The Four Strands Modeling, Painting, Gaming and Storytelling

Big Game V – Chapter Eight: Who, Indeed?

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As he stalked down the wide corridors of the Despoiler-class battleship The Promise of Absolution, Lord Matthius felt the pull of the Chaos Gods once more. His armor, long fused to him as a second skin, flowed with deep shades of colors, swirling shades mixing and reforming as the voices within his psyche fought for dominance. The deep rages of Khorne, the temptations of Slaanesh, the bubbling despair of Father Nurgle and the luminescent whispers of Tzeentch washed over his mind, growing louder with each step. As he strode past them, the crew of Word Bearers Chaos Space Marines stopped and gave him wide berth. Some bowed their heads in homage, while others merely stared in awe as the Dark Prophet of the Four pressed on to his destination.

The chorus within his mind swelled as he approached the ornate door the led to the ship's control room. The manifold wills of beings beyond mortal comprehension warring with themselves and with the wills of their counterparts. Proclamations, threats, great wails of pain and ecstasy formed a cacophony within his consciousness, but all turned to screams of rage as the mural upon the door became clear - the cursed Emperor of Man, triumphant over the broken body of Horus.

Above the Emperor, though, quenching his golden glow, towered a greater form: a winged beast, one hand sheathed in a wicked clawed gauntlet, and in the other, an elaborately-decorated hammer. From the darkness below, a horde of daemons crawled upwards to engulf the master of man. It was left deliberately unclear, Matthius thought, as he always had, if the beast represented the undivided will of the Dark Gods, or the mortal master of this vessel, but it did not matter. What would unfold within this former domain of the Ancients would serve the Four. As the door split apart and began to open into the room before him a harmony arose, both within and above the many voices. The will of his masters became suddenly clear.

The room inside was unnaturally cool, and as Matthius stepped forward, he saw that the interior was obscured by a thin fog, lit only by scattered candles within crevices carved into the enormous granite columns that rose into the shadowy ether above. Towards the center of the room, two columns stood, much larger than the others, and between them, upon a raised circular platform, sat a figure encased within a heavy suit of ornate Terminator armor. The master of this vessel, and of the Word Bearers Host, the Sicarii. A Chaos Lord who had preyed upon the Imperium since the beginning of the Long War.

“They have come, Lord Esarhaddon,” Matthius said. “The Iron Fleet of Gorath now orbits beside our own. The last of those forces called have answered, and battle has been joined.”

“This battle has been joined for millennia,” Esarhaddon’s voice echoed throughout the chamber, a low bass, like the sound of cold steel struck by a hammer blow. “Now, the Great Unbinding shall be finished.”

“Not only mortals, Esarhaddon. We have been met with Astartes as well.”

“Then the winged angels of the False Emperor shall be met with the same daemons they descend from, and know despair, for we bring the instrument of their deaths.”

The Chaos Lord rose to his full height, and from a gilded scabbard at his side unsheathed a weapon that, for a moment, silenced even the voices of the Gods.

Forged within the blackest flames in the heart of the Eye of Terror, the Daemonsword Ba'arzunipal, the Blade of Damnation, twisted and screamed with the thousands of souls it had consumed. Each remained imprisoned within, feeding the power of the entity bound to the blade.

It was not the first time Matthius had seen the sword. For thousands of years, it had been sought, captured, and lost again, and he had acted as the herald for many of those who had sought to use its power. Each time, they had been destroyed, consumed just the same as those they had slain, trapped for all eternity within the Black Sword of Chaos. Now the cycle had begun again.

This time, though, the blade bore a new embellishment. In the hilt, a small black amulet had been forged into the sword. To the eye, it seemed a worthless difference, but the stone within, Matthius knew, was the Heart of Zaral. Matthius winced, thinking back to the last man to wield these artifacts, the memories bringing screams of rage and pain from the voices within. Kalan, he swore, was a mistake he would not repeat.

“By this blade, countless have been murdered, and before it, countless more shall kneel in worship.” Esarhaddon held looked for a long moment at the twisting daemon sword, and then slammed the blade back into its sheath. “Worship that we men of antiquity have long reveled in, Prophet.” The last syllable dripped from Esarhaddon’s mouth with suspicion. The Word Bearer knew the fate of those who Matthius had championed before. Where the power of the Dark Gods had grown stronger from their actions, The Chosen of the Dark Prophet had often found themselves sacrifices to their own victories.

“Go, Matthius. A point must be made, and an Empire must be brought to its knees. The servants of the True Gods will be triumphant.”

“It shall be done,” Matthius intoned, turning briskly and walking wordlessly from the room. A point would be made. The will of his Masters would be served.

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