Horus Heresy: Heart of Iron.

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Horus Heresy: Heart of Iron.

Postby Revenant » Tue Jan 31, 2017 12:51 am

Hey guys, long time no post. I've been working on another story set (kind of) in the Horus Heresy (my fave BL series of all time).

This is an alternative take on the Heresy, with the main differences being the inclusion of the two lost Primarchs. I suppose it's a kind of 'what if' story with a twist. Anyone who has read my stuff on here before knows I like twists. :D

Anyway, i'll post the first chapter on here, let me know what you all think. Just to let you know, this is more than just a 'what if' story. The reason these two lost brothers are in here will make sense, but only at the end. Like I said, I like twists. ;)

Enjoy. (Fingers crossed.)
Last edited by Revenant on Thu Feb 02, 2017 11:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: HORUS HERESY: HEART OF IRON

Postby Revenant » Tue Jan 31, 2017 12:57 am

HEART OF IRON.


You are a god. Say the words and end the lie.


Words spoken to the Emperor by Lorgar Aurelian.



ULLANOR.


See the truth of things. Trust in your heart, for it is of iron. In the end, when all seems lost, trust in your heart and make the choice.

He exhaled as if the breath was the first he had taken in an age. He blinked. The vision, again. The words, haunting and ethereal, echoing through his unconscious thoughts. As with so many other times throughout the long years of the Crusade the words had crept up on him, unbidden and unexpected.

Why did these words haunt him so, he wondered, the world around him swimming all too slowly back into focus. He felt the familiar twist in his guts, the threat of nausea and the ache in his brain that always preceded the insidious occurrence.

See the truth of things. Why would the words of a beloved brother haunt him so?

‘I am a son of the Emperor.’ He whispered to himself, rising from his seat. The sounds of distant celebration drifted on the breeze. He fought to extinguish the noise, to cast it from his thoughts.

‘My soul is girded with resolve. My heart is clad in iron.’

The words were spoken softly but their meaning fortified him, infusing him, casting the physical effects of the recollection from him. He thought of his brother and the moment he had spoken those words, as he always did, trying in vain to understand their significance.

‘My primarch?’

Numitor stood in the open doorway to his chamber, a hulking shadow framed by the glow of the lumen strips beyond. He bared his teeth and waved a dismissive hand.

‘Leave me, Lexus. I have much to ruminate upon. These are...monumental times.’

Lexus Numitor, the hulking, tactical dreadnought armour-clad captain of the Capsarior bowed his bare head sharply, as if chastised. He drove the haft of his vast power spear into his breastplate in salute before turning smartly on his heel to march from the chamber, his amethyst cloak sweeping about him as he retreated. The slab of bonded adamantium and ceramite that served as the chamber’s door slid closed behind him, the impact a low, resonating rumble as it sealed the primarch in.

The Iron Heart. Primarch of the Second. Romulus Rubinek exhaled another long, shuddering breath and crossed over to the table by his throne, pouring himself a generous measure of Kalani wine from the jug there. The nectar slid easily down his throat, as warming as the sun of that world felt upon the skin, the home world of the brother whose words so frequently haunted his thoughts.

Rubinek placed the tumbler back on the table and walked towards the shutters. He threw them open to allow a world’s worth of raucous adulation to flood into his chamber.

Rubinek stepped out onto the veranda, both armoured hands resting on the thick brown leather of the scabbard belt around his waist. Heartseeker hung at his hip, the vast golden blade sheathed and at rest. A silken cloak of pale amethyst trimmed with rose gold snapped in the hot breeze behind him. That same breeze tugged at the braided strands of golden hair that framed an exposed face of bronzed flesh and a thick, sun-bleached blond beard.

His armour of magenta-hued burnished silver and gold trim blazed beneath the light of the sun, the large, jewelled heart set into the left side of his breastplate gleaming as if lit by an inner flame. Striking blue eyes regarded the teeming masses far below, the riotous colours of banners flapping in the breeze. Bodies milled in untold numbers, ebbing and flowing throughout the vast space. Distant Titans strode through the throngs, warhorns blaring in celebration, footfalls sending gentle quakes cascading through the stone at his feet.

