Finally. FINALLY! Ten-thousand years, thirteen Black Crusades, untold billions dead, thousands of warships turned to smoldering husks, and hundreds of assassination attempts on his life, but it had finally happened. Cadia had broken. Literally broken. He had forced the damaged beyond repair Will of Eternity onto it, many of his ships sacrificing themselves in the effort, cracking the planet with the scorched hull.
The Imperial Fists' with Dorn's prized warship and the Space Wolves with their borders had proven to be more than a match for the Will of Eternity and had mortally wounded it. All that had been left had been the fortress's corpse. But he had found one last use for the corpse, and it had been enough to secure his victory at last. Creed's body had not been found, but it had been confirmed that he had not been among those who had escaped. If he was still alive, Abbadon was content to let the defeated general breath the last of his pathetic days on the ruin of his planet.
This was Chaos's greatest victory since the days of Horus. The Eye of Terror had spilled forth, cutting the Imperium almost clean in half. Half a million worlds, maybe more, would be cut off from the Corpse Emperor's light. The warriors of the Powers would have free reign among every last one of those worlds, filled with soon to be converts and victims both.
And yet, his victory was tainted. The loss of the Will of Eternity was a heavy one. There had been six Blackstone Fortresses originally, all of the ones not in his possession had been destroyed, leaving two. He had now lost both of them. There were rumors that a seventh fortress existed out there somewhere, but it was a fortress that wasn't in his control. At best, it was a figment of a delusional Heretek's imagination. At worst, it was an asset that could be potentially used against him. His flagship, the Vengeful Spirit, had slaughtered hundreds of Imperial fleets by itself, and yet even if would be split in twain by a Blackstone Fortress.
He grit his teeth in frustration. The Will of Eternity should have destroyed the Phalanx dealt and mortal blow to the Imperial Fists as a whole. And yet the Space Wolves had played the roles of termites, cutting off a vital artery within that had allowed a lamb to kill a lion. It felt like the galaxy had played a trick on them. The Space Wolves, Leman Russ's borderline feral pack, had defeated him by sneaking through the bowels of his ship and performing sabotage. True, their approach had been loud, but overall the approach was something that fit the profile of Corax's sons more.
Beyond his losses, his victory had not been total. A trickle of Cadia's defenders had fled into the Eldar Webway, many of them being warriors that he would've rather seen perish. Alive, they could go on to become thorns in his side. But even if they had all died, his victory over Cadia had not been as he had pleased. The Cadian Pylons had been destroyed, half of the reason he had wanted to take the planet in the first place. Destroyed, the Eye of Terror was soared to new heights. But captured, they could have been nurtured to levels beyond his imagining. That was forever gone now.
He looked down. Cadia was still burning, the fires blazing brightly, visible even from a viewport on the Vengeful Spirit's bridge. It soothed him, it was easily one of the most comforting things he had ever seen in his life. His pride ached at how close his victory had been to a total victory, but it didn't matter. He had achieved the goal he had been chasing for millennia, and now Chaos was in the strongest position they had had in ten-thousand years. The anger he felt now would fade with time as the Black Crusade surged forward, taking claims that even the strongest of warlords could only dream of. Until now.
He smiled. A private goal he had considered for some time now was refilling the ranks of the Black Legion. Cadia had not been taken without cost, and his numbers had been thinned. Truth be told, they had been undergoing considerable thinning over the years, not helped by the occasional breakaway warband, regardless of how clearly, and publically, he made it that he would not tolerate that. One of the aspiring warlords was still alive in the bowels of his flagship, regardless of how often he begged for death.
A unique opportunity had presented itself with the new warp storms. So many Space Marine chapters had been cut off, become tiny fiefdoms instead of part of a great empire. A few thousand fresh converts to the legion would be an excellent follow up to Cadian's long overdue fall. It would never be enough to bring the Black Legion back to the strength it had enjoyed under Horus's command, but it would be enough to make it the strongest organization of Astartes in the galaxy. Chaos Space Marines did what they could to create new warriors, same as the servants of the Corpse God, but the loyalists couldn't turn the servants of the Powers away, not the same way that the opposite could occur.
The more he thought about it, the more the urge gripped him. The sooner he started, the better. The Primarchs and the greater warlords would eventually be struck by the same urge to attack the isolated chapters. If not for the intention of converting (he highly doubted Angron and the World Eaters had any interest at all of doing so) then for looting Astartes quality weapons and equipment. The Black Legion would have the cream of the crop, the rest could have their fill after he was done.
