This is a work of fiction.
Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Tall recognisable characters and locations are the intellectual property of their respective owners.
I own nothing but a warped sence of humour.
Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.

Return Of The King

Darkness filled the Sanctum Imperialis, the only light coming from a few displays built into a massive golden machine that is part throne, part life-support machine and part sarcophagus. Inside lay the remains of a man, a hero without equal who had warred with gods and monsters, only to be brought low by his own flesh and blood turned traitor. Here he had waited, neither dead nor truly alive, for over then thousand years, holding the empire he had forged together through sheer force of will.

Out of the still darkness steps a man, his hair hidden under a skull-cap, while neither the long black and gold robe he wares or the long wooden staff in his right hand make a sound against the stone ground as he approaches the throne. The Adeptus Custodes honour guard moved to intercept him, but he freezes them in places with a simple wave of his hand. He stood before the living corps, a sad expression on his face. The body within seemed to react to his presence, but that could just as easily have been a trick of the light.

"Who...who are you?" One of the guards managed to ask, struggling against the invisible force that held him in place.

"I am known by many names, young Knight." the stranger spoke, his voice deep and resounding, "Some call me Myrdh, or the Magus, or Myrrdin. But most know me as Merlin." He turned to face the body entombed in the golden throne, "For too long I have stood in the shadows, waiting, hoping, that my champion would find his way back into the world of man on his own. And so it is that for too long a people have been deprived of their protector, their saviour." He reached into he robes and pulled out a small medallion baring the personal insignia of great traitor Horus himself.

"It was by the hand of he who bore this mark that your Emperor was slain." Merlin turned to look at the guard who had challenged him and effortlessly crushed the icon in his fist, "It is the nature of magic to make reversals of such facts." his hand waved across the throne, and the broken remains of the medallion seemed to hang suspended in the air, glowing with an unearthly light, "That which kills can also be that with brings life." he raised his staff high, the end pointed directly at the main control panel for the life-support system, "But first, magic demands a sacrifice!"

Time seemed to slow to a crawl as the staff descended, the faces of the Adeptus Custodes twisting in anguish as they watch, helplessly as the delicate, millennia old machinery is shattered beyond any hope of repair. Alarms sound as components fail, the rasping sound of artificiality induced breathing falters and stops.

For a moment nothing dares move, the guard struck dumb by what they have just witnessed, then the front of the throne splits with a hiss of escaping gasses, and slowly opens.

"Typical! Absolutely bloody typical!" A voice complained from deep within the broken device, "You try and do something nice for humanity, and how do they repay you? By sticking a bloody great big pipe up your ass and leaving it there for ten thousand years, that how! Ungratefully sods the lot of them!" A figure stood, the remains of once glistening ceremonial armour hanging in tatters from his shoulders, "You!" He pointed an accusing finger at Merlin, "This was all your idea!"

"You would do well to remember to whom you speak, 'Wisdom': I chose you because I knew that humanity would need a leader who was willing to do whatever it took, would bare any burden and still do their duty." Merlin chastised him, "The powers I gave you are mine to take away again as I see fit."

"I think we both know that that's not going to happen." The God-Emperor of Mankind stood his ground, "You need me just as much as I need you."

"Perhaps there is indeed 'wisdom' in you yet." the old wizard held out a hand to help his champion step clear of the remains of the Golden Throne, while simultaneously releasing the the guards from the spells of binding that held them back.

As one they dropped to their knees, heads bowed down in reverent praise.

"Enough of that!" Wisdom ordered, "I've got a big enough head as it is, and religion was something I was trying to stamp out, not encourage."

"There is indeed much work to be done: the forces of Chaos are ready to begin another crusade as we speak." Merlin nodded, producing a sword from somewhere inside his robes, "I fear we have little time to muster the forces still loyal to you, and we may need help convincing them that you are who you say you are."

"Excalibur! I still remember the look on the Void Dragon's face when I struck it down and entombed it deep beneath the surface of Mars!" The Emperor took the sword and held it high, a grin on his face, "Christ, I would kill for a cigarette right about now." he looked around and saw the bemused expressions on the faces of the guards, "Right, first of all, get up. Secondly, go wake the High Lords and have them assemble in the Council Hall; I have some questions and they'd better have the answers."

Faced with a direct command from their Emperor, the guards of the Adeptus Custodes scattered in a rush to be the first to fulfil their duty.

"Are you going to stick around this time?" The Emperor asked Merlin when they were alone, his stance and tone much more relaxed, "Because without the Primarch's, I could really use the help."

"Though many may be missing, not all of your sons are truly lost." the wizard nodded as he slowly backed away into the shadows, "I will find those who still live, and shall return when you need me."

"That's not what I asked!" The Emperor called out, but he was already alone, "I told him Braddock would have been a better choice." he muttered. Resting his sword over one shoulder, he headed towards the distant sliver of light that indicated the doorway, "There's got to be somewhere around here where I can get a bloody cigarette..."

The End