‘Warmaster.’

The word was a whisper, issued from between taut lips. He could scarcely believe it. His pulse still pounded through his head, thunder in his ears. He closed his eyes and drank in the sounds of a species in the throes of exultation.

The Emperor was leaving them. He was leaving them.

How could this be? After all the wars, the bloodshed and death. They had conquered the stars together, the crusade almost complete, or at least its end within plain sight.

He shivered, listening to the sounds of a world in celebration far below. Of course, such sounds were the creation of untold mortals, for truly none of the Emperor’s primarchs nor their sons could find any joy or celebration in the fact that the Emperor had fought his last campaign.

The Emperor, father to all, was leaving. After the celebrations here He would depart for Terra, no longer to lead the glorious conquest of the stars. No, that mantle had been placed upon the shoulders of his son. His greatest son, surely, for whom else would be fit to bear it? Who else would be chosen to forge Mankind’s destiny in His place if not the greatest of all His sons?

He opened his eyes and fought back the despair threatening to invade his heart. Horus was his brother, one of the closest. He needed to speak with Horus and soon, for the newly-crowned Warmaster had to know that he had his loyal brother’s undivided support.

Of course, no sooner had that announcement been made than the dissenting voices had surely followed. The voices of brothers, insulted and alienated by their father’s choice. Such reactions had been inevitable, of course, for primarchs were far more than mortal beings. Of the twenty, there was not a single soul either unworthy or incapable of assuming that mantle. Such personalities as theirs could never have hoped to find accordance with such a monumental decision.

He poured himself another measure of fine Kalani wine and downed the liquid in one gulp. It warmed his throat as he swallowed, though it did little to soothe his troubled mind. He heard the rumbling hiss of the chamber’s door as it slid open then and bit down an angered retort. A glance across the space found his gaze meeting with that of Numitor, his first captain once again. The hulking warrior’s cerulean eye lenses caught what meagre light filled the space as he nodded, his body language clearly displaying a heightened agitation as the warriors of the Capsarior poured into the chamber around him, power spears flaring to life in bursts of crackling magenta flame. Numitor raised his own spear and braced himself, facing the opening.

‘My lord...’ He managed to utter.

Thunder filled his ears then. Rubinek tensed in time to see the frame of the doorway disintegrate beneath the sheer concussive force that barged it way in. The Capsarior terminators that formed his personal guard were alert and combat ready in an instant, their mighty weapons singing as they swept around in readiness to meet the threat.

Numitor’s voice resonated through the chamber as he commanded the Capsarior to form up before the primarch, the anger and indignation in his voice palpable. Rubinek himself reached for his sword, only for his hand to freeze as he laid eyes on the hulking figure that stomped its way into the rocky space.

‘Stand down!’ He commanded, his a voice that could never be disobeyed. ‘Stand down and part!’

The Capsarior did as ordered with immediate effect, blades whining and spitting as they were deactivated. Numitor fell to one knee, his head bowed as the new arrival entered, his men mirroring his actions. Rubinek straightened, raised his head and stood his ground before the approaching colossus.

Clad in segmented blue and white armour, his iron teeth bared in such rage the likes of which any of his brothers could ever hope to match, Angron of the War Hounds marched up to the primarch of the Iron Hearts, his anger radiating from him like a furnace heat.

‘Warmaster!’ He growled, spittle cascading from his lips. ‘B-----d warmaster, they call him now. What is this lunacy, Rubinek? Answer me, brother! How can this be?’

‘It is what it is.’ Rubinek replied, exuding a cool calmness that could not have sat more at odds with Angron’s incandescence.

‘The Emperor leaves us, brother. Someone must take up his reins. Who else, if not Horus? You?’

Angron let out a bark, a short release of pure fury. He raised his fists and shook them before Rubinek’s face.

