Author's Note: This is part of a Night Lords short story I wrote up. Expect two more parts to this.
The figure in Terminator plate walked down the pitch-dark halls. A lesser man might stumble, but the figure needed no light to see. Like the rest of his brethren he was born in the darkness. Nostramo was not a kind world, but it did leave a few gifts for her sons.
He had a name, but his brothers simply called him The Bane. He was a great brute of an Astartes, clad in blue-black Terminator plate trimmed in dull bronze. One bore the winged skull of the VIII Legion while the other shoulder pauldron was forged into a black saber-toothed Nostraman lion, the sign of the Night Lords First Company, the Atramentar. His head was shaven and his face covered by a rebreather mask strapped across his mouth and jaw. Faintly one could hear the hoo-pah as the rebreather systems worked.
Skulls clacked against his ceramite plates as he moved resolutely towards the door. Then the Terminator stopped for a moment and then looked into the shadows. Murder servitors stood resolutely in the darkness, weapons trained to protect the commander of the warband.
''It's alright. I come with news,'' He told them..
The cybernetic figures paused for a moment as they scanned him. Then after a few moments they ascertained his identity and stepped back. Bane walked past the cybernetic killers with saying a word. They wouldn't appreciate any thanks regardless.
In the chambers here there was only one source of light, a single blu-glo strip, the type that had been used by the noble houses of Nostramo in ages past. It was one of the few affectations that his lord had kept after all these millennia.
''Lord Vayne?'' Bane knelt, the servos of his armor protesting as he got on the ground.
Before him sat a dark figure on a throne. Jet black eyes looked up as the figure shifted. Bane was reminded of one of the Nostroman saber-lions of old, a proud, majestic creature of great grace and lethality.
Brutus Vayne's armor was artificer-forged, a relic of the Great Crusade and the Heresy. His features were aristocratic and as pale as marble. He wore a pair of master-crafted lightning claws and a long ebony cloak over his blue-black war plate. His breastplate bore a golden bat while his shoulder guards depicted the winged skull.
''Your brother awakens with news,'' Bane told him.
At this Vayne shifted up, power armor whirring softly to Bane's superhuman senses. The Night Lord Captain walked past Bane as the Terminator rose from his position on the ground and followed him. The seer had finally given his visions.
''Who restrains him?'' Vayne asked.
''First Claw milord,'' Bane answered. ''Some of my Atramentar are present as backup.''
Vayne stalked through his ship, mortal serfs cringing out of his way and his own warriors saluting with respect to their lord and master. He crossed through deck after night-shrouded deck before finally coming to the hallways he was looking for.
Several warriors of First Claw, let by Drakon were outside the Sorcerer's door. This was a forbidden part of the ship with few servants venturing here for good reason. Here the Sorcerer-Librarian of the 38th Company rested.
''Silly silly Stolos. Breaking some of his toys. You should really put him on a leash,'' Hofnnar said as he mock-pressed his ear against the door. The marine was a monstrous figure, with filthy green-dyed hair and a pair of twisting scars cut into the sides of his mouths. It gave the disconcerting effect that he was always grinning.
''Shut up,'' Vayne's voice was cold. Hofnnar withdrew from the door and gave a mock bow.
''You know I'm right. I don't recall him ever having a fit this bad,'' Hofnnar mused.
A silken rasp silenced him as Vayne's lightning claws slid from their gauntlets, a hazy blue field casting a faint glow over the Night Lords. Hofnnar did not fear death, but Vayne could be inventive in his tortures.
''Shutting up now,'' murmured Hofnnar as he withdrew. The Night Lord Captain withdrew his attention away from him and to a scarred bald Astartes with one crimson augmetic eye.
''Is he lucid?'' Vayne asked.
''Yes Lord Vayne,'' The leader of First Claw nodded respectfully. ''He's smashed up a few servitors during one of his fits though.'' The sergeant told him. The Nostramo-born was Vayne's trusted right hand, having served with him since they were initiates.
