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Suffer Not the Mutant. Part 1.

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Suffer Not the Mutant. Part 1.

Postby Squiggle » Thu Jun 15, 2017 8:51 pm

FOR THE SPACE Marines of the Black Dragons 5th Company the war began like so many others. It began amongst the foetid marshlands of their homeworld. It began on Styx.

‘Brooding again, ancient wizard? War is brewing, I can sense it.’

Epistolary Graven Irkusk glared at the figure standing in the entrance to his tent. Captain Vizar Kyta’s black armour was dulled by grime and smoke, but Irkusk could still make out the swirling shapes of the reflected flames from his fire. He swept his mane of grey hair away from his face and scowled, leathery features creasing along well-defined age-lines.

‘Kyta!’ he replied, ‘What makes you think I have not already foreseen the outcome?’

Kyta stepped into the tent and automatically extended his hands towards the fire. Stygian nights were bitterly cold, and the action was a reflex, long since made redundant by both his power armour and his enhanced metabolism. The fire wasn’t there for heat however; Styx’s dour, miserable marshlands were occupied by vast serpentine drachnya possessed of gaping maws and poisonous fangs and fire was about the only thing that would discourage them. But even the blazing flames were no guarantee of safety and Kyta knew good men – Astartes even – who had perished guarding the camps.

‘If your foresight was that keen, you would have known I was coming and not been caught slouched over your fire like a drunken novitiate.’

Irkusk snorted and allowed a smile to soften the lines of his face. Strong, sharp yellow teeth flashed in the gloom.

‘I have already seen your fate, oafish warmaster. You will die alone and soon.’

‘As ever, brother, your kind words bring me comfort on a cold night.’

But Kyta’s feral, toothy grin faded swiftly. The words were said in jest, he thought, and yet they rang true. Deep down, the divides within the Black Dragons Chapter troubled him more than he would admit. They were sundered, tribal and on the decline. Perhaps it was time to act.

‘You are troubled.’ Irkusk said. It was not a question. The two Astartes had fought side by side for over a century, and Irkusk needed no psyker’s tricks to read Kyta’s thoughts.

‘Our triumphs have been lean of late. Our numbers fall, and more initiates than ever before are touched. I fear for our future.’

‘We are being sorely tried, yes. Our resolve, our mettle, tested.’ Irkusk replied. ‘We do the Emperor’s work, Vizar, and in his way, he offers up his own challenges.’

Irkusk got easily to his feet and plucked a crystalline vial from a rack at the foot of his cot.

‘Come. The Emperor’s word is more clearly read against a starlit sky.’

Outside, Irkusk’s breath created a cloud of steam as he surveyed the circle of tents huddled around the smouldering cooking fire. A group of scouts tended the flames, their faces blackened from the smoke. A drachnya carcass lay nearby, gutted for eating. More experienced marines, seniority quickly established by the battle honours engraved on their deep black armour, sat on khaki ammo crates and traded stories whilst performing maintenance rites on their weapons and armour.

Irkusk crouched and removed his gauntlets. The pale skin of his hands was heavily tattooed with close swirls of black and red that shifted as he flexed fingers ending in long, talon-like nails. He scraped away a thin layer of snow to create a simple hollow in the earth and emptied the contents of the vial into it. Pale blue liquid flowed from the container and created a shallow pool. Irkusk passed one hand over it and the surface surged with unnatural ripples and crackled with incandescent discharges.

Kyta squatted nearby and surveyed Irkusk over clasped hands. He briefly closed his eyes, muttering a simple litany of faith to banish the unwelcome thoughts that threatened to cloud his judgement. His scalp itched as it always did in the presence of psychic energy, and Irkusk was a fair conduit of that. Irkusk lent forwards and spat into the pool. The globule of saliva dissipated rapidly, stringy tendrils mingling with the rapidly freezing liquid.