‘Me? Hah! Imagine that! The Hound, throwing off his leash and using it to shackle all others. Hggh...No. No, it could never be me. Do you honestly think me so self-righteous?’

Rubinek shook his head slowly and placed a hand upon Angron’s heaving chest. When he spoke, he did so with an almost mystical soothing tone to his voice.

‘Brother, listen to me. I know that you have no desire for the mantle. Be calm, and let the vestiges of your rage subside. The Nails have you no longer.’

Still breathing heavily, Angron eventually inclined his head. He glanced over his shoulder at the waiting terminators.

‘Leave. Leave now.’

‘As he says.’ Rubinek commanded, his word causing the Capsarior to depart the chamber with all haste. Once they were alone, Angron looked back at his brother. His massive fists creaked as they were bunched, quaking softly with sheer, barely contained rage despite the calming influence of his brother.

‘I do not think Horus unworthy, Romulus. Hnngh, our brother...he is adequate. No, more than that. Of course he is more than suited to the role. I...I cannot explain my outrage. I have not known rage such as this since before you burned the Nails from my skull.’

‘You rage as if the Nails still have you, Angron.’ Rubinek hissed, grasping his brother’s shoulder. ‘They were a cancer that we burned from your mind, our brother and I. Do not let echoes of their influence pour crimson into your thoughts, War Hound. You swore to me that you were free of their grasp for all time.’

Angron cursed softly beneath his breath, stepped around Rubinek and snatched up a jug of wine from the nearby table without being invited to do so. He stepped over to the stone bench that served as Rubinek’s only seat and slumped down, his weight causing the rock to craze and crumble. One almighty gulp saw the jug emptied.

‘I am. I am free, Iron Heart. I am free of their bite as surely as if they had never existed. That does not mean that my humours are desolate now. I am still capable of fury and rage, as are we all.’

‘Then speak plainly of what is troubling you, and do not allow that rage to dominate you.’

‘He is a b-----d.’

‘Who?’ Rubinek asked, knowing that he would not find the answer favourable. Angron cast the jug aside to let it shatter against the bare rock walls.

‘Father. Why does he forsake you as he does, Romulus?’

‘Angron...’

‘No. No, I will speak my mind, Iron Heart, and you will hear me. It should have been you. It should always have been you. The best of us. You are my closest brother, that much is true, but even a bond such as ours could never colour my judgement on that. You are by far the most suitable to assume command of this crusade. More and more I see it, Rom.’

‘I would not have accepted it.’ Rubinek replied with a shake of his head. ‘You know that. And please, don’t speak of the Emperor so.’

Angron leaned forward, the bench creaking beneath his weight. He bared his iron teeth, a legacy of the slave pits of Nuceria.

‘I will never forgive him. I was ready to die with my brothers and sisters when he came to me. I refused him through loyalty and honour and he left us all to die. He could have ended the threat of the seven armies with but a gesture and yet he simply left us to our fate. He left us to die.’

‘And yet you lived.’ Rubinek uttered.

‘Because of you.’ Angron growled. ‘Because you stepped from the air and faced them in his stead. Because Rubinek and his Iron Hearts descended from the heavens and tore the b-----ds apart. You were bloodied that day, brother. You bore wounds that still shame me now and you lost sons, all for me. You saved my brothers and sisters from death and together we put Nuceria to the sword, freeing every soul whose life was not theirs to own.’

Angron stood now, animated by the rage building inside him once more.

‘I know that he censured you for coming to my aid. I know you defied his will. Tell me why, Romulus. Why did he abandon me? Why did he wish me to suffer? Why did he hate me so totally that he would have left me to die?’

Rubinek opened his mouth to speak, only to have Angron’s rant cut him short.

‘The others, they have seen it too. How could they fail to do so? He created us, and yet he was unable to remove the Nails? A vile lie, and nothing more. We are no sons to him, Rom. All it took was for your hands to be laid upon my skull and the agony of existing was excised. So too with Curze’s terminal prophecies. The visions would have killed him had you not stilled his thoughts with your touch. Mortarion? Cured of his reliance of the vaporous filth his upbringing forced him to breathe. Others too. The Red Angel. Russ. Magnus. No one besides you knows how you aided our brothers but all have witnessed the change in them.’

