" I heard them.

My infant mind could feel them as I lay silent in my metal womb, a pod, as I floated unborn through the warp. This machine embrace shall be the only mother I'll ever know. But as formidable as her iron womb was, she could not stop the warp's intruders from breaching her. I could hear them whispering things to me through her flesh. They tried to take me, but she did not let them. I could not stop them, but she could. I could only wait for mother's arms to bear me to safety.

I left the warp and fell, a comet from the sky, inside me the power of a sun, onto a lost world far away from my Terra, just as all my other brothers had. I was found and raised, not living the life of a boy-god as my brother Sanguinius or the life of comfort beside the Emperor like my brother Horus. No, I ruled my new home, as so many of my other brothers ruled theirs. But the voices found me.

Even in my fortress, lorded over my subjects, who feared my iron boot, I could still hear them singing.

The Emperor came and I gave him my name and allegiance. He gave me 10000 names and 10000 allegiances and told me I could wield them in battle. And I did. And I conquered at the head of my legion. But never could I avoid those voices, those warp-voices, attuned to me, familiar with me, knowing me from the iron mother that floated undefended through the warp. On the dying fields or in the victory halls or in conversation with other space marines I could hear them.

One voice was different.

It told me of an ancient plague that destroyed everything and then vanished.

Then it told me the plague was returning. "

-XI

AN UNKNOWN CORNER OF THE GALAXY, SOMETIME DURING THE GREAT CRUSADE…

The room was dark and round, half of its fortified walls hidden by choking shadow. The only source of light came from the central table, which was circular and bore a bright star-map written in holographics above its glimmering surface. The red markings showing the latest troop movements in the Great Crusade were as red as blood spilt in battle.

As miserable, perhaps sinister, as the room was, it carried within its darkened bowl five tremendous honours: no less than five of the Emperor's primarchs. They stood lorded around the star map as still and proud as statues, as imposing as a mountain in midnight, as unbreakable as the galaxy itself. Their armored bodies caught even the minor light of the hologram.

One of them abruptly leaned forward, into the light of the hologram, his slender arms supporting himself unsteadily against the table. The light caught his face, which was mostly shadowed beneath his silky hood. His hands trembled subtly even as he leaned against the table. His gaunt face set him apart from his brothers, who were the very paragons of humanity. Where they were the living pictures of bravery, this primarch always seemed to be on the verge of screaming.

Guilliman looked across the table at his brother primarch and took a moment to consider his face. Though his thin brother was always unsteady, he seemed particularly afraid right now. Guilliman looked to the other three who shared the room. Horus, calm, looked at his unsteady brother, his face soft in the general darkness. Beside him was the winged giant Sanguinius, to whom no shadow clung for long. Across from them, beautiful even in the shadows, was Fulgrim. Of the five of them, the hooded one was the shortest of all. As much as he disliked himself for thinking it, Guilliman abhored his shifty brother.

"Brothers," the leaning man began in a jittery voice, pausing between words as though distracted, "I am glad that you…you are considerate enough to…to come out here from…from the Emperor's…duty."

"Please brother, do not apologize. If this is important, you may have what time you ask," Fulgrim said, brushing his hair from his eyes. The hooded one nodded, his head shaking. He raised his hand. Guilliman knew what he was doing.

"You know what we have been commanded," Guilliman warned ominously. He was ignored and a small jar floated out of the shadows, held aloft by unnatural powers. It set itself upon the table. Sanguinius leaned his height forward to squint into the glass depths of the jar at the tiny prisoner held within.

It looked like an octopus of Terra, but it floated and appeared to be consulting each of the five maliciously.

"Behold the enslaver, a creature of the warp," the hooded one continued. "I…I…"

"Naturally you would be acquainted with them," Fulgrim remarked, his eyes regarding the hooded primarch's body. Guilliman knew what his brother meant.

This primarch had been scattered across the galaxy as the others were. But his capsule was damaged and it let the creatures of the warp upon him. It didn't hinder his brother's ability to command, but it did make him as he was: a man constantly distracted by the voices in his mind. He also had a very unhealthy fascination with the warp, so Guilliman fancied.