A plan would have to be organized in his private quarters. However, he had barely taken a step when he felt him. The Powers. "Ezekyle~" a voice said, both the sultry voice of a woman and the husky voice of a man. "Enjoying your victory?"
He scowled. "Out." Hundreds of heads turned to look at him. Hereteks, Astartes, and cultists had all been milling about the bridge of the Vengeful Spirit, chanting victory cries, performing rituals to honor the Powers, and a few performing general maintenance. With a single word, the bustle all came to a screeching halt. Then they all scrambled to follow the order, lest they receive their Warmaster's ire. Within a minute, he was alone on the bridge. "Slaanesh. I have done as you all have asked. Leave me be."
"All we have asked?" came the cackling, smug tone of Tzeentch. "Did we ask you to destroy the pylons? To destroy your last Blackstone Fortress? To let the survivors escape? To let Creed escape?"
"Creed is dead or dying," Abbadon hissed. "There are no ways for him to escape if he is still alive, all Imperial means of escape have been cut off." There were many times when he wished he was free of the Powers, but that would never be true. They would always be the ones that he would have to satisfy, to please, but his patience had his limits. He had given them the results they wanted, he would only tolerate so much, and he refused to let his achievements be undermined.
"Imperial means of escape, true," Tzeentch cackled. "But there were other ways to escape, as we hoped that you would have realized by now. Tranzyn the Infinite interfered, as he interfered with much of your campaign. We must admit, we are disappointed Ezekyle. You have wasted so many of our followers breaking against the walls of Cadia, you seem to have forgotten that there are other powers in our galaxy. The Necrons are by far the most powerful, as seen by the complications that you suffered when a single Overlord decided to intervene. You forgot that species other than humans roam these stars. A rather simple mistake for one as old as you to make."
"It matters not," Abbadon said. "These are minor setbacks compared to what I have given you. Even now I plan to swell the ranks of your warriors and followers. Leave me."
"You do not give us orders welp!" the thundering voice of Khorne spoke. Abbadon remembered when he had used to flinch at the sound of the voice before he had become Warmaster. Now the screams of the blood god reminded him more of the squealing of a newborn infant. Irritating. "We've watched you squeal and flail about for an eon, and when you finally manage to not embarrass us all, you grant us a half result? At a cost this high? Pathetic."
"I've no patience for your ceaseless whining," Abbadon snarled. He had had enough. The Imperium would be brought to his knees by his actions and his actions alone. The four fools that called themselves gods would not be able to breathe a word of criticism when it was done. "I've a war to fight. You won't touch me so long as you've no replacement for Warmaster. None of the Primarchs would be up for the task. Magnus the Red is the one who would have the best chance with his mind, and half of the others would stop at nothing until they had killed him. You NEED me you miserable relics."
"Oh, now-now, no need to be angry," the soft, tantalizingly soothing voice of Nurgle said. "He has gone many wonders for us, spread our word far and wide. He has filled a role that no other could until now. Let us honor him and not diminish the marks of his accomplishments."
Abbadon froze. He must have misheard what the god of sloth had said, yet he knew he had not. His body was the same pinnacle of humanity that all Astartes were, further enhanced by blessings of all four of the Powers. Slaanesh's foresight would not allow him to mishear something said so clearly, nor was Nurgle one who would lie or jest. "What are you planning? Do you intend to overthrow me? ME!? I hold the power to destroy this gathered army with ease! The Vengeful Spirit would annihilate the gathered legions and warbands, to the point where you would never recover. Tread wisely, I can easily give the rotting Imperium everything they have lost back."
He had never cared for the Powers, they had always been a means to an end. The man he had admired most in life had given everything to the Powers, and that had led to his destruction. Let the Powers bestow their tools and blessings on him as much as they wanted, but he would never let himself truly fall into the ranks of Chaos. He would stay a human, not become a Daemon. Immortal or not, he would forever be truly under their thumbs.
"Yes, you can," Slaanesh said sweetly. "It is why we have been long in our planning of this. A warrior with the strength and will to lead our armies is not one easily found. We have been searching long and far for anyone who even came close to the great heights that we manage to soar to with your help. And we found one."
A tear opened up in front of him, a hole in time and space. "This one has been particularly impressive," Tzeentch said. "Another realm where we are also present. Our powers are much weaker there, it is so much smaller. But it produced such wonderful results. Including a champion that truly and irreversibly made it ours. We have no further use for it not, but it would be a shame to let his magnificent talents go to waste. Archaon the Everchosen."