''Replaceable,'' Vayne dismissed that and gestured for the door to open. The place inside was typically dark like everything else save for the faint flickering candles in the dark. There was a gasp of pain as a figure rose up from the ground.
Two of the Atramentar hauled a figure out of the room. Between the two massive Terminators was a figure in blue-black robes with the Legion symbol emblazoned on the front. Vayne knelt and stared into features that echoed his own.
''Brother,'' Stolos Vayne nodded.
''What did you see my brother?'' Brutus asked, helping him up to his feet.
''Us dying on that world. Our corpses picked apart by the ravens and everything burning. Everything burned and burned,'' Stolos recalled his visions. That was the curse of the Haunter's geneseed. The psykers of the Night Lords Legion gazed upon traumatic visions of death and destruction, often seeing the worse possible futures.
''Does it have what I require?'' Brutus asked.
''Yes,'' Stolos nodded. ''Stockpiles of armor and weapons to replenish the company. I saw them, lined up in long racks.''
''Astartes-grade?'' Brutus asked.
''Astartes-grade,'' Stolos nodded.
''Can you take us to that world you saw in your visions?'' Brutus asked.
''Yes. I have its warp-scent. I will aid the astropath in guiding it.,' Stolos
''Good,'' Brutus turned to the others.
''Leave,'' He commanded. Quickly and quietly the Night Lords left the two brothers alone. Brutus looked into his brother's eyes.
''It's getting worse isn't it?'' Brutus asked.
Stolos grimaced. ''I can handle this. It's our gene-father's legacy.''
''True, but it is also a self-destructive legacy. I will not see you burn out. Not after we have survived so much,'' Brutus stated.
''I won't, '' Stolos grasped his brother's shoulder guard. ''I won't.''
Officially they where known as First Claw, the command group of the 38th Company. Unofficially they were nicknamed the Chiropterans, some sort of sly reference to the VIII Legion's Terran origins. They contained Lord Vayne's personal retinue.
''You can't deny it you know. Do you really trust his brother's visions?'' Hofnnar asked.
''He's Lord Vayne's brother. His tolerance for you only pushes so far,'' Drakon noted.
Hofnnar laughed. He did that a lot.
Drakon and Hofnnar were part of the same generation recruited from the slums of Nostramo. Drakon was the younger of the two, although favored more by Lord Vayne than Hofnnar. After all, nobody trusted Hofnnar. Nobody.
Drakon himself was cast in very much the same mold as Curze. His black hair was close-cropped and his dark intelligent eyes peered out thoughtfully. He wore a lovingly maintained suit of MK IV Maximus plate, scrawled with Nostraman runes and decorated with chains of bones. He carried his helmet under one arm, the augmetic one that replaced the limb that the Dark Angels took at Thramas.
Drakon was probably the closest thing that Vayne had to a second in command among the Chiropterans. He traditionally led the group when Vayne was not present, but that was really more due to the likes Hofnnar or Iruel Cifer not especially caring.
''What say you on this matter our brother of ours?'' Hofnnar asked sarcastically.
Iruel Cifer grunted. The assault champion wore a battered suit of MKIII armor that was covered in his favoured trophies. He had helms from the Ultramarines, the Space Wolves, the Salamanders and others. That was just the trophies he wore on his person. His personal chambers had their own trophy room with walls full of especially cherished skulls.
Iruel Cifer was probably the best fighter in raw skill, if only barely beating out Lord Vayne himself. Cifer had a remarkable skill with blades that Lord Vayne had nurtured since he inducted the warrior into First Claw all those centuries ago. Now he served as Lord Vayne's personal champion and the teeth of First Claw. Maybe Cifer could have made a play at leadership, but he was a killer, not a leader.
He wore an ornate masterfully crafted power sword on his back. The Night Lords boasted few knight-artisans compared to Legions like the Blood Angels or Emperor's Children, but they did boast some. Cifer's blade was a finely balanced blade with the hilt crafted into the Legion heraldry. With a touch of its activation rune the blade would be surrounded by a field of crackling energy,
''As expected nothing from our esteemed blademaster,'' Hofnnar lamented sarcastically.
