 

Priding themselves on pragmatism, on the Imperial Truth, the Iron Warriors refused to confront or discuss this urge, even as they conquered the stars, even as they justified their irrationality to themsevels. The signs of the zodiac had demonstrable propaganda purposes, they reasoned. The Remembrancers shape their work into lions, and sea-goats, and weighing scales in turn as, one after another, the constellations came into the Emperor's realm – and humanity will respond

Even so, the primarch Perturabo would not have deigned to recognise this inefficient structure; but for the increase in recruitment for the Imperial Army – and the concomitant support his Iron Warriors received – such symbolism attracted. This star, then, was particularly special. This star marked the final point in the constellation Aquila

Ah, to the Legions, there is no speed too fast; no achievement too rich. They are too eager, too capable, too fast for human frailty to concern them; certainly not to delay them. They are harriers loosed; darting out to find new lands, and bring them, forcibly if necessary, onto the stuttering, swelling maps of mankind. 
The Reserves become the IVth, become – briefly, quietly – corpse grinders, then spill over Olympia, and then... 
And then... they make pause, for a little while. They are reforged; beaten into shape. They become the Iron Warriors.

The promethium-rich caverns of Dheneb Primary are a net of tunnel fighting; the Astartes of the Footsore 242nd Grand Company clashing with the combat rigs of the defenders, bottling them into boltholes and bringing down the fury of the Legion on them. 

Fury is not enough on its own. Reactive piledrivers give the combat rigs a punch that shatters ceramite; and debased STC trans-rifles give particles of heavy metal sufficient stopping power to reduce even armoured Space Marines to cooling corpses.

Cjarn is at the forefront, Comitas in hand. Cjarn fights well with the axe. The blade is flat-edged and a dull carbon-black at the apex of an unusually long handle. With the nudge of a runekey, it glows a subtle violet, just at the edge of sight – eye-watering and uncomfortable, like staring at an open fire from just too close. 

The knob of the eagle-chased generator on the poll robs the bit of weight – but when your blade is hefted overhand by the swollen musculature and poise of an Astartes, and aided by the crackling, matter-disruptive technology of Old Mars, the difference is rendered moot. 

In any case, the poll acts as a counterweight – which allows Cjarn the speed to de-power Comitas, add his other hand to the grip and heave. Ten foot tall and braced against the tunnel walls by secondary limbs, the combat rig nevertheless staggers forward, the axe embedded within the outer carapace like a fishing hook. The Iron Warrior releases his off-hand and reaches for a grenade, blindly.

His hand scrabbles at an empty belt. He turns his head to look.

Deneb Al Okab Australis. The south star in the tail of the eagle. In truth, it was nowhere near the other stars. As soon as craft left Terra, the lie was put to the constellations through simple astronomical parallax; the still, glittering stars proving nebulous and reluctant to accede to humanity's dreams. 
Reluctant. But dreams are sometimes irresistible.

The distraction allows the combat rig pilot to rally; to whirl a primary limb down and across Comitas, crushing Cjarn's hand and flinging him into the side of the tunnel wall. The rockface explodes with a cloud of rubble and dust, and his armour begins to chime insistently, warningly.

He is bleeding. He is injured. He is furious.

Disarmed and scrambling backwards, Auto-gyros destabilised, he can't find his feet. His armour is deadweight; blank. It is coming back online too slowly. Cjarn skids over on the detritus as he tries to stand, the mass of his armour slowing him. Tearing off his helmet, Cjarn looks up at the looming combat rig, its primary arms raised to smash him. Comitas is lodged in its flank; yearningly out of reach.

His injured hand is bleeding angrily; the musculature clamping and spasming around shards of his gauntlet. He can feel the cold stone dust settling, turning the wet blood white. Scrambling backwards, his hand clamps around a cylinder. He doesn't look this time. Whatever the object is, it feels metallic in his dust-and-blood-caked grip. It feels solid. It will serve as a weapon.

Cjarn is found, eventually. He is at the centre of a junction, breathing heavily amidst bodies. Blood – in great crimson loops – decorates the walls. Stimms and pain-suppressants render him near-insensible, his eyes wheeling and breath sawing in and out. The Apothecary pauses, before advancing warily towards him, palms up. Cjarn would not be the first Iron Warrior to suffer from combat psychosis. 
In any event, the Legion recognises and rewards success. The events of Dheneb makes Cjarn a Palatarch, stepping into his dead sergeant's shoes. After Kolosos, the eye falls on him again, marking him as a brevet officer. And then... the Warmaster calls.