Kyta leaned forwards, despite himself. He could never quite grasp the processes at work in this ritual; Irkusk wasn’t even looking at the pool. He was leaning backwards and staring at the stars. It was a clear night and his lips were moving as he catalogued and considered the major constellations. Purple eldritch energy coursed and sparked across his armour and the tattoos on his hands glowed white-hot. Kyta knew they would be scorching to the touch - he had made that mistake decades before - Librarian Omersik had become agitated in the midst of a divination and the young, utterly ignorant Kyta had grabbed the thrashing man’s hands to try and calm him. He still bore the scars and could still recall the acrid stink of his own scorched flesh.

Irkusk fell forwards and planted his hands in the snow either side of the hollow. There was a faint hissing sound and steam crept out between his fingers where the snow was instantly vaporised.

His head snapped up.

‘There will be a reckoning,’ he intoned, in a voice far deeper than his usual drawl.

‘There will be war.’ His right hand snapped up, first finger extended towards the sky. ‘Death will visit distant Garochete. The Reborn await us there, born on wings of hellfire, led by the Ragged Phoenix.’

Tears froze on his cheeks at the bloody massacre he foresaw.

Kyta had seen enough; the Black Dragons would wage war once again.
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Re: Suffer Not the Mutant. Part 1.

Postby Obscura Boy » Mon Jun 19, 2017 2:39 pm

Hi Squig! Couldn't help but notice a lack of comment-age on this snippet, so I thought I'd take the first crack at it.

‘Brooding again, ancient wizard? War is brewing, I can sense it.’

Epistolary Graven Irkusk glared at the figure standing in the entrance to his tent. Captain Vizar Kyta’s black armour was dulled by grime and smoke, but Irkusk could still make out the swirling shapes of the reflected flames from his fire. He swept his mane of grey hair away from his face and scowled, leathery features creasing along well-defined age-lines.

‘Kyta!’ he replied, ‘What makes you think I have not already foreseen the outcome?’


I feel like this opening exchange could be sharpened up a little bit. Since Kyta's first line of dialogue contains two separate and distinct thoughts - his greeting to Irkusk, followed by his sense of foreboding - I think it would make more sense to split it up, perhaps by placing the second sentence after the descriptive paragraph. I feel like it would make his first remark a bit more snappy.

In addition, this may just be a personal preference, but I think that having Irkusk address Kyta by name feels a bit stiff and, again, slows things down a touch.

‘If your foresight was that keen, you would have known I was coming and not been caught slouched over your fire like a drunken novitiate.’

Irkusk snorted and allowed a smile to soften the lines of his face. Strong, sharp yellow teeth flashed in the gloom.

‘I have already seen your fate, oafish warmaster. You will die alone and soon.’

‘As ever, brother, your kind words bring me comfort on a cold night.’


I really like this exchange. It gives both characters a touch of humour and humanity that is often so lacking in Astartes, and establishes their relationship really nicely.

But Kyta’s feral, toothy grin faded swiftly. The words were said in jest, he thought, and yet they rang true. Deep down, the divides within the Black Dragons Chapter troubled him more than he would admit. They were sundered, tribal and on the decline. Perhaps it was time to act.


There's something about that last sentence that makes me think it should go. I think it's a little on-the-nose, whilst also being a bit of a cliché.

‘You are troubled.’ Irkusk said. It was not a question. The two Astartes had fought side by side for over a century, and Irkusk needed no psyker’s tricks to read Kyta’s thoughts.


I don't think you need the 'It was not a question', since it's obvious enough from the lack of a question mark, and all this sentence really does is point out that Irkusk knows Kyta really well, which you do a better job of explaining in the following sentence.

Outside, Irkusk’s breath created a cloud of steam as he surveyed the circle of tents huddled around the smouldering cooking fire. A group of scouts tended the flames, their faces blackened from the smoke. A drachnya carcass lay nearby, gutted for eating. More experienced marines, seniority quickly established by the battle honours engraved on their deep black armour, sat on khaki ammo crates and traded stories whilst performing maintenance rites on their weapons and armour.


