By Lord_Johnathan 16 Comments
This is a continuation of this.
"For nearly two hundred and fifty thousand years the mighty Chironaxi Imperium of Man has stood against those who would extinguish the light of hope, purity, and justice in the universe and beyond. Our domains stretch across untold billions of galaxies, and more souls than there are stars lay safe under our wing. We were given a sacred duty when we were uplifted by the Masari, to uphold their legacy and those of the true dragons, to forever guard against the darkness that lies beyond."
"But now that Darkness is more powerful than ever. Chaos, Antedeluvians, Xenos Horriblis, Fiends, VIllains, the spawn of the Far Realm and more forever seek to cast all things into a pit of despair from which there can be no rising. Threats once scarcely imaginable have made themselves known, evils of magnitudes once thought impossible are now common place, doom and woe lie around every corner. It would be easy to lay down and succumb to our fate, to lie down and accept death meekly."
"But we shall not succumb. We shall not accept the darkness. We shall meet their evil with fire and fury. We shall show them that the light the forerunners once lit shall not be extinguished. With our allies, brothers, and sisters we shall stand as one and banish the darkness. With gun and sword in hand we shall purify the filth that infests the stars and beyond. It matters not where evil hides, we shall find it, it matters not how fast it runs, for we shall catch it, it matters not how hard it fights, for we shall slay it."
"We are the angels of death, the sword of our Kaetzar and Lord High Protector, the fury of the High King and Supremor, the wrath of the innocent, the retribution of the defenseless, the terror of the dreaded, the scourging flame that burns away all evil. We are the eternal crusaders for that which is righteous, the infinite foe of that which is unholy. We are the Astartes, and we shall no know fear, for we are fear incarnate!" -The Pledge of the Astartes, recited by all new recruits.
April 13th 2003, Maple Valley, Washington
The Apocalypse had come early. In their attempt to avert fate, the Black Hand had razed the small town of Maple Valley to root out two of the primalborn, John and Jade.
But the strands of destiny were not so easily twisted to one's own ends, not even by one as powerful as the Lord of Doom. Already, the gears were turning inexorably towards a conclusion that even the famous clairvoyance of the archlich would fail to see.
Even the tiniest action made ripples in the weave of space, waves that went out in all directions until they disappated into the gulfs of infinity. In most cases, these ripples would go unnoticed and unheeded, being so small and insignificant. But this was decidedly not most cases.
The presence of Ishmael sent ripples that were for lack of a better term...diseased. When paired with the unique energies associated with one of the primalborn, it sent a shrieking cacaphony that spread across the stars, a scream louder than anything imaginable, but audible to only a select few.
This tsunami across the weave of space, cracked and malformed by it's proximity to a being of such antedeluvian power went out until it reached the senses of another ancient being of cosmic might. A flash of green bounded outwards across the emptiness of the void before rebounding upon itself and then vanishing.
High Earth Orbit
Once again space rippled, contracted, and then burst outwards, but not in response to the actions of an primal evil, but to the arrival of the staunchest foes of the black hand. Having already been warned of their arrival by their secret detection installations on their ancient homeworld, the imposing shapes of an entire fleet of cruisers, battleships, escorts, and strike craft emerged from the depths of metaspace.
And on board the bronze colored flagship of this imposing fleet; the mighty Battle barge "Vengeance of the innocent", a fifty kilometer long vessel bristling with guns and encased in armor over a kilometer thick and enwrapped in countless shields, stood the commander of this powerful armada. High King Varitus Moloc Thule, Saint of Fire and Alpharii of the Bronze minotaurs Order, Supremor of the Astartes and liege lord of the Imperium, second only to the enthroned Kaetzar himself. Clad in his emblazened suit of Teutonic armor
Clasping his legendary spear and shield in his gauntleted hands, the living lord of the Astartes was here for one reason and one reason only; reports that one of the Black hand's Council of Nine had deployed personally, not onto any world, but unto the ancient home of the Astartes, where the order had remained until those examples of mankind not uplifted by the Masari could develop their own civilizations but a scant six thousand years ago.
