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The Sound of Drums
Old 07 May 2008, 10:15   #1 (permalink)
Join Date: Dec 2005
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Default The Sound of Drums

This story started off as an intro to a Word Bearers army I was going to start. The army didn't materialise, but I didn't want to waste the story so I'll post it here.

The crowd was silent. From a distance the scene appeared tranquil, thousands of souls at silent peace. They were gathered in Gulliman’s Square, and though its expanse could accommodate a (can someone tell me the name of a ship?) the crowd spilled out it’s sides. The statue of the legendary Primarch rose 80 feet high, teeth bared in a battle cry and sword raised as if to smite the congregation at his feet. But the crowd paid him no heed, rapt in the words of their leader and their own dreams.

If you drew closer, the first thing you noticed was a shimmer in the air, a tense, ecstatic charge that throbbed in time with the beating of a thousand hearts. If you drew closer, a smooth, clear voice could be heard, the mad throbbing rising and falling with it in a strange kind of symphony. Still closer, and a woman stood before the crowd, stoking the fires that would consume a world.

“Target confirmed. Awaiting orders.”
“Hold position. The Arbites are not yet ready for us.”
Storm Trooper Haynes crouched in the shadows of Sanctus Orbis, a massive ring of carved stone, commemorating the men and women who had died for the Emperor. The thought brought a rare smile to the veteran’s face. It was only fitting that from their shadow his squad would decapitate the greatest heresy this world had ever seen.
Through the dull green haze of his target finder, the woman raised an accusing hand. Haynes stiffened as the tip of her finger touched the crosshair, her eyes boring into his own.
“…are your enemy! These heroes of the Imperium, grown strong on your sweat and tears! This sacrifice enshrined in stone while your sons and daughters….”
Coincidence then. The woman was incorporating the saints into her sermon. Still wary, Haynes watched her closely as her hands fell to her sides and her attention returned to the crowd.
“Ask yourselves, what is it that separates you from they? By what right do these men and women demand your loyalty?”
She moved with a kind of controlled ferocity, as if her whole soul was being poured into each and every gesture. The crowd rippled as her voice passed over them, as if they all could stand a little taller at the sound of her voice. Heretic though she was, Haynes could only marvel at the ease with which she moved them to her will.
“….the power around you, inside you, pulsing with your lifeblood and the burning of your heart. Against such fire what use is stone? What monument to….”
That was another oddity. Her voice was as clear and bright from this vantage point as if she were standing beside him. So clear indeed that he felt it inside him, voice and muscle throbbing together with a strange resonance. Haynes had barely believed it when he was told all the strife engulfing Kasha could be traced back to one woman’s actions. Now, beneath the sound of her voice, he wondered how the rest of the world had been spared.
“Levitas! Squad Levitas, do you read!”
“Levitas 1, copy.”
Haynes’ voice betrayed none of his unease. Whatever could agitate the operator was usually…
“Eliminate the target immediately!”
A quick glance at his HUD told him that the woman was well out of range.
“Target cannot be neutralised without revealing…”
“All other orders are rescinded damn you, move!”
The original plan had called for a surprise attack on the woman as she left the square. As his squad had split up to cover all exits, even if they got to the woman there would be little chance of making it out alive.

“This, then, is the great heresy. This simple, pure truth is the one sin the Imperium will not tolerate. But for all its power and infinite majesty the Imperium of man lacks something vital each and every one of you has found. Nothing more or less than…..”
In the small, tense moment when she drew breath, fire blossomed in Gulliman’s Square. Three separate explosions within milliseconds of each other hurled men and women screaming through the air as five armoured figures lowered themselves into the carnage they had caused. The woman was silent, her beautiful face frozen in shock. A strange reversal took place, the silence she had caused with her words became an orchestra of panic as her own voice stopped. The crowd began to whirl as anger and confusion robbed them of initiative. Forgotten for a moment, the woman’s eyes turned to the sky. As her death marched closer, slicing a path through her milling pawns, the square was lit by her triumphant smile.