Later, he can't remember how he had come to find the other axe – or rather, it is irrelevant. 

He fights well with both, now. Comitas remains reliable; versatile. The other axe... is not. It is slightly too fast; the heavy head drawing on the shoulder. Where it strikes, it bites deep – too deeply, unless arrested. It requires more concentration to wield. Cjarn has had to adjust his expectations of what an axe can do; adapt his style. Now he can catch it by the throat reliably, collaring it. For all its shortcomings, it is a wonderful weapon. 

A single piece of some curious metal, engraved and sculpted into a fanciful shape, the blade is otherwise plain. Unlike Comitas, it is unpowered; its technology begins and ends with being weighted, sharpened metal. To assist his grip, Cjarn has bound the whole handle with plaited leather. He did it personally, sceptical of the epimiletis-armourers' ability to match his requests.

The Crusaders return to Terra, abandoning the cold constellations once more. Not in the winding manner in which the routes were found; not in a contracting halo, but in a spear-tip aimed at humanity's cradle. The maps of the Imperium are ignored. Lines and nodes collapse, like a chemical structure buckling; promising and hinting at possible new forms. 
Too fast! too much!

'Give me my armour! Give me my armour!' The phrase, which had started as a demand, had become a froth-laden bellow. The bondsmen, their backs to the cell, wince slightly as the marine begins to slam his fists against the dirty armourglass again. Over and over, he repeats his attacks, his hands little more than clubs of blood.

They try to ignore the battering, which continues frenziedly, without rhythm. His words – his mantra – become an atavistic howl, then a wordless shriek. One of the bondsmen nervously peeks over his shoulder. The naked Astartes' eyes are bulging in rage, unfocussed and pink with broken blood vessels. The armourglass is smeared with blood, with spit, with acid burns. 

'Should we stum him again?' one of the bondsmen whispers. The other opens his mouth to speak, just as the door to the dimly-lit chamber begins to open. The great wheel in the centre turns, ponderously at first, then more freely. The bondsmen unlimber their rifles and bring them to their shoulder, trying to ignore the garbled, spitting demands of their charge.

'Pax.' The Iron Warrior's command is given as he steps into the room, and the bondsmen relax their aim and step back. As the caged Astartes sees the new arrival, the hammering slows, then renews. 
'Give me my armour!' The last word trails off as the Astartes screws his eyes shut in rage and begins battering his head against the glass, his hands open and trembling. 'I'll kill you! I'll kill you all!'

The new arrival steps forward, and raises a hand to place it against the armourglass, quizzically. He holds it there. It doesn’t so much as tremble under the other's barrage of blows.

'Is it meet to treat with us so, because a stranger is dead?' 

The bondsmen look uncertainly at one another. Were the visitor's words a question? Again, the second bondsman opens his mouth to speak, and again stops short. The two Astartes lock gazes. They pause for a moment, their faces preternaturally alike; their individual birth-seed overcome and subsumed beneath the bleak dominance of the Emperor's genetic manipulation. Their faces, like so many of the legion, are scarred and imperfect reflections of Perturabo's; their features hard, as though chipped from a great flint. Their expressions are similarly bitter and bilious. Hard lines cluster around the free Iron Warrior's pinched, thin-lipped mouth. In its fury, the other's face has become a patchwork of strained white-yellow and red-purple, the skin pulled taut by muscle and clusters of tendons. Their faces are inches apart. His nose and brow are pressed against the glass, straining, desperate. His eye wheels, searching.

All of a sudden, as though a switch had been flicked, the caged Space Marine stops. His hands drop, smearing wetly down the glass. His breathing slows, though ragged puffs of condensation beneath his nostrils belie the suddenly-chilly exterior. He seems to relax a little, though his face remains pressed firmly against the glass, the flesh distorted, any nobility made grotesque under the pressure. The silence is as eerie as the rage.

He wets his lips, slowly. Then, his eye fixed on the visitor, and in a voice no louder than a whisper, he speaks.

'Give me my armour.' 

The new arrival appears to reach a decision. His face remained dour, but the bondsmen detects a hint of amusement as he turns to address them. 

'Give him his armour. Tell the centurion a very particular duty awaits.'

