Upon that fated day, I witnessed my brothers die. I witnessed their red bedecked forms writhe in tendrils of warp lightning, saw their ceramite frames convulse as unleashed energies ravaged their bodies. I saw this while my own psychic potential, small as it was, grow in leaps and bounds. The screams of my brethren raged into my mind as well as my ears. I could feel their agony as though it were my own. I could feel the skin being flayed from their flesh. I could feel their flesh melting like wax down their bones. I could feel their bones dissipating into dust. My mind had gone blank then, made so by blessed unconsciousness. Sometimes I wish for it to remain that way.
When I came to, the shells of my men greeted my gaze. I still remember with clarity the horror in my conscience when I unfastened the neck seals of Ahmtep's helm and saw that he had no head, no body, nothing. Just a pile of ash that rested in his empty power armor. I was not the only one that still was made from meat and bone. Others had survived. But they were a paltry few. The silent forms of my brothers, still as statues, dotted the blasted landscape. I could have wept then. But I did not. Astartes do not weep in the face of destruction. We accept it.
The Rubric had failed us. Ahriman had failed us.
That was ten millennia ago, on a world called the Planet of Sorcerers. Yet to me, it was like yesterday.
I have at my command three hundred Rubric Marines. Former men of flesh and blood who once brought the galaxy to its knees. Now, they are automatons devoid of their former glory. They are my flock, and it is my duty to guide them. They are also my heralds, and I have unleashed them before against my foes.
Sometimes I stare at my charges, looking into the fathomless pits of their eye visors. I hope to see a flicker of light. A glimmer of existence. Each time I am foiled. The souls that have been bound to the warplates of Astartes armor are utterly without sanity. Maddened like warp creatures from the Empyrean. There is no saving them from their fates.
I do not hate Ahriman. I respect him. He did what was necessary. The Rubric cost us dear, but it preserved us as a Legion. The flesh-change would have taken us all had he not acted. No. I do not hate him.
I reserve my hatred for my father. For my primarch. For the being whose blood flows in my veins. I reserve my hatred for Magnus. This unworthy father who has sired worthy sons.
He thought himself above the corrupted touches of the Warp. He was wrong. He believed himself to be resistant to the false whispers of lying gods. He was wrong. He taught us that the Great Ocean could be mastered, that it could flow and pour to our command. He was wrong. He taught us that sorcery was an enlightened ideal, and none needed to fear it. He was wrong. He taught us that we were the lords of ourselves, that we could manipulate the future to our liking. He was wrong. And through these errors, he brought ruin and damnation to the Thousand Sons.
Magnus is a fool. A raving, ranting lunatic atop his obsidian tower. I cannot believe that once I loved him with all my heart.
I left the Planet of Sorcerers with fifty Rubric Marines under my control. I told those brothers who still possessed flesh that with these warriors I would lead raids against the Imperium. But in secret, that was a lie. I left this desolate waste of a world for one thing and one thing only. Retribution.
Aboard my warship, I ordered my thralls to strip away the blue paint that had been freshly adorned on my brethern's armor. I, myself, restored their warplate to the gleaming red of our Legion. I will not bow my head to the orders of a madman.
My ship escaped from the Eye of Terror, avoiding the noose that was closing by the Imperial Navy. I watched silently as countless starships, carrying the defeated Legions of Horus, streak past me. They went one direction. I went another. My purpose was revenge, but my force was not yet sufficient.
But that changed. Gradually. Slowly. But change it did. I ghosted across the universe, listening to psychic messages sent by Imperial astropaths in secrecy. I would always head towards a world threatened by Chaos incursion, hoping to find warbands from any of the nine traitor Legions. The majority of times, it was merely a cult staging a rebellion or a leaderless rabble easily crushed by the Imperial Guard. I did not show my hand in circumstances as those. I was seeking traitor Astartes, not normal men who had turned.
Sometimes, I did find what I so desperately seek. Chaos Space Marines, slinking from the Eye in their daemon-infused ships. They came to raid and to pillage, and oftentimes, just to slaughter. It is strange thought that eons ago, I would have given my life to save these men, and they would have given their lives to save mine. The bonds of brotherhood have long since vanished, and where once I grieved to slay these men, now I have no qualms in doing so.
Where these traitor Astartes landed, I followed suit. Before they could properly strike against a terrified populace, or an undermanned outpost, my men… my automatons would have already launched their assault. I chose my battles carefully, never allowing the enemy an advantage where one was to be gained, and never losing an advantage where one was to be lost. The number of warbands I have destroyed I have lost count. But as an estimate, I could pile the skulls of the slain in a mountain. Khorne wishes me to be his champion. I spit on his name as I spit on the other three black gods of the warp.
Ten thousand years later, and I still do this. And my reputation has grown.
To the World Eaters, I am known as the Blood Shedder. That is a name I agree with. My gauntlets have spilled the blood of many a World Eater champion, and more of their followers.
To the Death Guard, I am called the Scouring Flame. That is a title I have earned. I have burned Nurgle's gifts from many of Mortarion's children with warp fire.
To the Emperor's Children, I am called the Hundred Agonies. That identity is one I adhere to. The sorcery that lashes from my palms is even more painful than their crazed, drug-induced minds can bear.
To the Iron Warriors, I am known as the Great Vanquisher. That is a name I nod in confirmation to. Entire fortifications constructed through the teachings of Perturabo have been leveled by my psychic might.
To the Night Lords, I am simply called the Terror. That is a title I cannot help but smile at. I enjoy flaying alive those of the Night Haunter's ilk I come across.
To the Word Bearers, I am called the Destroyer of Faith. That is an identity true and without falsehood. Lorgar's bastions of blasphemous religion have been crushed and burned by my Rubric Marines.
To the Alpha Legion, I am not known. They are not traitors, and hence, do not receive my wrath.
And to the Thousand Sons, I am called the Betrayer. They are not wrong in this. I have three hundred Rubric Marines because I wrested the control of two hundred and fifty from their erstwhile masters. Aspiring Sorcerers who thinks Magnus was right. These men I slay with relish, stripping them of their souls and flinging them into the Warp. I may be a betrayer, but there is no crime in betraying those who have turned traitor themselves.
Sometimes, the men I slay ask me why I do this. As they lie on the war-despoiled earth, they ask me why I would turn against my kin. That is a question easy for me to answer.
Because we were wrong. Because Horus, Lorgar, Perturabo, Mortarion, and the others, were wrong. We were wrong in turning against the Emperor. We were wrong in destroying the Imperium that we shed blood to build. We were wrong in abandoning mankind.
They do not understand. They curse me as they die, saying the four Warp Gods will have the vengeance on me. I do not need them to comprehend my ideals. And I do not care for the threats they swear against me. Partly because they are true. I have been denied a spot besides the Emperor for treachery not of my own. If my death means my soul will suffer in eternity, tortured by the Four, then so be it. But I will die knowing that I have done all I could for humanity. No one, not even gods, can take away that comfort.
I write these words in the bowels of my ship, attended to by the automatons that were once my brothers. Another world sprawls below us, and soon, our Stormravens will carry myself and the three hundred into battle. Perhaps I will die on this planet. Perhaps I will not. But in the end, as always, I finish with this.
For the Emperor. For the Imperium. For all Mankind.
I wrote this for a contest for 40kOnline. I have no idea what to do with this yet. It can turn out to be a story like the God of Death or stay as a oneshot. I would like some suggestions regarding this. My thanks to all my reviewers!