''Do I have to suggest that you stop prodding him?'' Drakon told him.
''I'm just making a simple inquiry,'' Hofnnar's mutilated face twisted into a hideous grin. He wore a salvaged suit of MK V. The several heads of Eldar Harlequins hung from his trophy belt and his helm was shaped into a grinning daemonic face.
But he most notably fact about him was his gauntlets were painted a sinner's red. It was an old Nostraman tradition that had carried over to the modern day Legion. The man with a sinner's mark on him was walking condemned, his life at the whim of his commander.
Drakon knew that Hofnnar was on First Claw so that Lord Vayne could effectively keep an eye on him. If Hofnnar was bothered by the executioner's blade hanging over his head, he made no indication of it at all. Privately Drakon thought that Hofnnar held the stench of warp-taint about him, although he was not willing to press the matter further. His fellow Night Lord had a penchant for twisted murder that was notable even among the Night Lords.
''Don't mock me with false innocence,'' Drakon told him.
''Mocking is what I do best,'' Hofnnar pointed out. ''After all, I al already a dead man walking. What do I fear from death?'' he laughed. Drakon hated that warp-damned hyena laugh of his.
Eventually Hofnnar stopped chuckling.
''I'm sorry. I just find it amusing that our feared warlord still shows softness to his brother. After all the things we have done we still does that,'' Hofnnar mused.
''It's his brother,'' Drakon pointed out.
''We killed many of our brothers before. What should blood matter?'' Hofnnar questioned.
''Shut up,'' Cifer said, his voice soft, but dangerous. ''We have had this discussion many times before. Silence yourself before I cut out your tongue. Try and laugh then.'' The swordsman threatened.
Hofnnar wisely decided to shut up. Shrugging, a curious gesture in power armor, he walked off into the slave quarters of the ship, probably to satisfy his bloodlust. He did that whenever he got upset. Drakon watched him leave before moving off to the bridge. They had course corrections to make.
Serfs and servitors moved around the dark arming chamber. Servo-arms and loading cranes moved weapons and various armor pieces about. Here the warriors of the 38th Company prepared for the war ahead. Some warbands had only a few slaves after ten millennia of bloody warfare. Not so the warriors of the 38th. Lord Vayne had carefully husbanded a stock of skilled labor to personally provide armament services to his warriors.
Stolos stood as a servitor lifted blue-black armor plates into his arm. A breastplate and leg plating had already been donned and piece by piece Stolos's warplate was being assembled. There was a hiss of steam as his left gauntlet was secured.
Stolos's armor, like many of his brother Night Lords, was a mixture of original Heresy-era plate and various scavenged pieces of armor plate. The Sorcerer himself took great pleasure in taking armor pieces from fallen Librarians. His left greave had originally been from a Dark Angel Librarian, while his right gauntlet and shoulder guard had originally been from an Imperial Fist Codicer. Both had long since been repainted and rune-etched by Stolos himself.
As a pair of serfs readied the plates for his right arm armor, Stolos looked up, closing his jet black eyes. He could feel the whisperers of the warp brush lightly against his mind. He steeled himself against the temptations of the daemons. He had seen many of his fellow Night Lord Librarians go mad or possessed by daemons. Stolos swore to never let that happen to him.
They had both been privileged children back on Nostramo. Brutus was his father's heir, educated in ways of warfare and government to manage the noble estate that the Vayne's had fiercely defended over the long centuries.
Then their parents had died, killed by a rival gangster. Brutus and Stolos got vengeance in a way, when the Night Haunter slaughtered their parent's murderer and hung him in the spires of the Vayne family estates. He had remembered the awed look on his brother's face when he had caught a glimpse of the Haunter in the night after the killer had been impaled. Stolos always though then Brutus was truly inspired to follow Curze at that moment.
Brutus and his brother were one of the first recruits to be taken from Nostramo into the VIII Legion. Brutus entered to instill justice on the rest of the universe in memory of his idol. Stolos followed him out of loyalty to his brother.