The Primarch. Orders from the Primarch! Direct from his mouth; special orders, a special duty – and on Terra! The hubbub, while low, is audible. The officers and specialists, variously seated or standing around the tiered chamber, try to anticipate Perturabo's purpose here; to find patterns or meaning in the choices of personnel summoned to the lodge chamber. 
Cjarn, alone of those gathered, remains truly impassive. The others wear their masks: whether literally, in the shapes of their formal helms, or emotionally, their faces carefully – and wisely – blank as their mercurial Primarch steps in. 
Words are spoken.  
Comitas is belted at his waist. The other axe is in front of him. Cjarn's armoured thumb toys with a loose strand of the braided, bloodstained leather. The movement is not born of distraction. Cjarn's impassiveness is not a lack of care, or empathy. Nor is it a desire to reject this terrible duty – for the truth is that it is not merely onerous, not merely dangerous. 
It is a duty monstrous in its implications: to cage and preserve a Primarch.
Neither for anger; nor cold revenge, but for the simple act of trapping an immortal in an eternal cage of iron, and allowing isolation to break the unbreakable.
Cjarn's humours remain in balance for one simple reason: because it is not just Cjarn that influences them.

Terra. The rad-deserts. The 242nd seek an entrance long-hidden; an entrance to the Imperial catacombs.

Dust lies across the fallen figure, drawing white streaks across the grubby armour. It lies in dry eyes. He was dead and staring before the explosion had draped him in his stony shroud. 

Not long before, mused Yavuz. He squats on his haunches next to the corpse, his own face pinched. Resting his hands on his knees, he pauses for a moment to enjoy the stretch in his hamstrings and lower back. His armour fizzes. The pitiless light throws stark shadows; highlights the cracked plate and throws skin, scaly with rad-wash, into bald relief.

Above the distant sound of small arms fire and shrieking shells, Yavuz hears footsteps. Considered, but not wary. Konstantin stops besides the squatting warrior, cradling his boltgun. He purses his lips. 


Yavuz nods once in reply. 'You were not close.' Konstantin continues, his tone disinterested. Yavuz might have smiled.

'No.' It is an odd statement for his squadmate to make, particularly given the circumstances. He reaches forward unhesitatingly, drawing his combat blade and moving to one knee in the same movement.

The silver edge cuts easily through the scalp, lodges, is freed with a slight grunt. Yavuz cradles Nikephoros' head, his expression pinched in concentration as he wrenches upwards. A crackle of distant, particularly unusual gunfire – Mass-accelerator? Volkite? – accompanies the motion. Yavuz places the top of Nikephoros' skull gently to one side, then tilts the head to let the hard light in. He raises an eyebrow, almost in surprise. Despite the rad-count, it is pink, unspoiled. Konstantin kneels beside him, places his boltgun down as more members of the Muster filter in. Yavuz slips two fingers into the brainpan, lifts out a glistening grey-pink chunk and places it in his mouth.

His thoughts might have shamed him once. Weakness. This is the first meat he has tasted since systemfall. By the Warmaster, it is good. Konstantin can not hide his hunger, either. Yavuz detects a rise in his Mustermate's heartbeat, sees him lick his lips.

Yavuz places Nikephoros' head back on the floor, then sits back, meditatively. The warriors ranged around the area remain watchful, as Konstantin flips open the dead Astartes' pouches for ammunition, his expression impossible to read. The distant gunfire swells with the wind, then falls away. An eerie whine sounds. An irrelevant siren. Who is it for? Who does not understand the danger by now?

Yavuz's skin blanches, then flushes. He sits, cross-legged, still. While they wait, Konstantin uses his combat blade to scrape away the few honour marks on the dead legionary's armour; using the blade in a rocking motion to make a crude 'X' across the Muster and Chain markings; specialist litany, his oath-parchment  – everything except the Legion's dead-skull symbol. His expression is unreadable, his muttering all but inaudible.

Finally, he jabs the point of the knife into the corner of the eye socket of the Legion symbol. Pulling back on the blade, he levers out the black onyx. He places it to one side, then repeats the process on the other eye socket. His movements are careful, steady. A shell, much closer, makes him flinch, but he continues after a moment. He places the two near-circles in his hand, pools of glossy black, then uses the handle of his blade to break them, cracking them into shards. With a rolling motion, not unlike a pestle in the mortar of his hand, he grinds them to grit. Finally, he holds them over Nikephoros' face, and lets the grains spill through his gauntlet, covering the eyes. 

He pauses, looking at the fallen warrior silently. After a short time, he gives a dismissive grunt, reaches out for his boltgun, and stands. An intake of breath made him look back at Palatarch Yavuz, still sitting cross-legged.

Yavuz opens his eyes.

'I... know the area.' he says, hesitantly. 'The Fists are... that way.' 

The war devours the Legion. The collapsing of Imperium is a gradual affair, but Terra is a furnace burning hot. The sky is alive with death.

'Adtactus! Hostica!'