And if these readings were correct, the one deployed was Ishmael. A frown exerted itself on the face of Varitus, Ishmael had the greatest potential for power of all the members of the Black Hand's Council of Nine. And it was divined that the shrieking harlequin of blood and skulls would find himself on the oldest world of the Astartes to halt the demise of the antithesis. This, the Imperium could not allow.
"Status report?" He asked calmly, resting the butt of his spear on the floor of the bridge.
"The settlement known as "Maple Valley" is in flames my king. Signals matching those of the Shadow Cult are being broadcasted from the world." An ensign reported without a hint of fear in her voice.
"Noted, begin the counter assault and prepare to administer amnesiacs judiciously. Admiral Orsvus is in command of the space operation, hunt down and destroy their vessel, Ishmael is mine." He acknowledged sternly, swiftly turning away to prepare to head down with his liberation force onto the planet before a feminine voice stopped him.
"Ours, you mean." The voice said.
"Ah, Maria, I shall be sure to save some of the wretched cultists for you to slay." Varitus responded easily as a winged figure in femine full body baroque power armor stepped up to him, her Artificer Templar armor seeming almost comically undersized next to Moloc's Teutonic suit.
"We'll see about that. Shall we wager on whether my angels of fury or your bronze minotaurs shall slay more of the foe?" She coyly proposed.
"Perhaps when the situation is less dire." The High king rebuffed, interposing a hand between the two of them as he marched into the teleportation chamber, wishing to remain with his personal bodyguard squadron. Entering the spartan, cubical room with the rest of his Teutonic armored squad immediately focused his senses as he prepared for war..
"Greetings, Saint, Alpharii and King." The Squad sergeant nodded as an alarm went off in the room.
"Honor and glory to you Sergeant Lysandros." Varitus responded with a nod as the squad disappeared in a blast of light and the thunderclap of displaced air, delving into realms beyond human imagination to emerge into the maelstrom of battle.
Back on Earth
"And now the two of you shall come with me." Ishmael snarled, approaching closer towards the two before the entire city seemed to explode with thunder and lightning, with streaks of fire hurtling down from the heavens and the roar of engines drowning out what little other noise there was to be drowned out.
"Warriors of the Imperium, FIGHT FOR HONOR!" A signal shouted across all frequencies all over the city while the heavens above glowed with the fires of space combat. Now those who had hunted the meek and innocent were in turn the hunted and hounded.
Twisting around, Ishmael could see the warriors of the Astartes, the Imperial Army, and other hated organizations of the Imperium appearing all around in frenzy of violence, chopping through his surprised warriors with fury and precision.
Snarling with fury, he attempted to turn back and grab the children and make off with them, only to see that one had disappeared in a crackle of green energy as she was snatched away from his sight by forces unknown, leaving only the boy within his grasp.
If the cueball eyed monstrosity had the lids to do it, he most certainly would have blinked at the sight, which was just enough time for a displacer to lock onto John and shunt him out of the line of sight of Ishmael, whose witchsight was being jammed by the potent powers of the Imperium.
Now, for what few survivors remained in the burning husk of this small city, a war from far beyond the scope of the third rock from the sun was now raging right on it's surface.
Varitus teleported exactly where he had intended, in the center of the city where he anticipated the Black Hand would have placed it's strongest forces to enact overwatch upon the rest of the city.
Confused acolytes swung around to face him, but before they could raise their laser rifles, a flurry of rocket propelled hypervelocity explosive armor piercing rounds shattered their chests into a spray of gore while the Alpharii simply washed them with holy flames that burned them down to their very souls with a simple glance.
"Advance by fire brothers and sisters. Leave no cultist unpunished for his sins." The mighty Saint ordered, consciously having to limit his speed due to the strange mixture of energies caused by the presence of so powerful a member of the black hand.