Loyalty was rare on Nostramo. Stolos had seen drug-addicted mothers sell their own children for a chance at another drug hit. He had seen son's murder fathers for a chance to move up in the criminal hierarchy. Perhaps it was their parents' early death, or their relatively sheltered existence that had bred such loyalty into Stolos. As a boy the sorcerer had always looked up to Brutus. Strong, smart and charismatic Brutus.
Service in the Night Lords Legion was not easy or pleasant. The initiation trials were hellish, but the brothers pushed through it. Brutus ascended the command ranks while Stolos himself had been taken away for tuition in the Night Lord's fledging Librarium.
The Librarian program had been set up by Primarchs Magnus, Sanguinius and the Khan. Stolos had studied and served under the tuition of a Thousand Sons names Asten Aktar to learn how to harness his warp-spawned powers. And learn he did. Eventually he became a full Astartes and was promptly assigned to his brother's squad. Brutus, then a senior company sergeant, led his squad through some of the most brutal conflicts in the Great Crusade while Stolos fought alongside him.
Nearby a serf-girl dressed in the midnight blue robes of the Legion serfs stumbled and spilled a bit of oil on the armor of a nearby Astartes. Stolos recognized Garlok of Tenth Claw by the ritualistic terror markings on his helm.
Garlok looked down at the stain over his armor and rose up, the hum of his active power armor reaching a loud buzz as he reached for a skinning knife at his belt. The girl gave a muffled squeak of utter terror as she fell back on the ground.
A single blue-black gauntlet reached out to grab Garlok's knife-hand before it descended.
''What?'' Garlok looked at the offender.
''She is mine,'' Vlad Orloc stated. He was a massive brute of a Marine. His helm was crafted in the shape of a fearsome wolf skull with gargoyle wings spouting from the sides and sweeping back. It was a trophy taken from the corpse of a Space Wolf warrior and reworked in the image of the VIII Legion.
Vlad looked at the slave-girl. ''Show him it.''
With trembling fingers the girl hesitantly lifted up a single silver disc. On it was unmistakably the heraldry of the VIII Legion. On it was daubed Vlad Orloc's personal sigil.
''One of my personal serfs,'' Orloc wretched Garlok's hand to the side and released him. ''My property. Go find a slave of your own to kill. But do not touch mine.'' He said coldly. One gauntlet gripped the haft of his bat-winged crozius, the Punisher.
Garlok stepped back. Orloc was a Claw leader and the former Chaplain of the warband. Ten millennia ago, the Chaplain edict had been established to watch over the disbanded Librarians after the Nikaea edict. With some amusement Curze had set up a group of Chaplains to monitor his disbanded Librarians, but then shortly after, the Legion declared for Horus. Orloc still retained his crozius, but he was now another squad leader, rather than Chaplain. He had supposedly sent to watch Stolos when he was forcibly retired by the Nikaea edict, but that had ended ten millennia ago.
The member of Tenth Claw retreated back, before barking at one of Tenth Claw's own serfs to come over and clean it off. Orloc looked back at the serf-girl and gestured for her to move on. She did no quickly.
''That was merciful of you,'' Stolos commented.
Orloc gave a cold harsh laugh. ''I'm just teaching Tenth Claw their place in things,'' He told the Librarian.
Stolos nodded. He hardly cared about the inter-Claw rivalry. Due to his powers he had always stood rather distant from his battle brothers. He had few brothers that he regularly conversed with.
''My lord. Your helm and sword,'' A servitor droned. A powered backup was linked up to Stolos's warplate and a low hum filled the Sorcerer's ears. The servitor before him presented Stolos's helm. It was a MKVI helm, crafted specially to resemble an owl's beak. The Sorcerer accepted it and put it on. Nostraman runes crawled across his vision and targeting reticules displayed themselves. Two servitors handed a curved force sword to him. Rune flared along the blade's edge as Stolos took it and sheathed it at his side.
Then he walked out. His brother was waiting for him.