Haynes marched closer, his hellgun bringing death to at least three victims with every shot in the confined space. A few of the more devoted heretics tried to stop them, charging suicidally forwards as if they could kill the Emperor’s finest with their fists. And perhaps they could, if the full mass of people in the square were as brave as the ones Haynes had already killed. He spared no thought for them, his eye and mind focused on the tiny target that had not yet left the stage and would soon be in striking distance.
Ten meters.
A groan from beside him as a stone struck the visor of one of his comrades.
Seven meters.
A flash of light as the culprit was torn apart.
Three meters.
Why didn’t she run?
“Have faith!”
The crowd froze, and even the relentless advance of the Stormtroopers seemed to slow for a fraction of a second.
“Dawn is breaking!”
An excited murmur rippled through the crowd, punctuated with laughter and cries of renewed hope. As one they turned, an overwhelming mass charging towards the embattled Stormtroopers.
They were too late.
Haynes dropped to one knee, deaf to the roar of the crowd and his comrades’ weapons, stabilising his hellgun against his shoulder and placing the woman’s head in the centre of his crosshair. Her arms were raised to the heavens, breast heaving with religious ecstasy and a fierce, wild smile on her face.
She was smiling.
Haynes had been meting out justice to the Emperor’s foes since he was seven years old, a model of faith and industry with a mind too small for doubt. A highly trained member of the Imperial Guard, proved loyal a hundred times over on a dozen separate worlds. In any other situation perhaps his first and only failure would not have been noticeable. The pure, bright joy seemed wrong on a heretic’s face, and that trace of unease stilled his hand for a minute fraction of a second. Barely a mistake at all, yet the difference between the life and death of a world.

The beam of light left the barrel of the hellgun at three million meters a second, flashing through the intervening space far faster then the eye could see. Yet at two meters from its target it stopped, shattering harmlessly fifty centimetres from a Crozius in an adamantine fist. A giant clad in armour….
A boom, a flash of light before his eyes, and the world went black.

To the crowd, it seemed as if a storm had hit the square, a blinding flash of light followed by thunder. The would-be assassins simply disappeared, replaced by fragments of shattered rock as the bolt shells struck home. A line of explosions traced the southern side of the Sanctus Orbis, reducing the saints, generals, and adoring cherubin to dust whilst hurling the soldiers behind them into oblivion.

As the dust settled on Gulliman’s Square, nine armoured giants lowered their weapons in unison. Nine mighty Space Marines, clad in baroque armour older then Kasha itself. Each bore a thurible, a metallic sphere chained to their fist, from which smoke and incense leaked out into the air. The gathering fog hung low to the ground, dancing around the woman’s feet whilst the Terminators formed up around her as a guard of honour.

The tenth Marine had not moved since the assassins had died. He stood by her side, his Crozius, the ancient weapon and protector of the Chaplains, held before her eyes where the lasround would have struck. The glittering field that emanated from it had been unaffected by the dark rituals that had turned it to Chaos so long ago. But the mind behind the horned helm had changed, abandoning the Emperor for other, far older powers.

The fist lowered, and the giant stepped forward to address the crowd.
“It is said among true heretics that a mind too small for doubt is blessed. And so they have reigned unchallenged for ten thousand years.”
The voice was low, slow, quiet, the soft unhurried beating of an ancient call to war.
“But you have shown at last that mankind need not bow to tyrants. Through your faith, we come at last to your deliverance.”
The woman had stood at ease, as if her benefactors were old friends rather then agents of the gods. Now she came forward, sinking to one knee with a smile on her face.
“Your flock waits only for your guidance, Lord Apostle”
Adamantine fingers brushed her shoulder for a moment, the entire hand too large to rest upon such a slender frame.
“Look, then, to the deepest urgings of your heart. Feel the fire in your pulsing veins, the furnace in your soul will turn your chains to ash. Look, to the final culmination of your history!”
The voice did not grow in volume, but seemed to grow deeper with each syllable, till by the end you could not hear the words through the silent roar in your ears. The manic energy that had vanished in the first attack surged back with a vengeance, the crowd wound tight as the skin of a drum. As if propelled to her feet, the woman stretched towards the sky and screamed, a lone note of pure joy.

The drum burst. Pent up rage and hatred hurled the crowd from the square, the last clear syllable following them, driving them forward to bring chaos to a world.