"Either the hand is lax in it's bindings this day, or they expected resistance." One of the fine veterans noted as he casually grabbed the head of an awakened cyborg and crushed it between the almighty fingers of his power fist before raking a storm of gatling gun rounds from his assault cannons across a mob of crazed fanatics.
"Indeed brother, we will need to restrain ourselves lest we tear this fragile world asunder until we reach that foul clown." Varitus growled as he neatly skewered an Epsilon Brute through the chest with his spear, firing off it's energy capacitors to let loose a furious beam of power that cored right through an entire line of tanks while their rounds pittered off his divine steel armor and shielding.
"My lord, we have incoming on multiple vectors!" One of the female members of the squad noted, letting loose a brace of armor piercing missiles to shred an avatar warmech while overhead, many of the airborne members of the angels of fury order streaked overhead in their red and silver finery, Lady Maria hacking an undead dragon in half with one clean slice of her sword before leaping onto one of the Hand's mighty saucers and ripping the half kilometer sized adamantium vessel in half with her bare hands.
After giving Maria an approving nod, Varitus arranged his squadron into a defensive formation, tuning out the background fights as Army soldiers and Astartes warriors battled to cleanse the infection within this city and save as many lives as possible.
"KILL THE ASTARTES! KILL THE KNIGHTS!" One of the hand's officers, an unpleasantly mutated creature that could best be described as the results of grafting the least appealing parts of deep sea life onto a man and encasing it in onyx and ruby power armor.
"Stand firm!" The order rang out as the cultists charged out from their hiding places to slay the hated warriors of the Imperium.
"Fire at will!" The Alpharii ordered as he let loose fire, lightning, light, ash, and energy from his body and weaponry, his stormshield crackling with thunder before adding to this cacaphony with a sonic drumbeat of annihilation and the crackling might of electricity.
A hundred millitants rushed forward, only for the briefest brushing from a heavy flamer to utterly incinerate them, the radiant heat washing outwards to slaughter many more of the religion maddened cultists.
Stormbolter rounds shrieked by at escape velocities, each round tearing through the armor of the warriors of the black hand with ease and rupturing them like oversized balloons before finally losing enough energy to merely embed themselves in some of their targets and then explode with predictably messy and fiery results.
Gatling rounds and missile fire racked an even greater score of deaths, ripping apart machinery and flesh alike as the seemingly invincible warriors of the Astartes stood firm, only using cover to make the enemy uncertain of a shot rather than for it's protective value.
Those who threw themselves at Varitus Moloc found themselves in a universe of hurt. Those caught by his purging fire, light, ash, and lightning were seared to their very souls, purified as their bodies and spirits were ignited and incinerated into physical and ethereal ashes, those who met his spear's ruby lance of death were reduced to nothing but quark gluon plasma, their very atoms torn apart by the obscene temperatures that radiated outwards and fried all they touched. And those who met his shield's drumbeat could be best described as being shaken to death as an infrasonic pulse shook their bodies into exploding showers of gore and chips of machinery.
But even through this wave of death, some made it through, protected by the direst magics, powers, and sciences of the black hand as they sought to close in, firing their weapons that pattered not only off the armor of the Paladins, but off of powerful shielding.
But they fared no better in close quarters. The powerful bodies of the Astartes were further enhanced by their massive suits of power armor and close combat weapons. Advancing forward to meet the charging foes, close combat brethern moved forward to meet the attackers head on and allow the shooters to continue unmolested.
Blows hit physical energy enhanced shields or deflector fields or absurdly tough armor, while the Astartes responded in kind with power weapons of all sorts. Swords, Axes, Mauls, Spears, Bayonets, Hammers, Fists, and Claws were all deployed judiciously, with a few even wielding the mighty armor piercing chain fists which had spectacularly bloody results against mere infantry.
The warriors of the black hand had a fury for their vile antedeluvians and a fervor for the ideals espoused by their dark lords behind them, but the Astartes were too well trained, too well armed, and too well armored to notice their efforts.