The Prince of Shadows had translated in the far side of the Carias system, Void-Mistress Verenka keeping to a nebula as to avoid detection by the Imperial sensors, she need to have feared as no Imperial ships were present.
The Prince of Shadows was an ancient vessel, a masterful example of her kind. The ship had been one of the many tens of thousands of strike vessels used by the Astartes Legions to conquer the Great Crusade. Very few of its kind were in service to the modern loyalist chapters of today, but many of its type was still used by the traitor Legions.
Now it waited patiently at the edges of the Carias system. Soon it would move in, like a wolf preparing to snap up a wounded straggler. Inside the 38th Company of the Night Lords Legion met and planned the raid that they would soon undertake.
The tactical center of the Prince of Shadows was a room that had seen much. In the days of the Great Crusade Vayne had attended here as a line sergeant before reaching the rank of Captain. Then it was his turn to direct the wars that the 38th Company had fought. Here he had dictated strategy and tactics during the Heresy and many other wars beyond that.
It was a darkly lit room, with a set of holo-projectors being the only light. A black-robed Tech-Adept and a pair of maintenance servitors were the only non-Astartes in the room other than the naval officers. All around the holo-table were the assembled Claw commanders. The low hum of active Astartes power armor filled the room as Vayne walked up to the head of the table. First Claw was behind him.
''Carias,'' Vayne gestured with one gauntlet. A single talon slid out to gestured at the light-orb generated by the holo-receptors. His warriors stared at the orb and the light-streams of data-concerning it. Many were veterans of the Great Crusade and the Heresy. Others were newbloods, uplifted with Curze's geneseed after the Heresy from prisoners and indoctrinated cultists-slaves.
''This is all the information we have on it, apart from the scans we conducted. The world is a Mechanicus refueling depot station, built into an asteroid pulled into planetary orbit. Here Mechanicus freighters transport shipments of weaponry and armor,'' Brutus stated.
The light orb zoomed in to a single point around the planet. It was an orbital station floating in high orbit around the planet. A crimson glowing light marked out the place Vayne had selected. They all recognized it as an STC storage and manufacturing dock. Vayne gestured to Veranka.
She was a woman roughly in her thirties with sharp, angular features and closely-cropped black hair. She wore the old uniform of the Legion naval crew, albeit with all Imperial symbols of allegiance ripped off. She cleared her throat and began to speak.
''So far no Imperial ships have been detected. I've been keeping a cautious route so far into the outer nebula. The depot should have orbital defenses, but I'm confident I can move in quickly and trick the Imperial crews long enough for a boarding assault,'' Veranka stated. She was a curious case among the Night Lords. While Vayne possessed perfectly adequate skills in void war, the Night Lord preferred to leave that duty to the mortals of the warband. Veranka held much influence among the warband despite being a non-Astartes.
''I assume the shipments are our primary objective?'' Kar Sarath asked. His winged helm was off, exposing his hard angular features and close cropped black hair. A Legion tattoo was inked into the side of his face.
Many often said that Kar Sarath should have been an Ultramarine or an Imperial Fist. The Night Lords as a Legion were never the most orderly of Legion, having recruited heavily from a hive world of murderers and criminals, but Kar Sarath's Second Claw was the most drilled and disciplined unit in the warband.
Kar Sarath himself was a dedicated and skilled leader and he had rigorously formed his brothers in Second Claw into a squad that was as tightly drilled as any Ultramarine unit. He served Vayne with a quiet loyalty and dedicated unheard of among renegades.
''Correct. Second Claw will lead the assault here with the Third, Fourth, Seventh, Eight and Tenth Claws while I will lead First Claw and all our remaining forces here,'' Vayne marked out the appropriate sections of the map here.
''My brother's warp sorcery foretold the shipments would be here and here. Due to recent ork attacks in this sector the depot should be lightly defended. The Imperium had bled much to hold this area of space.'' The Night Lords Captain pointed to another part of the planet, the holographic figure shifting.
''For the actual assault we move by boarding torpedo through the wide entrances here. This should be standard STC construction, so the defenses should be weakest here. We moved out to secure the landing bays for Thunderhawk and dropship retrieval,'' Brutus indicated.