‘I fail to see..’

‘How many other such instances have occurred?’ Angron continued, his eyes wild. ‘How many more times will the Emperor laud a measure of his sons while treating others with nothing but disdain and cruelty? Benefactor or tyrant? Which is he, Rom, tell me that? Perhaps he is both.’

‘Enough. Enough, brother. Now is not the time for such discussions. Our warmaster has been crowned and we shall support him this day. We shall stand united as one voice, and that will be the voice of assent.’

‘Aye, we shall.’ Angron replied, brushing past the Iron Heart. He headed towards the devastated doorway, passing the stunned warriors of the Capsarior as if they were not there. He paused at the threshold in order to glance back over his shoulder.

‘Mark my words though, brother. The Emperor leaves his crusade this day, for reasons he refuses to divulge. Yet more secrets, more lies. Another wedge driven deep between a father and his sons. You and I, Curze, Mortarion and Perturabo. All sons who wish for nothing more than a father’s pride. All of us, overlooked, overshadowed by Guilliman, Dorn and the Angel. Heh, even the Lion and the Khan are starting to feel the divide, some voices say. Magnus, who mirrors our father in some ways more than most, they whisper that he is to be the next to suffer a betrayal at the Emperor’s hands. Oh, and Lorgar? Tell me this, Romulus. Of all our kin, his love for the Emperor was the fiercest of all. Look what he did to Lorgar on Khur. No father treats a son with such contempt. It is as if he desires nothing more than total schism. Nothing good will come of his return to Terra. That, I promise you.’

‘Angron, please. This talk, it is discomforting. It borders on seditious.’ Rubinek implored him, striding forward.

‘This is not you. This is not the father of the War Hounds I know, the most venerable warrior of all the twenty sons. What is it about this passing of the mantle that has unsettled you so? Do not claim that all this is a matter of honour, of sons overlooked and forsaken. We are here to celebrate the ascension of the best of us, you know that. What more honourable being exists in this galaxy than Horus, brother to us all? You love the Lupercal fiercely, as do we all. This day is not given to lament or fraction, but celebration.’

Angron paused in the threshold, his mountainous features twisted in an approximation of grief. He shook his head, his bottom lip quivering so slightly that mortal eyes would have missed the movement. He inhaled a deep, shuddering breath.

‘Mark my words, Rom. No good will come of this day. I wish with all my heart that my words were no more than a product of raw, unreasoning rage. I wish that the Nails were talking for me, but they are not. This is wrong. All this, it is nothing more than folly. Horus is no more than a token. An offering.’

‘What do you mean?’ The Iron Heart replied. Angron shrugged his mountainous shoulders.

‘Something is happening. There is a divide, Rom. It grows with the passing of every day. Our father facilitates it. This triumph. What does it represent but an end to the glory of our crusade? What plans does he have that would take him away from us? Why can he not confide in us?’

Angron leaned forward and curled his fists tight as he asked this question, frustration radiating from him. Rubinek took a step forward and spread his hands.

‘He is the Emperor, Angron. He is the father of mankind. He does not answer to us. We obey him, no matter the command.’

Angron issued a short, humourless bark by way of reply. He shook his head slowly, almost sadly.

‘Ever the loyal son, Romulus Rubinek. Such uncompromising loyalty as yours will one day see your end, mark my words on that. Sanguinius. Guilliman. Fulgrim. Dorn. Russ. Even Lorgar, for his sins. Sycophants, one and all. Such a mantle does not suit you, my brother, it never has. In you I see true empathy, a sincere humanity, if you will, that serves to distance you from the overwhelming need to dance at our father’s whim. You may not realise that you possess such a flaw, as it would be perceived in our father’s eyes, but you do. In the end you will stand with the righteous, I see that much as canon.’