Bodies exploded from the impacts of Mauls, Hammers, and Fists, while others were carved into ruin by Axes, Claws, and Swords or were made to spray out the contents of their body from the swings of chain fists and others skewered neatly upon Spears, Lances, and Bayonets.
The body parts of the black hand's warriors flew out in all directions, ending their madness in an awe inspiring shower of blood and guts, their demented prayers being met with litanies of purity and hatred for the Black Hand.
Even their giant mechs were no match for the Astartes, with the elite veterans and personal guard of the Alpharii ripping into the massive monsters and machines of the Black Hand with little more difficulty than their cannon fodder servants, their armor buckling against blunt force, pierced by stabbing implements, and carved open against slashing weapons.
Varitus himself displayed that the leaf like tip of his spear was every bit as viable for slashing as it was for stabbing, while the clubbed butt was as lethal as any thunderhammer, cracking apart and blasting apart bodies and machines alike while his shield was demonstrated to be as lethal a weapon in close quarters as anything else in his arsenal.
Moving with speed and grace that belied his colossal armor, the lord of the Bronze Minotaurs left only death where he attacked, stomping the armies arrayed against him into fine paste before at long last, there was none left to slay.
"Move to the southeast brothers and sisters, Ishmael will be there...I can smell his taint." Moloc noted as he redirected himself, not even turning around to swat aside a charging Acolyte with his shield, shattering the body of the maddened cultist in a single blow.
But before they could move forward, the remains of yet another giant aircraft collapsed onto the ground, it's burning wreckage soon being made to bear the weight of the airborne astartes of the Angels of Fury.
"Took you long enough." Maria teased.
"Battle is it's own reward Maria." Varitus reminded her as he focused his keen, helmet aided sight.
"The monster is there." He noted, clutching onto his spear and raising his shield into battle positions.
But as soon as he prepared, a young boy ran past him. "Clear the civi-..." He started before pausing, reading the scans on the raven haired child.
"By the Kaetzar." The High King muttered as the boy clung to the leg of the nearest of the bronze plated warriors, holding on for dear life.
"Secure the boy, the beast must not be allowed to take him." Maria ordered as she muttered a quick prayer before the world exploded in a fit of violence.
"If you so treasure this child, then you can die with him! JOIN HIM IN THE GRAVE!" A feroicious, self echoing snarl went out as many of the remaining structures in the city were leveled by an inferno of reality damaging power. The structures very existence being attacked until they cracked and shattered, being rendered into nothing but dust.
There stood Ishmael the Death jester, the green skull masque capped with the spiked prongs of a jester's outfit, clawed hands clasping onto a lethal scythe that seemed to cut through the very universe itself, green bone like structures forming around black and blood red armor. A visage of such hateful evil that lesser beings would tear their eyes out rather than see it, a being of such frightful power that one could say the entire world shook before his power.
Materializing from the shadows came a wing of Deathstalkers and Shadow Cultists, seeking to isolate the two Alpharii, but the demonic clown was upon them before they could rectify this situation. Raising his shield and uttering a word of prayer to thule and a chant in truespeech, Varitus brought what he thought was just himself, Maria, and Ishmael into a nexus of coexistent dimensions to avoid collateral damage, but before he could prepare himself for battle, he could sense another presence.
The boy! He cursed himself, noticing the child clinging onto his leg as he focused and shunted the boy out of the way with a word of true speech, teleporting him into a building in this stacked array of mirrors and shadows.
With a quick gesture, Moloc brought his shield forward and interposed it between an incoming scythe strike by Ishmael, absorbing the cataclysmic blow as it rippled outwards with enough force to rip the ground asunder, tearing into the planet and sending out a shockwave that damaged and destroyed other nearby shadow earths, the darkness of the Nexus being dispelled by the frenzied shockwave from the Deathjester's blow.
Jabbing forward with his spear, he watched as Ishmael twisted away from his weapon, intercepting a divine steel blade from Maria with his free set of claws, growling with anger while Moloc swung his spear upward to slash at a joint in Ishmael's armored shroud.