This passage sets the scene really nicely, but it also raises some questions for me. What is a force of Marines doing camped out in the marshes of their own homeworld? Are they hunting drachnya? Undertaking training exercises? Just chillin'? ;) I understand these details aren't necessarily important to the story as a whole, but since you're giving us this little intro-y section it'd be nice to have more of an idea what these Marines are up to when Irkusk receives his vision. Otherwise it feels like they're just hanging around waiting for the plot to begin.

Irkusk crouched and removed his gauntlets. The pale skin of his hands was heavily tattooed with close swirls of black and red that shifted as he flexed fingers ending in long, talon-like nails. He scraped away a thin layer of snow to create a simple hollow in the earth and emptied the contents of the vial into it. Pale blue liquid flowed from the container and created a shallow pool. Irkusk passed one hand over it and the surface surged with unnatural ripples and crackled with incandescent discharges.

Kyta squatted nearby and surveyed Irkusk over clasped hands. He briefly closed his eyes, muttering a simple litany of faith to banish the unwelcome thoughts that threatened to cloud his judgement. His scalp itched as it always did in the presence of psychic energy, and Irkusk was a fair conduit of that. Irkusk lent forwards and spat into the pool. The globule of saliva dissipated rapidly, stringy tendrils mingling with the rapidly freezing liquid.

Kyta leaned forwards, despite himself. He could never quite grasp the processes at work in this ritual; Irkusk wasn’t even looking at the pool. He was leaning backwards and staring at the stars. It was a clear night and his lips were moving as he catalogued and considered the major constellations. Purple eldritch energy coursed and sparked across his armour and the tattoos on his hands glowed white-hot. Kyta knew they would be scorching to the touch - he had made that mistake decades before - Librarian Omersik had become agitated in the midst of a divination and the young, utterly ignorant Kyta had grabbed the thrashing man’s hands to try and calm him. He still bore the scars and could still recall the acrid stink of his own scorched flesh.


I really like the earthiness of Irkusk's divinatory process, and the more 'primitive' (for want of a better word) touches like having to read the stars themselves. It adds a touch of drama to the scene and further characterises both Irkusk and the Black Dragons as a Chapter.

Kyta had seen enough; the Black Dragons would wage war once again.


Again, I'm a little confused. Is there any particular reason they've stopped waging war? I understand there may be something in their established lore that I'm missing that would give this line some context, but as it is I can't really appreciate its significance.

I hope my criticisms make sense. Overall it's a strong opening and I'd be really keen to see these guys get to Garochete and get stuck into some action! :D
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Re: Suffer Not the Mutant. Part 1.

Postby Squiggle » Mon Jun 19, 2017 3:41 pm

Thanks Obscura.

I think your points are all valid.

- They are camped out in the marshes because the chapter is in schism and it has all gone a little awry - so I should probably explain this(!)

More up momentarily
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Re: Suffer Not the Mutant. Part 1.

Postby Chun the Unavoidable » Wed Jun 21, 2017 7:30 pm

Have I read this before? It seems familiar.

Anyways, Obscura Boy's comments cover things admirably, and I have little to add to them. There do seem to be background matters that need explaining, but of course there's time yet. A solid enough intro that, while not grabbing me by the danglies, will have me continuing when you post something for me to continue with.
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Re: Suffer Not the Mutant. Part 1.

Postby Squiggle » Wed Jun 21, 2017 9:52 pm

You may have yes. It was a failed Black Library submission that I actually wrote up into a full length short.
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Re: Suffer Not the Mutant. Part 2 Up. 21/06/17

Postby Squiggle » Wed Jun 21, 2017 10:05 pm

Novitiate Urulokë crept silently into the ruined stronghold. His dilated pupils flicked rapidly from side to side as he scanned the shadowy corners of the shattered atrium. Nothing moved. The air was still, the silence broken only by the discordant hum of damaged machinery. He dropped to a crouch, combat shotgun raised to his shoulder. Cautious and quiet, he took his left hand off the weapon and formed a fist. Hold. His enhanced hearing picked up the rest of the five man squad settling into covering positions behind him.