Rubinek’s face slackened. A despair settled over his features.

‘Angron. What is this talk?’

Angron shook his head, despair weighing heavily upon his shoulders like a yoke.

‘The mutterings of a rage-blinded barbarian, nothing more.’ He whispered. He ran a hand over a head that was deformed and puckered with scar tissue.

‘That is who I am, Rubinek. I am Angron. The savage. The Emperor’s Rage. That is all I am, do you not see that? I am as our father created me to be, no matter that your healing touch rid me of the Nails. Theirs is a legacy far too dark to fully dispel. We are all similarly marked, those of us who found salvation in your ministrations. Those of us who have dared to speak out against the direction of the Crusade, and our father’s unfathomable whims, we are set apart. We are overlooked. We have but to displease the Emperor once, and we are forever marked.’

‘We are His sons, Angron.’ Rubinek replied. ‘We were born to follow His word.’

Angron shook his head, a palpable sadness weighing him down.

‘No. We were not born, brother. We were fashioned, as weapons are fashioned.’

The lord of the War Hounds looked to Rubinek then, his bloodshot eyes wide with foreboding.

‘Weapons, designed to be wielded by the most powerful dictator this galaxy has ever known. Think of our brother, Rubinek. The brightest star amongst us. A being whose very touch brings life to the most desolate and barren corners of these stars. What good is a weapon that refuses to kill? How long will such a weapon remain in the Emperor’s arsenal?’

Rubinek offered no reply as Angron stomped from the chamber save for a deep sigh. In many ways, he knew, his brother was right.

***


‘Brother.’ Uttered Magnus the Red, his eyes cast down upon the teeming millions below. ‘A great day, is it not? Nine sons of the Emperor gathered together on one world. Such a thing has not happened since...since...’

Magnus’ resonant voice trailed away. He blinked his one remaining eye and shook his head. By his side, Mortarion of the Death Guard fixed eyes of ice blue upon the Crimson King and replied with a sneer.

‘Nine? Your mumblings make no sense. Tell me, brother, has sorcery finally stolen away the last of your senses?’

Magnus did not reply to this barb and, despite the anger in his crimson features, there was no mistaking the measure of confusion there at his own words.

‘Ten. Ten brothers...’

Mortarion laughed, a rich, throaty sound. Another glance towards the father of the Thousand Sons saw the mirth quietly drain from his pale, aquiline features. A look of concern passed over them. He leaned closer to his brother.

‘Magnus? I merely jest, my brother. What is it that troubles you so?’

Mortarion laid his massive scythe against the parapet and reached up to pull his cowl back, revealing a smooth head devoid of any hair and sharp, hawk-like features. Once, long ago, these features had been made gaunt and pallid by a life lived amongst the ever-poisonous murk of Barbarus’ atmosphere. Rheumy eyes had once nestled in his head, sunken into dark sockets. His lips had been the colour of dead flesh, gums and teeth blackened by the toxins saturating the very air he had been forced to breathe.

No longer did the Death Lord sport such sickly physical ailments, not since Rubinek of the Second had banished the poisons ingrained within his genetic makeup.

Magnus shook his head, his crimson mane swaying. He straightened, lifting his chin as if to balance his humours, or at least give an outward appearance of doing so.

‘My mind...it strays. Perhaps the glory of this day suffuses me, Mortarion, causing my thoughts to soar on the updrafts of exultation.’ Magnus explained.

Mortarion shrugged one vast, armoured shoulder.

‘Perhaps. Perhaps other thoughts dominate you today. Such as why our father is leaving the Crusade.’

Magnus flinched visibly as Mortarion said this. The Death Lord noticed this reaction and nodded slowly.

‘Is that it, brother? Are you privy to a secret that our father has kept from all his other sons? You are closest to him in many ways, Magnus the Red. Tell me what he has planned on Terra. If anyone knows his secrets, it is you.’

Magnus withdrew as he heard this, the fire leaving his eyes. He shook his head softly.