Finding purchase as the divine steel implement stuck into Ishmael, the lord of the Bronze Minotaurs shoved his lance deeper into the arm pit of Ishmael and let loose it's radiant energies, letting loose a litany of hatred as Ishmael pushed through what should have been searing pain to reach for Varitus' face.
Clawing at his helmet as he started to coat his claws with deadly anti-reality, Varitus could feel the effects of the power gouging into the divine steel, pressing inwards as even the indestructible material started to give way to the very antithesis of being.
But before Ishmael could pierce into flesh, Moloc threw forth a mighty shield bash to slam the hateful fiend backwards and into a backstab from Maria followed by her own shield bash, setting up the deathjester for a potent double whammy that split the already damaged world apart into tiny fragments, the ring like shockwave exploding outwards.
"Has the Long War taught you whelps nothing? I feel no pain!" Ishmael scowled as he brought his scythe around in a sweep, the rippling blast from it smashing aside his foes and slicing entire shadow earths apart before he whipped out his golden gun and let loose a hail storm of energy bolts from the mysterious energy source dubbed only as the Green Sun.
Moving faster than light itself, Maria swung into a rapid series of aeriel maneuvers to elude Ishmael's fury, while the heavier armored High King made for his charge to drive his spear into Ishmael at speeds that would have made Einstein weep.
Each projectile from Ishmael hit like an exploding sun, concentrated into an area the size of a large bullet, each hit decimated entire worlds and tossed the two Alpharii and Saints back like match sticks in the wind, each time the golden gun barked it heralded naught but ruin.
But gritting his teeth, Moloc arrested his momentum, speaking to reality itself in the true tongue to allow him to simply ignore the laws described by Neuton, blocking each shot with his mighty shield as he advanced relentlessly like some sort of juggernaut, building up speed before ramming into the Deathjester and driving forth his spear into one of the billiard ball like eyes of Caliborn, eliciting a shriek not of pain, but of pure rage.
Firing his own energy into Ishmael's eye, he set fire to the Antedeluvian's very being, prompting it to roar like a man possessed before hurling his foe away with a psionic thrust of unimaginable force and conjuring forth the legendary wand of chortles.
Splitting open his jaw to impossible lengths before outright separating it from the top of his head, a multicoloured lance of anti-reality began to issue forth from Ishmael's very skull. The groaning roar of time and space being split asunder went out throughout the nexus before letting loose an unimaginable lance of utter destruction.
But before the ray could be fired forth properly, Maria sent forth the power of raw holiness and order burning into Ishmael's form in a massive holy smite that radiated the very energies of goodness outwards, striking into Ishmael's infinite being and distracting him long enough for her to grab it by the head and force it's beam upwards.
The ray went outwards, spearing through dozens of shadow earths and annihilating them utterly, their very realities being attacked and destroyed by the cosmic fury of the lance of annihilation, the ray going out and out and out, destroying all it touched as it went onwards onto infinity; cracking and damaging the very fabric of this nexus of reality, tearing open holes in the fabric of all things larger than solar systems as Maria fought to drive her sword into Caliborn's other eye.
Snarling and struggling, Caliborn gripped the woman by her armor's wing even as she wrested an arm free of her head lock and jammed the holy sword right into the right eye of Caliborn, sending damning waves of goodness into the Antedeluvian and prompting it to let loose a snarl of anger before snapping it's head around and winging her with the beam, launching her in a spiral outwards as the energy died down and the Nexus around them shifted, groaned and roared until finally ejecting them for fear of it's continued existence.
Shuffling around and grasping it's eye sockets, Ishmael willed them back into existence before searching for John once again. "Where are you? He demanded, snapping his head back and forth.
"Ah..." He sneered as he caught sight of the three year old, rushing towards the boy who as was expected of one his age, was weeping and bawling, overwhelmed by the madness surrounding him.
Waddling in the direction of his parents, the boy seemed such easy prey as he called out for anyone, someone to take him away from the madness.