There is no such thing as a plea of innocence in my court. A plea of innocence is guilty of wasting my time. Guilty.
- Inquisitor Lord Karamazov

What do you humans know of our pain? We have sang songs of lament since before your ancestors crawled on their bellies from the sea - Eldrad Ulthran
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Old 07 May 2008, 10:17   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Sound of Drums

When at last her breath faltered, the woman lowered her hands to her sides. The crowd had all but gone, the stragglers crushing one another in their frantic rush for the exits.
“I’m sorry I interrupted Lord Xelphion. I had them charged already, and felt I should spare you the trouble of improvising.”
She turned with an apologetic grimace, seemingly at ease with the titanic Apostle.
“Come now, Anchiel, we have known each other far too long for such formalities.”
“Then I will be honoured to call you by your first name. Lord.”
The low chuckle and the high, exultant laugh rang together in the empty square. With a gesture to his Chosen, the group began to move, woman and warrior renewing an old acquaintance.
“In truth, your intervention was most welcome, Anchiel. I had no idea which of the Tenants you had chosen for this cult.”
The sound of gunfire drifted into the Square from far off, mingling with the low drone of Thunderhawks as the Word Bearers challenged the Imperials for the city.
“Libertarian seemed to fit.” Anchiel shrugged. “They’re conservatives here, so I felt I should ease them into it. I didn’t use the actual text. Lorgar didn’t have the dangers of being a lone heretic in mind when he wrote them.”
The Chosen stopped suddenly, attuned to their lord’s every whim over millennia of service. Anchiel froze, a quizzical expression on her face as her master turned, horned mask staring at the frozen visage of an old foe.
“You were wrong, you know. For all your force and valour, you never understood. Mankind does not need faith.”
Head framed against the dying sun, Gulliman remained motionless, face locked in an eternal scream of defiance as the Apostle turned his back.
“And your chosen vehicle?”
‘”A choir. You needn’t look at me like that.”
The horned head had turned to regard her face, a perfect mask of wounded innocence. Beneath his stare, the mask collapsed, a fierce smile shining through.
“Actually, I tell a lie. I’ve been looking forward to it for the best part of a year. It was simple enough. I wrote a few songs with subversive lyrics, sent them to the national choir, and the rest, as they say…..”
A fierce explosion from far off, perhaps a munitions dump or artillery shell, shook the square.
“….is history.”
A deep chuckle escaped from behind the horned mask.
“Remarkable. The Dark Gods chose well when they called me to you. There are several of my brothers who have accomplished less in ten millennia then you have achieved in less then half a mortal lifetime.”
Anchiel fell silent, a shadow passing over her face for a brief moment.
“How long ago was that now? I was only young.”
She did not wish for an answer, and so her master did not provide one.

The first assault on Gualo’s battered senses was a thudding in his ears. The pain came a second after, attacking what was left of his consciousness with hateful persistence. His thoughts spun as he tried to recall how he was here.
The explosive bolt had missed him, striking a piece of masonry nearby. The saint had absorbed much of the blast, but the impact and fragments of flying rock had taken a grievous toll. He tried to stand, but one of his arms had gone and his legs seemed to have forgotten he was there. It didn’t matter anymore. He’d failed his mission and the Emperor, and the sooner he got it over with the better. Gualo’s dreamy contentment was shattered as the thudding in his ears grew louder.
There was something….
It sounded….
It was too hard to think. Each drumbeat sent pain shooting through his wounded limbs, erasing thought.
“Do you hear it?”
The voice was low, soft, quiet. It’s obviously mad, Gualo though wearily. There’s nothing to….
A shadow fell over him. A giant clad in armour. But that was impossible, it couldn’t get up here without….
“The drumming?”
Something about the giant made him uneasy, something important he couldn’t quite remember.
That was it. Heretic. The giant was…
“Do you fear death?”
Something of his training still lurked within Gualo’s battered form. He tried to spit at the figure, but all that happened was a puny gargle of his own blood. The giant turned and walked away, boots ringing on the stone.


In a moment of clarity before the end, Gualo remembered what the noise was.
It was his heart…..


Disclaimer: Kudos to anyone who spots the (two) counts of blatant plaugerism

There is no such thing as a plea of innocence in my court. A plea of innocence is guilty of wasting my time. Guilty.
- Inquisitor Lord Karamazov

What do you humans know of our pain? We have sang songs of lament since before your ancestors crawled on their bellies from the sea - Eldrad Ulthran
Faolin is offline   Reply With Quote


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