Radoslav is on his feet, heavy footfalls slamming and skewing on the treacherous dusty marble. He dashes a dozen yards or so, then throws himself down, his dull iron armour skidding him along into the dubious cover of a statue. The pediment is shattered irrecoverably, almost as though it had burst, and the statue itself – a titanic figure, twenty foot or more high – has fallen lengthways. His boltgun tucked firmly in one hand, Radoslav begins crawling quickly along the length towards the head.

Alongside the sudden roars and heavy crack-boom of boltguns, and beneath the steady high-pitched rattle of rotor cannon fire, there are the smaller sounds of war. The drizzle of brass shellcases onto marble floors, the crunch-fluid scrabbling of sand and rubble, and the rising hum and buzz of auto-reactive power armour. 

Two more Iron Warriors skid in behind him, their backs to the statue. The first, an unhelmeted figure with a nose not so much broken as smeared across his face, nods to him, raises a power axe in salute. His eyes gleam mischievously, his grin revealing teeth sheeted with crimson. As one, the three rose up, boltguns in hand, firing as soon as they crested the statue.

It is good cover.

It is not good enough. The lower half of the statue vanishes in a sudden cloud of marble dust that billows like clapped board dusters in a scholam.

The Larraman's Ear is intended to allow an Astartes line warrior super-sensitive hearing. His autosenses work in concert to cut out damaging auditory input; ensuring the best of both worlds. For this reason, Radoslav feels the explosion more than hears it, though such was the power of the impact that his armour itself rings like a bell. The rigid armour plates ripple, cracking and crimping. He feels his left hand being pulped, and the armour straining to hold his leg straight to prevent joint dislocation.

A secondary function of the Larraman's Ear – implanted into the skull in the space vacated by the scooped-out and discarded pulp of the inner ear – is to ensure the Astartes is almost impossible to disorientate or confuse. It was this, and this alone, that meant Radoslav and Cjarn are immediately able to scrabble backwards and avoid the second, third and fourth detonations which bring down the roof of the building. 

Demo charges. Demo charges. The Fists are destroying the Palace itself to keep them out. Battered and bleeding, Radoslav shakes his head and begins to follow his Centurion back to the Iron Warrior lines.

Days pass. The tunnel is found. Warfare rages beneath. 
As above, so below.

The officer looks down.

'Iron without, certainly'. He glances around, disinterestedly. 'Looks mainly like he was meat and blood, within.'

Another dead Iron Warrior couldn't be mourned. Not here. Not now. Deep in the catacombs, worming through Terra like wickedly-deadly grubs, the Officia Monstrosa have not seen daylight for a long time – not that there was any to be found on the scorched surface.

By the accounts of the fragmented reports – by necessity, gathered from psychic spoor by their Biblios – the surface is apocalyptic. The seas have boiled. The land, always hard, has become rad-scorched and haunted by the strange beings of the between-veil. It is constantly tormented by tectonic shifts, as though the bones of Old Earth are trying to shake off its monstrous children. Billions, if not trillions, are dead, displaced, or had been driven insane.

'Within. Without. All over the sarding place.' the other Iron Warrior's tone is flat, measured. 'Another dead eidikos. We're dangerously close to a statistical likelihood of failure, Cjarn.' The officer whips around, bristling, his fingers playing on his axes.

'You will remember your place, legionary!' he barks. In an instant, from nothing, the centurion’s face has become taut and white with bald fury, the tendons on his neck and veins on his forehead suddenly prominent, one eyelid flickering wildly. 'I couldn't give two steaming shits whether I confront the Old Stone with the Warmaster's Legions gathered at my back, or crawl at him single-handed and bare-arsed. As long as one of us lives to place one solid cut on that stone-faced, black-hearted monster, we continue. Dorn is going to rot in a cage; blind, mewling and limbless – forever.' 

The two stand facing for a moment, the slits in the legionary's blank faceplate giving nothing away. Cjarn's eyes are chilling, empty, utterly consumed by an insane and bottomless hatred. After a moment, the legionary bows his head. Cjarn's face snaps back to its customary emotionless mask, nothing apparent remaining of the outburst, save for a speck of froth at the corner of his mouth.

'We'll need Charisto's gun.' the legionary says, without rancour. The centurion gives a curt, controlled nod, and the legionary bends to salvage what he could from the dead Iron Warrior.

They no longer observe the rituals of obscuring the honour marks. Honour is a foreign concept in this war.



  1. Your narrative is always evocative. I enjoy reading your work very much.

  2. Very helpful reading it all together thank you! :) - still dig that introduction photo!


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