I, Cawl

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I, Cawl

Postby MalkyDel » Sun Jun 18, 2017 2:18 pm

I had serious narrative issues with how Belisarius Cawl was introduced to the setting and so I decided to do some fan-fiction to try and get it right in my head. So here, haltingly, are some examples. It's very fragmentary.

May contain some spoilers for those who haven't read Dark Imperium.

***


How have we endured?

How have I endured?

We have weathered the storms of ten thousand years of crushing history, ten millennia of war and struggle. Or so we tell ourselves. We have pretended; played the role of the conquering victors, without asking ourselves what exactly we have attained. What have we saved?

Ten thousand years of failure and loss, centuries upon centuries of squandered opportunities and broken dreams. We have fallen so far.

Not simply the decline of Mars or Terra. Not the much debated fate of the Imperium. Humanity itself decays.

We of the Martian Creed mourn the Death of Innocence that took Mars, the Doom of Knowledge which walked with burning shadow. We let our hope corrode until finding but a scrap of an original design was considered a victory.

I have endured, because I believe. I believe in the sacred mission set to me when the Heresy was yet in living memory. I believe in a galaxy reborn, a galaxy transformed.

Now, as the hour draws near; now, with the galaxy split asunder, with war on every front imaginable…Now I commit my memories to record.


***


Duty, he sometimes considers, bears the weight of adamantium; the merciless crushing pressure of gravity.

Inexorable. Inescapable. For ten millennia it has clung to him like shackles and chains, swathed him like a shroud. Now, even as it bears its fruit, he cannot help but feel its immensity.

When such thoughts come, he retreats into the world beneath the world. The comforting blue, far below the crimson sands. It reminds him of clear skies and long vanished oceans, the birthright which humanity squandered on their sister world. Mars once possessed the same, in the eras past. Gained and lost down the long processions of history. Golden ages. Dark ages. Old Night. New strife. Crusade. Heresy. The epochs of man have ever been a scourge, for nothing is as relentless as the sword of time.

Belisarius Cawl makes his halting way along the great walkways, bathed in the light of the future and the memories of the past. Noospheric relays hum and pulse, flooding his vision with an instinctive rush of information. He brushes it aside with a thought. He is master of this great work. No part of it is unknown to him, yet it will hold.

Alone with his thoughts, he lets his mind form the binaric rhythm of prayers. The Omnissiah is everywhere in this place, in every thrum and crackle of arcane machinery. In every breath of every Primaris, in-

In the distant keening of an alarm. He turns, and the noospheric tide returns, laced with scarlet warnings. He advances, servo-skulls trailing in his wake. He tilts his head in almost quizzical wonderment, to see what has come to pass.

A single pod has turned red, like a boil amongst perfection. Within there is fitful movement, impossible flailing. The subject should be in stasis. A gesture, a burst of binary, and the opacity of the pod fades to reveal its content.

The warrior within twists and writhes, straining against the securing bonds that hold it in place. Needles and tubing has torn loose, and its mouth yawns in a silent scream. He can see the defilement within it; the teeth elongated into fangs, the bestial hunger that rages in its eyes. It reaches up with taloned fingers, bones forced through broken skin. It is drawn, almost hairless, and its flesh is pallid and withered, as though it were the deserts above; thirsty, starving, devoid of sustenance.

He places one iron hand upon the console before him, flicking through long dormant procedures as though they were second nature. Eidetic recordings play through what remains of his flesh-mind. He presses down on the final switch...

Fire blossoms within the pod, cleansing the infection with righteous combustion. The movement stills, the pod goes dark. Even as he calls up the contextual data, he is already anticipating the mortis examinations that will follow- the explanations to be pulled from its ruined viscera.

He watches the details blossom around one core piece of information. He has studied the geneseed of the Astartes for mortal generations, sifting through the great tithes of Mars and Terra for perfect understanding. Even now it finds ways to surprise him...

Baal. IX

***


The ship was an immensity, almost a world unto itself.

It hung in the void, haloed by the distant hell-light all too common in this sector, riven through by the Great Rift. Their own ship was a meagre thing, a tiny sliver of archaeotech, suspended in the fitful stasis of silent running. They drifted and surrendered to the embrace of the mighty vessel's own micro-gravity, like drawn to like.

She regarded her co-pilots with disdain, for they were rich in the mysteries and yet lacking in faith. Her hands drifted over the contoured metal that formed her body, segments and sections clicking and clattering as they interlocked. Somewhere near the base of her spine, a motive power plant steadied as it prepared to go live.

She was a weapon. She had been a weapon her whole life. That was the path the Great Machine had chosen for her, the template she was shaped by. She could no more fight that than they could fight the looming embrace of the ship.

