Ellamera darted through alleys littered with burning debris. Thousands of deathly metallic caskets burst through the atmospheric sphere above her, hurtling towards the surface casting translucent vapour trails in their wake. Beads of sweat dripped from her clean-shaven head. The salty liquid formed on her lips surfacing memories of the life she’d escaped. A life of agony and suffering in the colony slave pits she’d called home. An explosion tore through a nearby building, the blast hurled her against a wall, her head snapped back forcing the air from her lungs. She breathed deeply trying to catch her breath. She had fled not more than ten solar days before, with the promise of a new beginning. Instead, she was now in a fight for survival.
The planet’s surface erupted with chaos, the familiar cacophony of panic and terror intoxicated her senses as the helpless inhabitants prepared to face their demise. Nine foot tall warriors emerged from their drop pods, their armour gleaming in the dazzling sunlight against the backdrop of the blood red sky, prepared to deliver retribution and inflict justice. Neutralisation of a dictatorship opposed to the Emperor would be the reasoning, but what Ellamera was witnessing was the start of an unjust massacre of the innocent. The din of bolter fire rippled across the earth, the deafening torrent of explosions shook its core, and the howls of slaughter rang out above the noise.
She watched, paralysed in the moment, awe struck by their ruthless efficiency and frozen by inevitability. Within moments of their intrusion, the earth burned, smoke trails billowed towards the sky, combining with the atmospheric pressure creating a ghastly lightshow illuminating the carnage.
She’d stopped under a crumbling archway. She swallowed hard; already knowing her fate. She spun instinctively; her fist clenched in a futile response to the warrior’s presence. Her hand slammed into something that felt like a solid wall. She recoiled, stumbling back into the dirt trying to regain her composure. She raised her head slowly, blinking the dust from her eyes. Her arm was limp, shattered, her mouth was dry, but she was not scared. Her mind shifted to her life spent in the gruelling slave pits, her family, her friends, their bond. A life she had despised but now missed. The shared pain, laughs, and memories built on generations of slavery. Only in the moments before death can you appreciate life, she mused.
He towered over her, his immensity blocking out the sun. She could feel the judgement of her inferiority behind those burning red eye lenses. She slid her hands into the dirt, trying to find solace in her final moments. The Astartes raised the blood-splattered bolter. She bowed her head one last time, accepting this cruel and ironic significance. She thought of home, it comforted her in this final liberation. Ellamera breathed in her last breath. Her life had come to an end before the journey had begun.
His drop pod sliced through the atmosphere, the ground rushing towards him. Trained for absolute composure, he was unflinching. Their orders were simple: annihilate the populace, leave no survivors. This planet must be purged in the name of the Emperor. This was the duty of the Astartes, the weapon of the Imperium.
Arthurius understood his place. He knew his purpose, he’d served his chapter loyally and had ravaged many worlds across the galaxy. This was no different, merely routine protocol. Nothing can be allowed to stand in the way of the Emperors’ dominance. This world must be cleansed.
The sudden, jolting impact of the drop pod signalled his arrival. The magnetic boot plates released, and the hatch hissed open. He emerged into the maelstrom of war as his brother Astartes strode forth, bolter fire evaporating the resistance. Bullets from inferior weaponry deflected off his ceramite armour. Arthurius joined the extermination, squeezing his bolter’s trigger sending a spray of bullets into the weak opposition. He continued his advance watching the feeble resistance crumble under the hail of precision fire. Men rushed at him in uncontrollable rage. Arthurius pressed the activation stud on his chainsword, it whirred to life spinning furiously. He casually blocked the ineffective slashing attacks of two assailants, delivering a fatal strike that crunched through bone and muscle. The blood splattered his armour and visor as the two men were eviscerated.
Progress continued unabated as the initial wave of resistance was reduced to a heap of bloody carcasses. Arthurius took a breath for the first time since his disembarkation. He felt an unsettling, unfamiliar numbness as he surveyed the massacre site. Was this truly an honourable act? It felt more like persecution, than absolution. His thoughts were interrupted by commands over the vox, he pressed on, continuing the subjugation.
His squad had dispersed, now they worked their way through broken city ruins after securing the perimeter, mopping up any survivors. Arthurius found himself in front of an archway leading onto a small square. There was no breeze, the ground shimmered as the sun’s radiance was reflected from the desert earth beneath his boots. A young woman kneeled in his immense shadow. He knew his duty, he knew his orders, but he was conflicted. He could tell from her pallid skin that she was not a native of this fiery planet. He noticed the lacerations on her arms and shoulders, barely healed and raw from the unforgiving climate. She was a slave, nothing in this rebellion was by her choosing. Yet it was his duty, his honour to be her executioner and extinguish her life without compromise or question.
His bolter felt leaden as he raised it. He squeezed the trigger and felt the bolt exit the chamber. He turned with his head bowed as he heard her body slump to the ground.
Her death was etched into his soul. This wasn’t unequivocal honour; this was blind duty. Arthurius strode towards the oncoming Astartes prepared to stand for the salvation of humanity.
About the Author
Stuart is originally from the UK, now living in Denmark with his wife and four children. He owns and runs a web software company. He’s been a fan of Warhammer since he was a child and has always been interested in the lore, stories, and painting. He studied English literature at school and has always enjoyed writing as a hobby, so merging the grimdark future with his love for writing was perfect!