‘No one knows. Not I. Not any of the Twenty. I swear that to you, brother, on all the oaths we share. We must trust him. That, for me, is enough.’

Magnus allowed as slow smile to spread across his crimson face as he looked back to the hordes below. He gestured out at the teeming millions below.

‘Such glory. Such celebration. Of course my thoughts wander on a day such as this. Our greatest brother has assumed the mantle of Warmaster. He continues the Crusade in our father’s stead, for the Emperor has other business to attend to back on the Throne World. All this, it still feels unreal to me, as if we are standing in the midst of some grand, unimaginable dream. Many are the steps I have taken since we began this Crusade that have given me pause, Mortarion, for it feels to me as if I am caught in a perpetual daydream of optimal wonder. Almost as if this existence is simply too perfect to be true reality. Does that make sense to you?’

As he heard this Mortarion’s hand wandered instinctively to his throat, as if his fingers wished to clasp the bronzed pipes of the diffusing gorget that had once sat there. His armoured fingers closed on nothing but air and he inhaled a long, appreciative breath.

‘More than you know, Magnus. More than you know.’

‘What is this?’

The Death Lord turned in time to see the Iron Heart approaching, one hand ringing as it slapped into the golden pauldron of Sanguinius. The Red Angel and Rubinek exchanged a few jovial words before the primarch of the Iron Hearts wove his way along the balcony to stand between Magnus and Mortarion. Though the crowds below were distant, a renewed pulse of cheers rose up at the sight of the new arrival.

Rubinek glanced past Magnus to where Angron stood. The primarch of the War Hounds did not meet his gaze.

‘Magnus is in a maudlin frame of mind.’ Mortarion teased. Rubinek smiled and nodded at the Death Lord.

‘Who would not be, with the spectre of death himself standing over them?’

Mortarion retrieved Silence from where it rested on the parapet.

‘This scythe exists to sever the links of the chains of slavers and despots. She is a symbol of freedom. I am death, but only to those who seek to bind others against their will. My Death Guard are the inevitable end to all who would be named tyrant or oppressor, just as death itself is inevitable.’

As he said this, Mortarion smiled. Rubinek shook his head.

‘You are far too jovial to be a primarch, Mortarion. Has anyone ever told you that?’

‘All the time. What can I say? Retribution is not a chore to me, brother. It lifts my heart.’

Mortarion and Rubinek shared a laugh. After this the Iron Heart spoke a few words of greeting to the lord of the Thousand Sons before catching sight of his brother and Warmaster standing at the far end of the balcony.

Horus Lupercal.

Rubinek slid from view, passing behind Angron and the Khan, Lorgar and Dorn until he came to stand behind Horus. The newly-crowned Warmaster turned as he approached, a veritable mountain of layered plate and fur, the light catching the golden trim of his armour as he came about.

‘Romulus...’ The Warmaster uttered. Rubinek fell to one knee before the father of the Luna Wolves. Horus peered down at the brother at his feet.

‘Get up, Rom. Not one of you should feel compelled to kneel before me.’

Rubinek did as the Warmster bade him, rising so that their eyes were level.

‘I kneel before the lord and commander of this Crusade, Horus. I pledge to you as I did our father. My Iron Hearts are yours from now until these stars in their entirety are ours.’

‘And you will kneel no more, Iron Heart. Take that as a command if it pleases you.’ Horus answered. He stepped forward and placed his hands upon Rubinek’s shoulders. Rubinek mirrored the gesture.

‘You are the best of us, Horus. The brightest star. There is no other our Emperor could have chosen for this role than you.’

Horus shook his head, a somewhat bemused grin turning up one corner of his mouth.

‘Enough of the fawning, Rom. You are a primarch, damn it!’ He commanded, the grin widening to display perfect white teeth. Rubinek took a step back, breaking the connection to tilt his head in a gesture of capitulation.

‘You are right, of course. Such words as those you will not hear me utter again. They are my gift to you on this momentous day. Long live the Warmaster of this Crusade!’