''Now isn't that what we like?'' Hofnnar mused. A series of chuckles sounded around the room.
''And what about resistance? What did Stolos foretell?'' Kar Sarath glanced at the Sorcerer, who was now fully cloaked and armored and carrying a force scimitar at his side.
''Guardsmen. Skitari. Mechanicus dogs mostly,'' The Sorcerer told him.
''Of course be prepared for Imperial reinforcements. Expect the unexpected,'' Vayne gestured.
''Understood. Most likely mortals then,'' Kar Sarath nodded.
''I was hoping for more Astartes,'' Iruel Cifer mused.
''We don't have the time to bleed it out with other Astartes here. We move in and grab the weapons then we withdraw. I do hope that is understood,'' Vayne nodded.
''Of course. Mere mortals. But they'll still be fresh prey for the hunt,'' Dar-Garoth commented. The Raptor leader was a different breed then the rest of his brothers in the Night Lords. A sicker, leaner and crueler breed. He was the leader of Eighth Claw, also known as the Nightwing. They numbered twenty Raptors and served as terrifying shock troops.
His armor was vaguely avian, crafted in the same style as the Raptor cults often sported. No trophies hung on his sleek form, not out of lack of accomplishment, but more due to aerodynamic necessity.
''Supplies first. The pleasure of the kill second,'' Vayne empathized. He turned to the rest of the Claw commanders.
''We need this run. Once we resupply we will head to greater wars were the rest of the Legion warbands are fighting. Then we shall cut down the rotting edifice of the corrupt Imperium. We shall become the blade of justice to avenge our fallen Primarch. Ave Dominus Nox!'' he bellowed out he last word.
''Ave Dominus Nox!'' the rest of the Claw commanders roared.
From behind Hofnnar watched from the back, observing the varied reactions of the Claw commanders. Some looked relatively stoic, such as Kar Sarath, others looked excited at the prospect of slaughter and death, like Toten.
It privately amused him that Vayne still thought of this as a purely military objective. How funny of him to think that half the men he commanded were not originally murderers, thieves and rapists before they became Astartes.
It was the curse of the Night Lords, he thought. There was a certain duality to the Legion and their Primarch, once Curze had been a figure of warped justice in the streets of Nostramo, a figure bringing death to the wrongdoers. Then when the Imperium came to Nostramo, Curze saw the ugly truth as it was laid out before him. His rule was not the only way. Other Primarchs had shaped worlds without the bloody slaughter he had inflicted on his own world.
Hofnnar supposed that was when Curze's darker half began to grow more and more advanced when his nihilistic beliefs grew. Less than a decade after Curze had left Nostramo the Legion's ranks became filled with the scum of the Nostramoan hives. Vayne of course stood above all that. As the scion of a noble house on Nostramo, he had entered the ranks with his blood brother in tow. Stolos became part of the Night Lords fledging Librarium while Brutus rose through the ranks as one of the Night Haunter's Captains.
Oh, how he had fought on the front lines! Hofnnar should known, he was there. He had served with Brutus in the tactical Claw and then alongside the Raptors squads as they fought on countless alien worlds in the name of the Emperor.
Brutus had always had a sense of idealism to him. He honestly believed he was bringing justice and order to the heathen worlds that the Great Crusade came across. He used fear like a finely honed edge and never a tool. Hofnnar meanwhile threw off all those pretentions when Curze declared for the Warmaster and the Night Lords. He always knew what he was at heart. A murderer and a killer. He saw the sad joke of existence that was the Night Lords Legion and he gave fully in to his impulses.
Not Vayne though. Vayne still fought on, even after the Haunter's death, still convinced he was part of some righteous cause to tear down a corrupt and decadent Imperium. Of course that was part of why Hofnnar was amused by him.
Of course now came the time for slaughter. He could feel it in his bones. Soon he would be taking Imperial lives once more in the long war. Hofnnar smacked his mutilated lips and gave a private rictus grin to himself.
Ave Dominus Nox indeed.