He took a shallow breath and stilled his nerves. The only light was a pale, greenish glow emanating from the screen of a cracked cogitation device. It was probably salvageable, Urulokë thought. But that was not their purpose here. The atrium narrowed into a passageway which ended in a set of ruined doors, casually ripped open and hanging from their hinges.

Urulokë paused again and glanced back to see the squad taking up positions against the walls, making use of what cover there was. Apala was closest, his gloved hands wrapped around a bolt pistol. Chua and Heren squatted behind him; their sniper rifles were slung across their backs and combat knives glinted in their hands. Sergeant Ormr brought up the rear, hefting his heavy bolter. They were each clad in deep black scout armour and fatigues, their skin darkened with smears of paint. Behind them, lurking in his full Mk VI plate, Apothecary Veles was a bulkier, menacing figure.

An irregular, metallic clatter whipped Urulokë’s head around and he brought his gun up.

‘Contact right,’ he murmured into his vox bead. He slipped stealthily through the doorway and focused on a body that lay mere metres from his position down a side passage.

‘Secure the perimeter,’ Ormr instructed, ‘Urulokë, update?’

Urulokë edged up to the body, covering it with his shotgun. It was an Astartes, clad in bright yellow plate now despoiled with dust and the ragged, characteristic tears of chain blade damage. His right leg was severed at the knee and trailed stringy flesh across the floor. His left arm was broken, the vambrace shattered. The clenched, black gauntlet emblazoned on his left pauldron told of his heritage; an Imperial Fist. As Urulokë watched, the Marine jerked and his right gauntlet rattled against the hard ferrocrete floor.

‘Veles,’ he barked, ‘a brother still lives.’

The Apothecary was quick, barely giving Urulokë time to secure the area beyond the fallen Astartes before he was crouched over the body, scanning with a medical auspex.

‘He’s dead,’ Veles said. 'These movements are the misfiring synapses of a stubborn brainstem.’

The next noise Urulokë heard was the whine of Veles’s reductor assembly as he prepared to remove the Astartes’s sacred gene seed, contained within the progenoid glands in neck and chest. The whirring blade juddered and screeched as it struggled to cut through the toughened ceramite plastron. Urulokë started as he saw the Imperial Fist’s right hand open and lift up off the floor, grasping weakly at nothing before falling back to the ground. Apparently oblivious, Veles reached into the exposed chest cavity and removed a blood-slick organ before placing it reverentially into a cryo flask.

‘We will return it to the ‘Fists?’ Urulokë asked.

Veles looked up, the green tinted eye lenses of his helmet an emotionless mask.

‘I will do what is in the best interests of the Chapter, Scout.’ he replied, clamping the flask to his kit belt.

Urulokë looked beyond the impassive figure of the apothecary and met Ormr’s measured gaze.

‘We go on,’ the sergeant said. ‘Our primary task here is not yet accomplished.’ He slung his heavy bolter across his broad shoulders and unclipped an auspex from his belt. He studied the device for a couple of seconds, his flat features backlit green by the screen. He caught Urulokë’s eye and gestured for him to lead the squad deeper into the complex.

Urulokë settled back into the point position and moved purposefully down the corridor, past the final resting place of the Imperial Fist and towards the target coordinates. As he edged forward, his mind whirled with what he had just seen. Every ounce of his being, every fragment of his soul told him that it was wrong, told him that Apothecary Veles had murdered a loyal Astartes in cold blood in order to strip his progenoid glands.

But that couldn’t be. Urulokë knew Veles was an experienced apothecary, and how could he, a mere scout, cast such a judgement? Yet his mind kept returning to those clutching, desperate fingers, movements Urulokë would later swear had happened, movements that were utterly incongruous with the behaviour of a corpse. The young scout shook his head, as if this mere physical action could cleanse his tangled thoughts, and dragged his attention back to his immediate environs. Muttering a simple catechism for purity of thought and spirit, he led the scout squad deeper into the abandoned stronghold.