"There is an alien text…a piece of text I found," the hooded primarch continued. "I…I…I translated it." He looked up at the enslaver.

"So why have you brought this thing to us?" Guilliman asked. "My legion may need me. I have little time."

"Brother, my studies of the alien text have told me that this…this…this thing and its ilk have been across the galaxy…galaxy before, millions of years ago," the primarch continued, patting the jar, disturbing its occupant. "Brothers, it seems they…flooded out of the warp…millions of years ago. They destroyed all life of the galaxy then in a vast plague of extinction. This one is passive, simple, a babe, but there are others."

"And you wish to warn us that it may happen again?" Sanguinius asked, eyes fixed on the 'enslaver.' The primarch shook his head.

"It…it will happen again but in a very different…different way." He gestured to the star-map. "Brothers…brothers. Have we not been to the furthest reaches of the galaxy? Have…have we not reunited? Have…have we…we not encountered opposition and damnable aliens at every turn?" He trembled. "I can see it…see it. The whole galaxy is rife with enemies. We cannot conquer it." He tapped the jar. "Until now." All four suddenly understood what their short brother had in mind.

"You think that the way to conquer the galaxy is to damn it with a plague of these warp-spawned creatures?" Horus asked.

"We need only weather the…the storm. I think…think I can control…control the enslaver's course to some extent. Then when the enslavers go, when their plague is over, we will be free to repopulate the galaxy, to learn and rebuild as we…we please. No need for this," he indicated the star-map. Sanguinius and Fulgrim disappeared into the shadows both at once.

"I shall not have a part of this," Sanguinius vowed.

"Me also," echoed Fulgrim. Their robed brother leapt back.

"Brothers! Brothers! You do not understand! There is more to…to this! It will be different this time! No warp! No…" the primarch looked hopefully at his remaining brothers. "Brother Horus? Brother Roboute? Shall I have your legions in aid…aid? Help control…control the new enslaver plague? The enslaver…enslavers have changed…you don't understand."

"I'm afraid they are right," Horus sighed in disappointment. "You have wasted my time." He retreated into the darkness.

"Please brother! I…I can end this…this war. I can…can do it with the enslavers! One…one…one storm! One plague!" The primarch threw back his hood and Guilliman averted his eyes. "I beg you! I have endured…endured this war too long! We've already lost one of our brother primarchs, Lord…"

"Do not say the name," Guilliman interrupted, raising a boulder-hand. He extended a finger to point at his frail brother, not taking a look at his face. "You are a madman. You whisper of visions from the immaterium, you tremble and shake, you speak of this unthinkable plan as though speaking of food and you use unnatural powers against the Emperor's will. This is the final stone my brother, I fear you have fallen." Guilliman turned about and headed into the shadows of his brother's headquarters.

"You…you…you are the madman Guilliman! We cannot win this war! This is…is what must be done…done if we are to see the end of it!" shrieked the primarch. "Have you…you even asked yourself if these…these humans are worth fighting for!?"

"The Emperor will hear of this brother, and of your defiance and your mad prattling," Guilliman swore. "I expect he will strip you of your title and command. You and the Hornet Legion will be expunged from the record." Guilliman instead heard a cold laugh from his brother.

"No Roboute, I take my men with me…me. We will find…find the enslavers."

"You take them to their deaths, Apollyon, wherever you go. You will not find what you are looking for and learn nothing except that alien text found in the sand always tells lies," Guilliman promised. Again the primarch laughed. Guilliman afforded one glance at him, thinking he'd come closer.

The primarch was all but invisible in the dark, but Guilliman could still make out his face. The respirator from his incubation capsule has fused to his infant face during the travel through the warp. It was now as much a part of his face as his eyes.

"Do as you…you will then Guilliman," Apollyon sneered from behind the respirator, "but…but I will…will show you. When…when the enslavers arrive, I'll send the first wave straight to Macragge." Guilliman laughed and left.

And the galaxy was covered by war.

For 13 000 years there was death.

And with each passing year, the galaxy fell closer to the Time of Ending