"Mommy? Daddy? Jade? Where are you? I'm scared...I don't wanna be here!" He bawled in his search as Ishmael came upon him, brandishing his scythe once more.
"You will have no further need of them in due time, worm." Caliborn growled, reaching out for the boy.
"No...stop! Go away!" John whined as he stumbled and fell, trying to crawl away from the monster approaching him, the beast's eyes shifting impossibly between every possible combination of billiard balls.
"Come here, infantile insect." Ishmael roared with all the hate it's voice could muster, but before it's claws could lay a hand on the boy, his eyes glowed an intense light blue.
"I...said...GO...AWAY!" He retorted with all the anger a toddler throwing a tantrum could possess, the voice echoing upon itself with the slightest hint of a sound not made by his own throat within it.
Immediately the very winds of the world began to twist and funnel themselves into vast tendrils. The very elemental powers of reality twisted to accomodate John's will as the winds spun themselves at speeds usually only found in particle colliders, sheathing themselves in vast blue tentacles as they formed into destructive patterns.
Light, heat, and electricity danced around in the winds as they sped up to velocities that rendered them down into quark-gluon plasma, being far too hot to remain as atoms.
The winds whipped across maple valley and skyrocketed outwards into space, unleashing a power that had not been seen on the earth throughout it's history.
There was a more technical term for it, but for the boy, the only way he could describe it was the windy thing.
Ishmael looked around in stark confusion, his soldiers faring no better in trying to make sense of the power being unleashed around them. But when most of Ishmael's ships were whipped in half by spiraling tendrils of wind that stretched out into the heavens, their superheated forms radiating outwards as they disintegrated, they all too late began to connect the dots.
Twisters began to form across the city, formed of these relativistically churning tendrils, these knots of blue, but other shapes began to form, monsters, people, and other constructs conjured from a three year old's imagination, formed of winds not just of earthly, but stellar origins.
Those who knew what was going on began to flee, but it was too late, the winds speared through them, tore them to ribbons, or ripped them limb from limb and atom by atom as they stormed across the land. Even the mightiest of the black hand's war machines could not stand before the sheer power being unleashed upon them, the blue knots ripping through their bodies like so much paper mache.
"What is the meaning of this!?" Ishmael barked as one of his death stalkers was ripped apart by a wind T.Rex
"Leave, me, ALONE!" John shouted as he directed as much force as he could into Ishmael, the winds pushing forth and them bounding into Ishmael far faster than even light itself. The powers of the boy were focused by all the hate the little boy could bring to bear, and even the Deathjester could not stand before such fury.
In a single whiplash, Ishmael was sent flying out of sight, and indeed out of the galaxy as a whole, being launched faster than light could ever hope to manage as the winds sought out anyone and everyone bearing the symbols of the black hand they could find, eradicating each and every member of the strike force in a cleansing wave of air.
When the last member of the strike force was slaughtered, John stumbled briefly, feeling himself return to normal as the Astartes and Imperial troopers gathered around him, along with the imposing shapes of Varitus and Maria.
"Child, in light of your power, we..." Varitus began before the entirety of the procession dropped to their knees and bowed their heads before the boy.
"Kneel to you as one of our saviors." Maria concluded, with this last bit of oddness finally proving to be too much and prompting John to drop and faint.
"Secure him, and return him to the ship." Varitus ordered, noting the appearance of thunder clouds over the fallen form of one of the native defenders of the city, one of the gods that had sprung up since the Imperium had formally left earth.
With a crash of lightning, materialized the forms of the Celtic gods, lead by the mighty Taranis, lord of lightning.
"Dagda preserve us!" He exclaimed as he beheld Rhiannon's fallen form before noticing some of the armored warriors of the Astartes picking up John and preparing to leave with him.
"Stop, where do you think you are taking him!" One of the Gods angrily demanded, prompting the Imperial soldiers to raise their weapons against the Tuatha.
To be continued.
OOC: I think I'll keep on with John and Jade's origin stories for another two to four issues before starting with Dave and Rose's.