Urulokë was not prepared for what he found. The fortress had been held by the retreating chaos forces, a warband of renegade Astartes known as The Reborn. Though the bombardment and subsequent violent assault by the combined Imperial Fists and Black Dragons had driven them into a full blown rout, the fallen Astartes and their contemptible followers had still left their mark. Heinous graffiti and blasphemous shrines would require the attentions of flamer-equipped Adepta Sororitas purification squads. Despite the defeat of the forces that had occupied the stronghold, Urulokë’s keen senses could still pick up the foul stench of chaos. This
was a dark place.
The narrow outer passages opened into a large domed central chamber. Urulokë quickly identified it as a strategium, now carpeted with a thick layer of dust and scattered with debris. He crouched in the doorway; there were broken bodies strewn across the floor; a mess of tangled limbs, congealed blood and rotten, stinking organs.

Ormr pointed across the chamber with one black gloved hand. ‘Our first objective,’ he murmured. Urulokë followed the line of the sergeant’s outstretched finger. In the centre of the room, a raised plinth of black stone supported the bulk of a holothic chart table. It was the focal point of the strategium. It was broken in two around a black armoured body. The Reborn wore ancient, corroded power armour of a style no longer manufactured by those loyal to the Imperium. This was not one of their dead, nor was it an Imperial Fist. This was a Black Dragon. The progenoid glands and armour needed to be recovered; the company had few suits of fully functioning power armour as it was, without the dead taking theirs to the afterlife.

The force it must have taken to smash a fully armoured battle brother through the chart table was a sobering thought for Uruloke as he approached. His idle musing was quickly forgotten as he gazed down on the dead Astartes. The body was shattered; a devastating wound had ripped open the marine’s chest, split his fused ribcage and torn deep into his lungs and heart. His armour had been gashed and ripped away. In numerous places the black lacquer had been stripped back to the gunmetal grey of the ceramite beneath. The man’s face was twisted into a rictus grin of absolute agony. Peeled-back lips revealed vastly lengthened incisors that extended like fangs from his upper jaw. The expression of pure pain was so severe that it cast an involuntary shudder down Uruloke’s back. It was made worse by the fact that some carrion creature had eaten away the battle brother’s eyeballs.

Uruloke didn’t take any of this in; he stared, shocked at the multiple blades that partially extended from the man’s forearms, each one sheathed in shimmering adamantium and glistening with blood and gore. One such protrusion jutting from the right arm was snapped in two exposing cream coloured bone. Beyond that, past the horrified expression, he focused on the jagged, bony crest that stood out from the marine’s forehead in the manner of some ancient beast.

Urulokë reached for the edge of the ruined table. It creaked as he leaned his weight against it.

‘This must be one of the fallen,’ he managed, weakly. ‘That is no Astartes.’ And yet, the intact left shoulder pauldron still proudly displayed the white, serpentine dragon’s neck and head that was repeated on Urulokë’s armour and that of the rest of his squad.

‘It takes us all, the first time we see it.’ Ormr was abruptly at his shoulder. Urulokë turned to see the sergeant looking down on the body, his face an uncertain mix of revulsion and pity as he started down at the fallen warrior. ‘Nevertheless, it is our curse and one we bear gladly, for those touched by the dragon’s seed are without match when the battle is fiercest.’

‘He is a mutant,’ Urulokë managed. Bile rose in his throat. It was all he could do not to vomit. Ormr grabbed his arm fiercely. His fingers dug into the young scout’s muscular flesh.

‘He was your brother and you would do well to remember that. We are not the only chapter to have… secrets. Apala will assist you in removing his armour. The body must be burned after Brother Veles has removed his gene seed.’

‘Move with haste,’ Veles interjected. ‘The discovery of the Imperial Fist’s seed has provided us with an unexpected opportunity and I must return to our encampment without unnecessary delay.’

Urulokë thought back to the grasping fist of the yellow armoured Astartes, and the calculating way Veles had excised his gene seed. Again his soul cried out at the wrongness of it. He cast away the thought, met Apala’s eye and prepared to perform this dark duty. It was clear that retrieving the armour would benefit his chapter.

But he was not satisfied. He vowed that once this mission was over, he would demand answers. He vowed he would learn the truth about his so-called brothers.
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