The portal widened and a man stepped out. He was tall by regular human standards, but short compared to Abbadon. Clad in red armor as opposed to Abaddon's black, he looked as if he was from a feudal world. Nothing on his person was technologically advanced. His armor was plate, from the horns on his helmet to the skulls on the chest, to his shield styled in the eight-pointed star, to his long, two-handed sword. The sword, however, burned with its own fire. Doubtless, a Greater Daemon lurked within it.
What truly drew Abbadon's eye, however, was the crown that rested upon Archaon's full helmet. A wrought iron crown with a deep blue gem in the center of it. It wasn't a sapphire, the color of it was too deep to be natural. Tzeentch's mark.
Archaon looked around the bridge of the Vengeful Spirit. His eyes, burning like hot coals, blinked. "Where is Dorghar?" he asked simply.
"You'll have your horse back when we're done with you," Khorne growled. "We've another world for you to reshape in our image. It's far more than just one planet, and you'll be leading armies far beyond what you've done before. Ensure that you're up to the task, do not invoke our displeasure!"
Archaon's eyes turned to focus on Abbadon, the Warmaster's temper writing like a burning bonfire. If the situation had been slightly different, the Talon of Horus would have already peeled this feudal savage to pieces the second he had stepped onto his bridge. The presence of all four gods was the only thing that stayed his hand. "Abbadon will either serve you as a subordinate or become a Daemon Prince," Tzeentch said. "He has long since earned his ascension to Daemonhood. But his time as Warmaster is over. We will impart you with all the needed knowledge about this new world, your armies and the technologies that have been made available."
Archaon nodded. Then, half a second later, took a step back to lift his shield up. The Talon of Horus clashed into the eight-pointed star. Abbadon snarled, his arm and terminator armor both straining with as much strength as was possible. Archaon was grunting with the strain of keeping the talon at bay but was holding firm. Abbadon's mind raced. Even with the blessings of the Powers, the man before him should have crumpled under the strain, what with his lack of power armor. "What is this?" he hissed.
"Archaon exceeded our expectations," Nurgle said good-naturedly. "He battled against a reincarnated god, not unlike the Anathema. The god failed to defend his realm, Archaon rendered it asunder. An entire realm destroyed, far more thoroughly than you have ever managed. As such, we rewarded our most outstanding disciple accordingly. The greatest blessings we have ever bestowed for our true Everchosen."
"Be wise," Archaon said, his voice cold. "I would have use for a warrior of your caliber. But if you dare to raise your hand against me again, I will flay your body, your mind, and then your very soul until nothing is left. I have felled better than you long before I was given these new gifts. Do not be so eager to rush to your death." As a response, the storm bolter on the wrist of the talon burst to life, aiming directly at the crown Archaon was wearing. Whatever it was, it had to be a powerful artifact. He would take it for himself if he could, but if not it needed to be destroyed.
But Archaon's head had ducked before the trigger had even been pulled, the bolt rounds smashing into the bulkhead behind them. His shield still holding the Talon of Horus in place, Archaon's sword darted upward and sliced at the storm bolter. The talon was one of the finest weapons ever crafted by human hands, as was the storm bolter. But even a weapon of this caliber had weak spots, and while Archaon's sword would never be able to break the talon, the bindings that attached the bolter to the talon were weaker. And the sword cut right through the bindings perfectly. The bolter fell away, a belt of bolter shells falling after it.
Roaring in anger, Abbadon raised his left hand, bringing Drach'nyen down to cleave Archaon's head in half. Sword met sword as Archaon blocked it, and a horrific sound reverberated throughout the bridge. Drach'nyen was roaring in anger, but it wasn't just him. The being that resisted in the usurper's blade was matching Drach'nyen's cry of anger, their voices matching in intensity, mixing together into a scream like one Abbadon had never heard before.
Archaon was not a feral worlder that the Powers had elevated. He had the will to keep the daemon in the sword. He had half a mind to bellow out an order for the legionaries to storm the bridge and retake control. Even one who was able to match him blow for blow would be overwhelmed and massacred by a hundred Space Marines in full warkit. But he wouldn't. He would be the one to kill this pretender. He was the Warmaster of Chaos Undivided, and he would make it undeniable to all, even the gods!
Pulling back, he let out a roar and swung both of his weapons. Idly, Archaon stepped back and let them smash into the ground, the bulkhead buckling under the strain. Once, twice, thrice, Abbadon charged forward, swinging at Archaon. Not a single blow connected. Archaon nimbly avoided two of the swings and blocked a blow from Drach'nyen on the third. Abbadon's rage reached a fever pitch. He could hear laughter. The gods, all four of them, were laughing at him. Even Nurgle's gentle chuckles sounded deep and mocking to him. They wanted him to play the role of a court gesture. He. REFUSED!