The tiny system runner shuddered as it vented atmosphere, directing it tighter into the embrace of vast adamantium hull plates. They should be masked, for the moment, even as the auspex-baffles and plasma cutters went live. There was the shallow crunch of metal on metal, and the hissing whisper of the first cuts. She intoned a prayer, and moved to the rear. None of them breathed; none of them needed to. The binary of their shared chorus drifted over her like smoke, like incense. It coiled into every part of her. And then she was gone.

The ship was known as the "Incendiary Logic". It had been old when the Imperium was yet to be formed. She marvelled at it as she traversed it, from the outer skin to the inner mega-structure. It was incredible to her, how familiar it was and yet how alien. This ship was as their ships, yet it carried the taint. It ran through everything; through the very air, and the click of the machine spirits which processed it.

It took her fourteen days, to climb it.

She made her count in Terran standard, itself a subtle blasphemy. Each movement was considered and choreographed. Each fluctuation of her internal combustion, and each brief hibernation at sensor sweeps or patrols. Even debased, it ran like clockwork. A predictable machine.

When she dropped from a vent, her blade bared, she landed upon the skitarii in the precise configuration to kill. Blood and oil slicked her, spattering upon the iron perfection of her shell. She moved, barely pausing to clean it. Fifty seven seconds later, the series of melta-charges laced along her ascent went hot. She felt the shudder, even through the bones of the ship. The air flared with chemical residue and electromagnetic disturbance, and then it was gone.

The alarms began to shrill, the first response teams began their ordered coalescence around the catastrophe. She hadn't expected it to be this easy, or the plan to actualise so deftly. She lowered her head in silent thanks to providence, and the Grand Design that ruled reality.

When she entered, the bridge seemed empty. The dull red light of emergency lumens flooded everything. She lowered a hand to her hip, where the embedded pistol extricated itself from its compartment. The Serpenta was a reassuring weight, its spirit was strong, it would-

She froze.

He, it, hadn't moved. It had seemed so immense, so focal, that she had thought it some bank of esoteric machinery, but it was not. It writhed as it stretched, almost to the ceiling of the great chamber. It turned past the columns, and the great axe haft swung round as though it were one of them.

<<You have come a long way, child. Too far simply to die>>

It gestured, and the red light died. It was replaced by a great blue hololith. The light of the galaxy filled the room, and cast the lens of one eye into a mirror of Terra-that-was. Cerulean perfection, perched upon a drawn and haunted face. Even the light could not hide its pallor, the impossible surgeries and mechanisms which kept its ancient processes running. Before such a gaze, the gun was limp in her hand.

The image resolved, and numerous runes danced across it. They formed a chain along the expanse of the Rift, like fingers trying to hold back the ocean.

<<I came here to counsel with xenoarchaeologists and warp engineers. Savants and scribes from all across our broken dominions. I called them to the aid of Mars and the sacred binary that it proclaims to serve.

And Mars. Mars sends a weapon.>> It, the target, shook its head with all too human distaste.

<<If only you could understand>>

Binaric blasphemy saturated the chamber, flowing into her as easily as water. Systems malfunctioned, code ceased to be. She felt her motive plant burn hot, then deaden. She slumped, even as the figure moved forward and extruded some immense weapon. She heard the whine as it went live, yet could do nothing. She would not have screamed, but she was denied even the option.

<<I do not hate you, child.>> Belisarius Cawl canted, with almost complete sincerity. <<But not even those you serve can be allowed to interfere with my works.>>

***


The world was called Leda, and he had chosen it on a simple whim.

A barren rock on the galactic edge, far removed from the concerns of the Imperium and the baleful shadow-light of the Great Rift, it provided the security which only isolation could bring. Cawl felt what approximated pride flush through him like hydraulic fluid and knew that his vindication was near.

The facility sprawled in an uneven spiderweb of atmosphere sealed tunnels and squat adamantium plating. Servitor drones and servo-skulls trundled and drifted in their unceasing vigils, while auspex sweeps whined through the air. Below, the datavaults delved into the crust and sprawled coreward in creeping colonisation.

He stood in the cold centre of a storm of activity, the command centre flooded with acolytes and technicians. Despite his reputation, it had been easy to find support in these dark times. Too long had the gulfs between traditionalists and innovators loomed and deepened. It was a false binary to insist that one could only be loyal to Mars or a Chaos debased Heretek. Like fat marbled through meat, there were many throughout the Imperium who rejected these notions and who, like himself, had come to embrace the variform potentialities of progress.

