Amadeus stared at the blank parchment, unused ink and quill beside it. He felt his stomach tighten, ever-familiar anxiousness filling him. The emptiness of the page threatened to swallow him.
What if the words never come? What if they’re bad?
He frowned and banished the thoughts with a force of will.
It’s the same every time, he reminded himself. The words will come. Don’t worry.
‘Not that it matters,’ he whispered. ‘No one will read this.’
It had all been so different once. When tens of thousands had read his works. Millions maybe. When he had been at the forefront of the Great Crusade. When he had travelled with the Legions. When he had been a Remembrancer.
He sighed and looked to his shelves, littered with dusty copies of his works. He settled on the first one. His first encounter with the Legiones Astartes…
He stared out from the observation deck in wonder. Utterly amazed by the scale of it all. The energy and industry. Ships of all kinds filled the void. Small cargo freighters. Vast Imperial Navy Cruisers and Battleships. And most impressive of all, the ships of the Legiones Astartes.
All swarming around one planet. Calth. That was where the 294th Expeditionary Fleet would depart from. The Expeditionary Fleet he would be attached to.
‘It’s quite something, isn’t it?’ came an impossibly deep voice from behind him.
He turned and saw a giant. A giant in cobalt armour, trimmed with gold, a white ‘U’ across its pauldon.
An Astartes, he realised, his stomach dropping.
‘My… My lord,’ he stammered and bowed his head.
He heard a deep chuckle and looked up to see the giant smiling.
‘Call me Ajax.’
Amadeus rubbed his eyes. It was late. He looked back down at the parchment.
It can wait a few more minutes. After all, who will read the words of a heretic?
He scowled at the word. Heretic. So strange. So at odds with what the Imperium had been. Rationale. Forward-thinking. Enlightened.
Now the Imperium was different. Religious. Fanatical. Zealous.
Am I the last of a dying breed? The last who refuses to embrace the Imperial Creed?
All those he had worked with, all his old friends and colleagues, were dead. Whether by old age, the Warmaster’s treasonous war, or at the hands of Imperial fanatics.
He took a swig of recaf and let his gaze wander to another of his old works…
Bodies littered the ground in all directions. Some were Astartes, their blue forms catching the eye instantly amongst the corpses. But most were the remains of mortal humans. Some still clasped weapons in their hands. Each bore strange symbols branded into their flesh.
But most were barely recognisable as human, little more than lumps of ruined flesh. Ripped asunder by bolt rounds and chainswords.
Is this what an Astartes does to men? Did Ajax do this? He scoffed at the absurdity of the thought. The Astartes were weapons in the shape of men. But he hadn’t seen their aftermath before.
An aftermath that held a morbid curiosity. He reached out to touch one corpse. One with a ragged hole through its chest. His fingers touched the flesh. He felt its warm blood. Felt its flesh squelch as he probed the wound.
Then the nausea returned. Bile burned in his throat and he bent double and vomited…
Muffled shouts of rage filled the air, echoing from beyond the walls of his house. Something smashed through his window and he jumped, his back and knees twinging with the sudden movement.
You’re getting old.
He stared at the object on his study floor, now littered with broken glass. It was a rock, a crude aquila carved into it, and plastered with parchment. He groaned as he bent and picked the rock up, reading the word repeated across the parchment.
Looking out his window, he saw a crowd approaching. Some held weapons. Others brandished burning torches. Rocks thumped against his walls.
His eyes found a figure leading the crowd. A tall man in heavy robes, his hair shaved into a tonsure and an aquila tattooed across his forehead.
His lips curled in disgust.
‘You’re everything we tried to destroy,’ he spat and strode across the room to his shelf. He picked up a final book. One lavishly bound and encased with gold. A gift. From one of the Emperor’s sons.
If he would die tonight, he would die holding this. Remembering his finest hour…
His cheeks ached, his smile seemingly permanent now. His heart felt fit to burst. Yet beneath the pride and happiness, there lurked a torrent of nervousness.
What if I stumble my words? What if I embarrass myself?
He clenched his fists tight, trying to banish the thoughts. His eyes slipped sideways, seeing the other Rememberencers of the 294th Expeditionary Fleet being honoured today.
The doors slid open and in he stepped. Guilliman. Amadeus felt the breath leave his body. The Primarch almost hurt to look upon. He was perfect. From the exquisite gold and blue armour, to the chiselled jawline and aquiline nose.
Amadeus forced his gaze away from the Primarch for a second as other figures entered the room. Dignitaries, mostly. But also a handful of Astartes. His eyes settled on Ajax, seeing his friend smiling.
Impossibly, he felt his smile grow further when he saw what the Astartes carried…
Amadeus opened his eyes as his door broke open. He wanted to run. He really did. But he knew it would be useless to run. He was too old now.
And why bother? They will only find me again. I am fed up of running. Fed up of being alone. Of being the last to remember the Imperial Truth.
He hugged the book to his chest, closed his eyes and smiled.
He smiled, even as the crowd burst into his room and cast him to the ground. As fists beat at him. As bones broke. As blood filled his mouth. As he died.
About the Author
J. S. Savage is a teacher in the UK and has been an avid of all things 40k and Warhammer Fantasy since he accidently found his way into a Games Workshop store as a young boy. When he was younger, he was a keen writer but has only just started up again recently. Between work and being a parent, he doesn’t get nearly enough time to paint, read and write as much as he would like – or as much sleep as he needs!