The Talon of Horus darted forward again, aiming for the center of the usurper's mass, too quickly for him to dodge. His coal red eyes narrowing in concentration, Archaon's shield came up again. Grinning, Abbadon's talon jerked upward Instead of striking the center of the shield, it tore into the rim, closing right around the edge. Abbadon now had a firm grip on it. With a mighty pull, the warrior's shield arm was pulled forward. Drach'nyen came swinging down, aimed at the arm holding the shield.
Archaon's hand released its grip on the shield and Abbadon ripped it free, heaving it over his head and tossing it behind him. It clattered somewhere unseen. Thrill pulsed through Abbadon. He had gained an edge over his opponent, he just had to press it now. But in his haste to deprive Archaon of his shield, he had underestimated the Everchosen's sword. In a flash of burning light, it danced to his left, towards the arm that held Drach'nyen. Abbadon blinked. His Astartes toughness and Chaos blessings shut out nearly all the pain, and what was left was more of a mild annoyance. But even then, that did not fully shut out the wrongness that came with a sudden decrease in weight. One that burdened the Warmaster of Chaos as his arm clattered to the floor, Drach'nyen still tight in its grip.
"Do you believe this is a fight?" Archaon asked coldly. "A battle between equals? No. It is an execution. Your fate was decided the second the gods lost interest in you. It does not matter who we were before this. All that does is that they appointed me the executioner, and you the executed. A role that I intend to carry out, as will you your role. Afterwards, I will make an example of you to your men. Only one can defy the Gods. You are not him."
Abbadon's roar filled the bridge. The Talon of Horus swang in from the side, aiming at Archaon's legs. Jubilation pumped through Abbadon's hearts as the Everchosen was knocked off balance, falling to the ground. Abbadon was upon him. Raising his foot, he brought well over a ton of weight in metal and muscle down on his rival's sword arm. A delightfully loud crack echoed from the blow and the arm twisted under the force. Infuriatingly, the armor itself seemed unmarked. That, however, didn't matter. His quarrel wasn't with the armor, it was with the man wearing it.
A mere second after the feudal warrior had been pinned, Abbadon tore into him with the Talon of Horus. Twice a second, back and forth, the claws of the talon ripped into the usurper. Finally, the armor bent to his will. Between clashes, splatters of blood painted the ground, fragments of armor and bone joining them. Pressing all of the claws of the talon together, Abbadon drove his hand down like a spear, intending to rip out however many hearts the Everchosen had.
"KNEEL!" Abbadon staggered. The word that had come from Archaon had been brimming with power. Had lesser servants of Chaos been present, they would have dropped to their knees without a twitch of protest. Abbadon was no common cultist, however, and his will easily rebuffed the order. However. He had not expected the Everchosen to possess power of this degree, and while he could never hope to give Abbadon orders, the shock and the fraction of a second Abbadon had needed to throw the unexpected command off had caused him to pause for the smallest of moments.
It had been all Archaon had needed.
A hand closed around the wrist that commanded the Talon of Horus, driving it down, but not into Archaon. Abbadon's leg was split nearly in half, the bone dangling loosely out. Again, Abbadon barely felt it, but the damage to his body was very real. Archaon slipped out from underneath the leg and returned to his feet, holding his sword in both hands now. "I feel that The Slayer of Kings is wasted on you," he said. "It has to settle for a puppet."
Archaon let out a war cry and charged forward, Abbadon doing the same. The Slayer of Kings and the Talon of Horus clashed, over and over again. The bridge echoed with the sound of ringing metals, the master crafted and blessed weapons refusing to yield to each other. Forcing his devastated leg up, Abbadon landed a swift kick on the gaping hole in the Everchosen's chest. Grunting in pain, Archaon was forced back against a wall.
The Talons of Horus closed tight around Archaon's throat. "Tell me," Abbadon hissed as his grip tightening, tiny bone fragments already splintering under his grip. "Was this part of your planned execution? Is this how you planned to defeat me?"
Archaon let out a single, half strangled word. "Yes."
Gripping Abbadon's arm with one hand, Archaon brought up the Slayer of Kings with the other. It tore into his arm at the elbow. It didn't go all the way through, but his arm now hung loosely at his side, only half attached to the rest of the body. The Talon of Horus still crackled with life, but it was limp in the air, useless. Archaon drove forward, and Abbadon finally felt a pain that even his superhuman Astartes biology couldn't overcome. The Slayer of Kings was driven up to the hilt in his chest, forcing him back and impaling him against the way.