Some called them Cawlites, giving title to something that had bred in the shadows and strove ever for the light, and he was proud enough not to discourage their veneration.

<<Show me Fifteen>> He canted. <<Its development was promising.>>

The security feeds shifted to reveal a hulking figure, indisputably a warrior of the Primaris strain, but one singular in its origins. Bronzed skin spoke of a life lived beneath an unforgiving sun, and it turned to regard the hidden lens with a knowing timelessness.

"It knows." One of the adepts whispered in flesh voice. "It knows we watch it."

<<The least we can expect of a child of vanished Prospero.>>

Though there were eleven cells, they were not numbered in a normal progression. Two, Three, Four, Eight, Eleven, Twelve, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen, Twenty. Old numbers of superstition and ruin. The failures and the flawed. Yet Cawl had seen enough of the lacking purity of the other Legions in the long millennia of his work, and he remembered when even the forgotten and the damned had served their purpose well. After all, how many of Guilliman's line had fallen, these dark years

The Regent was bound by his fears, by his conscience. On some level though, even Guilliman knew the proof of Cawl's abilities. Even a primarch, the pinnacle of the genesmith's art, could recognise the achievements he had made- the improvements upon the Omnissiah-Emperor's craft. In time he would see the worth of these experiments, and failing that Leda would burn and none would know.

Could these Astartes truly be more prone to the inevitable fall? Even he knew that his work was not perfect nor could remain untarnished. In time his exemplars would fall; such was inevitable. No system was inviolate from entropy. The genetic secrets of the Primaris would flow with the mysteries of the Warp. The evolutionary arms race would take its next faltering steps. He had composed a treatise about it once; On The Subject of Unnatural Selection. Published under an assumed name, of course, which came as a surprise to the Magos whose name he appropriated. He had seized his works soon after the man had met the pyre, the better to facilitate the Project.

Cawl would do whatever it took, to see the galaxy claimed, and the future remade.
MalkavianDelirium

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Then one day at Istvaan III,
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"Fulgrim with your clothes so bright,
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Then all the rebels loved him
And they shouted out with glee.
"Fulgrim the Traitor Primarch,
you'll go down in history!"
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Re: I, Cawl

Postby Squiggle » Sun Jun 18, 2017 5:16 pm

I haven't yet read Dark Imperium so bear with me until I have! Nice to see you back, anyhow.
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Re: I, Cawl

Postby Xisor » Mon Jun 19, 2017 1:55 pm

I started reading then had to duck out because it was so bad.

Oh, wait - no. Starts off excellent, but my fear of spoilers became too great, so I'll be back - mark my words!
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Re: I, Cawl

Postby MalkyDel » Mon Jun 19, 2017 9:13 pm

Yeah, I really didn't think this through ;)
MalkavianDelirium

<3 Fan of Erebus <3

Then one day at Istvaan III,
Horus came to say.
"Fulgrim with your clothes so bright,
won't you help me slay tonight?"
Then all the rebels loved him
And they shouted out with glee.
"Fulgrim the Traitor Primarch,
you'll go down in history!"
User avatar
MalkyDel
 
Posts: 457
Joined: Fri Nov 25, 2011 10:23 pm
Location: Glasgow


Re: I, Cawl

Postby Chun the Unavoidable » Tue Jun 20, 2017 7:57 pm

I myself have no spoiler qualms.

This drips atmosphere, untold age, history. You capture the cold magnificence of the Mechanicum -my favourite faction of 40k alongside the Necron- perfectly. Is Dark Imperium as well written?

Excellent. Want more.
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Re: I, Cawl

Postby MalkyDel » Tue Jun 20, 2017 11:38 pm

Chun the Unavoidable wrote:I myself have no spoiler qualms.

This drips atmosphere, untold age, history. You capture the cold magnificence of the Mechanicum -my favourite faction of 40k alongside the Necron- perfectly. Is Dark Imperium as well written?

Excellent. Want more.


You're far too kind. I've also got a huge amount of love for the Ad Mech; probably the thing I want to write almost as much as Chaos (notably Nurgle).

I really quite enjoyed Dark Imperium; did a lot to being all things to all people and had some wonderful little tidbits. Here's my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2 ... _121659920
MalkavianDelirium

<3 Fan of Erebus <3

Then one day at Istvaan III,
Horus came to say.
"Fulgrim with your clothes so bright,
won't you help me slay tonight?"
Then all the rebels loved him
And they shouted out with glee.
"Fulgrim the Traitor Primarch,
you'll go down in history!"
User avatar
MalkyDel
 
Posts: 457
Joined: Fri Nov 25, 2011 10:23 pm
Location: Glasgow


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