He cried the last sentence out, raising a fist in salute to his brother and the title that now rested upon his shoulders. Most of the primarchs gathered there mirrored his cry with smiles and raised fists of their own. Most.

The crowds below erupted once more, the words exchanged between the demigods gathered high above them captured and cast throughout the masses via the sea of vox emitters scattered throughout the parade grounds. Horus raised his hands high as the waves of celebration rose, stepping forth to stand at the edge of the parapet, accepting the adulation of millions with a humility that few of his kin could ever hope to possess.

Rubinek caught sight of Fulgrim then, their eyes meeting as Horus began to address the crowds below. The white-haired lord of the Emperor’s Children dipped his head in greeting, light cascading from armour so perfectly and meticulously polished that it reflected illumination like a mirror. Rubinek saw it then. Others, perhaps even primarchs, would have missed the gesture, the slightest inclination of Fulgrim’s head. Rubinek did not. He passed behind Horus so as to stand with Fulgrim, intrigued by what he had witnessed.

The Phoenician’s lips spilt in a wide smile of perfect white teeth as Rubinek came to stand by his side. He looked as if he was about to embrace the Iron Heart, only to shiver and resist the faux display of sibling affection. The first moments that passed between them did so in silence, much to Fulgrim’s bemusement.

‘Fulgrim.’ Rubinek uttered at last, the exchange lost in the tumult of Horus speaking to the masses below.

‘Romulus.’ The Phoenician answered. His smile was that of a predator; perfect and utterly without warmth. He turned to look at Rubinek, his eyes piercing.

‘You know, don’t you? The news has reached the ears of the Iron Heart. I see as much in your eyes.’

Rubinek’s jaw muscles tensed, dancing beneath his skin. He laid a hand on the pommel of Heartseeker.

‘Whispers. Rumours. I have heard enough. Is it true? Fulgrim, is it true? Tell me, brother. Has he sent word?’

Fulgrim chuckled. He shook his head, his mane of purest white swaying with the gesture. The primarch of the Emperor’s Children took a step towards the parapet and placed both his hands on the stone. He closed his eyes and leaned forward, as if to drink in the waves of celebration rising from below.

‘It is. Word has been sent, Rubinek. I profess, I quite find myself at a loss as to what to make of it. Our gentle, empathetic brother seeks fit to warn me. To warn me, Romulus. The communiqué was most insistent, you understand. The poor astropath, she all but broke her ribs, wracked as she was by the sobbing. The empathy of the message broke her, by all accounts.’

‘What did he say?’

Rubinek’s tone was stark, utterly focused. The question was a demand. Fulgrim opened his eyes and looked to the Iron Heart, lips pursed in an expression of faux offence.

‘He conveyed a warning. A portent. Apparently, there is a danger looming on the horizon that I cannot afford to ignore. Laeran. He was very explicit. I must not engage the Laer.’

He grinned as he spoke, as if the admission was nought but a jest. A warning of negligible consequence.

‘I must not attempt to bring Laeran to compliance. He warns that the Laer are simply too dangerous to be allowed to survive. The system must be purged, every planet broken apart from orbit. Can you imagine? Our placid empathic Io, urging me to annihilate? Ha such a thing ever occurred before now? I must confess, such a warning intrigues me. The scout elements of my fleet uncovered the Laer only a few weeks ago. I have spoken nothing of this discovery yet. How could he have known?’

Rubinek leaned closer to Fulgrim, exhaling slowly. Such news, such revelations as this stirred his heartbeat. He found himself fighting to maintain his composure.

‘Io...Io is to be trusted. In matters such as this, the Lord of the Ninth must be heeded. If he warns of danger then danger awaits you, Fulgrim. Io would not promote the annihilation of a species on a whim.’

Fulgrim shrugged, a frivolous, dismissive gesture.

‘I cannot in good conscience allow myself to take this potent seriously, Romulus. He warns of a weapon so powerful it could bring the Emperor’s Children low. A weapon far too dangerous to be allowed to exist. It must be utterly destroyed, along with the Laer. What foolishness drives him to make such claims?’