Archaon panted as he kept the sword buried in, lifting up his head and looking Abbadon directly in the eyes. "I foresaw this entire battle before it began. I was gifted foresight by the Gods. I will use their gifts far better than you ever could." Stepping back, his sword still buried in Abbadon, who could only roar and thrash where he was pinned, he recovered his shield. "Tell me, will I have any of my old generals?"
"Oh yes, no reason to waste so much interesting potential," Tzeentch said happily. "We've put most of them on a moon nearby. Though we thought there was one you should have now." Again, a hole, in reality, was torn. A man with viciously red hair and beard stumbled out, looking confused. His armor was thick, much like Archaon, with skulls on the front and an entire skeleton on the back, a mighty sword at the side. "He's been made clear on all the details."
Archaon nodded. "It is good to see you Wulfrik. Our fight is not over yet."
"Tell me, friend," Wulfrik said. "Will our conquests stretch to the stars now?"
"To the stars?" Archaon asked. "I have no intention of limiting myself. Every realm. Every existence. All will feel our wrath until there is truly, TRULY, nothing left. I thought my goal finished at Middenheim. Now I see it has barely started. I will not be satisfied until all has been turned to ash."
Wulfrik gave a toothy smile. "Then neither shall I. The end of everything? That sounds like a death worth living for. Besides. The Gods marked me, told me I was to prove that there truly were none who could best me. Seems this is the best way to prove my boasts weren't hollow. Don't want to disappoint them when we're preparing for the finale."
"Yes," Archaon said. "COME!" The door to the Vengeful Spirits slid open. Hundreds swarmed in, tiny cultists to massive Astartes. Many of them looked confused as to what was going on, but none seemed to dare to raise a hand against Archaon. Abbadon roared, roared for the intruders to be killed. But his voice died in the air, for Archaon was speaking. "Your Gods have given you a new leader. Your old one has proven to be inadequate. A sniveling welp, riding on the coattails of a true champion, long dead. There will be no more of it."
"This ship is my vessel now, it will steer to the commands I give. The Gods have permitted me to see all those who lie before me. We shall scatter their meager defenses with armies never seen before. Countless creatures lurk in the corners of this galaxy, hiding from the ones who call themselves Imperials, waiting to be turned to the Powers. We will lift them all up. The ones you call Tau, they are of no use to us, but their servants shall become the God's servants. We shall form the greatest armies that the Gods have ever seen."
"You have delayed for too long, lurking within the realm of safety while your enemy is permanently at your door. I will not tolerate this sloth. From this day forth, Chaos marches forward always, never retreating, never becoming complacent. This galaxy has been permitted to believe it is free of the Gods. None are. There shall be no rest, no consolidation, not until every last star has fallen."
"Defy me at your own peril. Now. KNEEL!"
Nearly everyone in the room knelt on command. A few of the older Astartes hesitated but joined their brethren. Wulfrik was the only one who didn't. Kneeling down, he picked up Drach'nyen, examining it in the light, and glancing at Abbadon. Even though Archaon was no longer speaking, Abbadon's screams still made no sound. "What do we do with this one?" Wulfrik asked. Archaon gave him a single look. Wulfik grinned. "If you say so."
A swish. The sound of tearing flesh. Pain.
Ezekyle Abbadon the Despoiler knew no more.
Author's Note: I mainly know Archaon through his role in the Total War: Warhammer games, (And I didn't pay for Chaos Warriors because I've heard that it was kind of crap. Nosca is the part I bought for my Chaos itch. Also, I haven't gotten to do it myself, but as Nosca you can become a warlord so powerful you can earn the attention of Archaon himself, with him offering a hand to join him. And you can slap his hand away, battle him, and take the title as Everchosen for yourself if you can beat him. GOD I LOVE THAT GAME! Anyway, that's why Wulfrik the Wanderer made a cameo here. He's badass enough that if he didn't try to kill Archaon, he deserves the role of being the Everchosen's #2) As such, I had to do some research when I was writing this story. Turns out Archaon has a crown that enables him to enforce his will on Chaos forces and a gem in it that lets him see the future. I had fun incorporating that.
I would like to thank my Patrons, SuperFeatherYoshi, xXNanamiXx, RaptorusMaximus, Davis Swinney, Mackenzie Buckle, Josue Garcia, Jonathan Eason, Ryan Van Schaack, ChaosSpartan57, and Calidon Victus for their amazing support.