Upon hearing this Rubinek placed a hand upon Fulgrim’s plastron. Armoured fingers dug into the ceramite, causing the Phoenician to baulk. Rubinek leaned in close, so that their faces were almost touching.

‘He implores you to commit genocide. Think on that. Our placid Io beseeches you to end a world. You preening, arrogant narcissist. He reaches out to you across the void and you dismiss him on a whim? He has seen your death, Phoenician. If the Laer represent any kind of lethal threat then you must do as he warns or you will become the first of the Emperor’s sons to fall. The first to fall, Fulgrim. Is that how you wish history to recall the mighty Fulgrim?’

‘I am not weak!’ Fulgrim hissed, fighting against Rubinek’s grip. ‘How dare you suggest otherwise?’

Rubinek’s grip tightened.

‘Think. Who steered me towards Prospero, to find a brother whose sons were afflicted by a genetic woe that would have consumed them had I not eradicated it? Io. Who located Olympia, and the brilliant, unmatchable mind of Perturabo? Io. Angron. Mortarion. Curze. Names you know as kin, Fulgrim, all once afflicted by maladies I was able to cure because Io tuned my gaze their way.’

He let go of Fulgrim then, the release of pressure causing the Prefector of Chemos to stagger back.

‘Think on all I have said. Eradicate the Laer. Do as Io recommends. Do not dismiss this portent so.’

It was only then that Rubinek noticed the silence. He glanced up, finding the implacable gaze of the Warmaster upon him. Horus’ expression was one of absolute chastisement. When he spoke, the words were not for the vox link that had carried his voice to the crowds below.

‘What is this? What idiocy is? Speak.’

Rubinek bowed his head, the folds of his cloak falling about him.

‘A disagreement, Warmaster. Nothing more. Our quarrel is over.’

Horus said nothing. Instead he looked to Fulgrim, tilting his head slightly to one side. Fulgrim’s features slackened gently beneath that gaze.

‘Rubinek...he speaks true. A foolish squabble, nothing more. Forgive us.’

Horus stayed silent for a moment more. Ceramite creaked as colossal pressure tightened his armoured fists. His gaze bored into the brace of primarchs before him.

‘I will say this but once, so be sure to heed my words. I will not tolerate such disharmony amongst the lords of this crusade. Such petty disagreements are beneath us, now more than ever. This will be understood.’

He looked to Fulgrim, The Phoenician visibly withdrew beneath that gaze.

‘This is a day of celebration, of new and glorious beginnings. Today we celebrate and tomorrow we plan, for there is much work to be done before these stars in their entirety are to be considered unified under one inviolate banner. Fulgrim, my kin. Proud, bright brother to me that you are. Tomorrow we design the fate of the galaxy but today, I issue my first decree as Warmaster to you. If the lord of the Ninth has indeed cast this warning across the void then you will listen, for Io’s council has ever been portentous. The Ninth Son is our oracle, Fulgrim, you know that, and he has yet to err in his prophecies.’

‘Prophecies, Warmaster.’ Fulgrim hissed, distaste apparent in his tone despite the glare of Horus upon him.

Horus inclined his head.

‘Call these warnings what you will. They have saved my life on more than one occasion. You will eradicate the Laer by sterilising them from afar, if that is what you must do. Consider this an unbreakable command.’

Fulgrim took a step back, his head bowed a fraction. As slight as it was, there remained a glint of defiant displeasure in his eyes. Rubinek looked away, unwilling to involve himself in the exchange further.

‘As the new Warmaster wills it, so it shall be done. Though, I must ask one question. The Emperor...’

Horus flinched. A sudden, inhumanly fast reaction. He held out a hand, his palm facing Fulgrim, his fingers spread wide. He shook his head slowly.

‘No. The Emperor is gone from this crusade. Never question our father’s view or mindset on any matter pertaining to our destiny from this day forth. The mantle is mine now, Fulgrim. I am the Warmaster. Never forget that.’
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