Read Battle for The Abyss Online

Authors: Ben Counter

Tags: #000 - The Horus Heresy, #Warhammer 40, #Book 8

Battle for The Abyss

THE HORUS HERESY

Ben Counter

BATTLE FOR THE

ABYSS

My brother, my enemy

THE HORUS HERESY

It is a time of legend.

Mighty heroes battle for the right to rule the galaxy. The vast armies of the Emperor of
Earth have conquered the galaxy in a Great Crusade – the myriad alien races have
been smashed by the Emperor’s elite warriors and wiped from the face of history.

The dawn of a new age of supremacy for humanity beckons.

Gleaming citadels of marble and gold celebrate the many victories of the Emperor.

Triumphs are raised on a million worlds to record the epic deeds of his most powerful
and deadly warriors.

First and foremost amongst these are the primarchs, superheroic beings who have led
the Emperor’s armies of Space Marines in victory after victory. They are unstoppable
and magnificent, the pinnacle of the Emperor’s genetic experimentation. The Space
Marines are the mightiest human warriors the galaxy has ever known, each capable of
besting a hundred normal men or more in combat.

Organised into vast armies of tens of thousands called Legions, the Space Marines and
their primarch leaders conquer the galaxy in the name of the Emperor.

Chief amongst the primarchs is Horus, called the Glorious, the Brightest Star,
favourite of the Emperor, and like a son unto him. He is the Warmaster, the
commander-in-chief of the Emperor’s military might, subjugator of a thousand
thousand worlds and conqueror of the galaxy. He is a warrior without peer, a
diplomat supreme.

As the flames of war spread through the Imperium, mankind’s champions will all be
put to the ultimate test.

Ben Counter – Battle for the Abyss

~ DRAMATIS PERSONAE ~

The Ultramarines Legion

CESTUS

Brother-captain and fleet commander, 7th

Company

ANTIGES

Honour Guard, Battle-brother

SAPHRAX

Honour Guard, Standard Bearer

LAERADIS

Honour Guard, Apothecary

The Word Bearers Legion

ZADKIEL

Fleet Captain,
Furious Abyss

BAELANOS

Assault-captain,
Furious Abyss

IKTHALON

Brother-Chaplain,
Furious Abyss

RESKIEL

Sergeant-commander,
Furious Abyss

MALFORIAN

Weapon Master,
Furious Abyss

ULTIS

Battle-brother

The Mechanicum of Mars

KELBOR-HAL

Fabricator General

GUREOD

Magos,
Furious Abyss

The Space Wolves Legion

BRYNNGAR

Captain

RUJVELD

Battle-brother

The Thousand Sons Legion

MHOTEP

Brother-sergeant and fleet captain,

Waning Moon

The World Eaters Legion

SKRAAL

Brother-captain

The Saturnine Fleet

KAMINSKA

Rear Admiral,
Wrathful

VENKMYER

Helmsmistress,
Wrathful

ORCADUS

Principal Navigator,
Wrathful

2

Ben Counter – Battle for the Abyss

ONE

Bearers of the Word

Let slip our cloaks

The death of Cruithne

OLYMPUS MONS BURNED bright and spat a plume of fire into the sky. Below the immense edifice of rock lay the primary sprawling metropolis of Mars. Track-ways and factorums bustled with red-robed acolytes, pursued dutifully by lobotomised servitors, bipedal machine-constructs, thronging menials and imperious skitarii. Domed hab-blisters, stark cooling towers and monolithic forge temples vied for position amidst the red dust. Soaring chimneys, pockmarked by millennia of endeavour, belched thick, acrid smoke into a burning sky.

Hulking compressor houses vented steam high over the industrious swell like the breath of gods from arcane blasting kilns carved into the heart of the world; so vast, so fathomless, a labyrinthine conurbation as intricate and self-involved as its fervent populous.

Such innumerate, petty meanderings were as inconsequential as a fragment of coal in the blast furnaces of the mountain forges, so great was the undertaking of that day. Few knew of its significance and fewer still witnessed the anonymous shuttle drone launch from the hidden caldera in the Valles Marineris. The drone surged into the stratosphere, piercing cloud-like crimson smog. Through writhing storms of purple-black pollution and wells of geothermal heat that hammered deep bruises into the sky, it breached the freezing mesosphere, the drone’s outer shell burning white with effort. Plasma engines screaming, it drove on
3

Ben Counter – Battle for the Abyss

further into the thermosphere, the rays of the sun turning the layer into a blazing veil of relentless heat. Breaking the exosphere at last, the shuttle’s engines eased. This was to be a one-way trip.

Preset tracking beacons found their destination quickly. It was far beyond the red dust of Martian skies, far beyond prying eyes and questions. The shuttle was headed for Jupiter.

THULE HAD ORBITED the shipyards of Jupiter for six millennia.

Suspended high above the gaseous surface of its patron planet, it dwelled innocuously beyond the greater Galilean moons: Callis-to, Ganymede, Europa and Io. It was an ugly chunk of rock, its gravity so weak that its form was misshapen and mutated.

Such considerations were of little concern to the Mechanicum.

What place did appearance and the aesthetic have in the heart of the machine? Precision, exactness, function, they were all that mattered.

Though of little consequence, Thule was to become something more than just a barren hunk of rock. It had been hollowed out by massive boring machines and filled with conduits, vast tunnels and chambers. Millions of menials, drones and acolytes toiled in the subterranean labyrinth, so great was the deed that they were charged to perform. In effect, the dead core of Thule had become a giant factorum of forge temples and compressors, a massive gravity engine its beating heart. This construction extended from the surface via metal tendrils that supported blister domes, clinging like limpets to the rock, and pneumatic lifter arrays. Thule was no mere misshapen asteroid. It was an orbital shipyard of Jupiter, and one that had guests.

‘WE STAND UPON the brink of a new era.’ Through the vox-amplifier built into his gorget, Zadkiel’s voice resonated powerfully in the gargantuan chamber. Behind him, the exo-skeletal structure of Thule shipyard loomed large and forbidding against the cold reaches of space. Here, within one of the station’s blister domes, he and his charges were protected from the ravages of the asteroid’s surface. Solar winds scoured the rock, bleaching it
4

Ben Counter – Battle for the Abyss

white, the inexorable erosion creating a miasma of nitrogen-thick rolling dust.

‘A red dawn is rising and it will drown our enemies in blood.

Heed the power of the Word and know it is our destiny,’ Zadkiel bellowed as he delivered the sermon, animated and fervent upon a dais of obsidian. Scripture carved into his patrician features and bald skull added unneeded gravitas to Zadkiel’s oratory. His grey, turbulent eyes conveyed vehemence and surety.

His fists encased in baroque gauntlets, Zadkiel gripped the edge of the lectern and assumed an insistent posture. He wore his full battle armour, a fledging suit of crimson ceramite yet to bear the scars of conflict. Replete with the horns of Colchis, in honour of the primarch’s home world and the symbol of a proud and distinguished heritage, it represented the new era of which Zadkiel spoke.

The Word Bearers Legion had been denied their true nature for too long. Now, they had shed the simulacra of obedience and capitulation, the trappings of compromise and denial. Their new power armour, fresh from the forges of Mars and etched with the epistles of Lorgar, was a testament to that treaty. The grey-granite suits of feigned ignorance were destroyed in the heart of Olympus Mons. Clad in the vestments of enlightenment, they would be reborn.

A vast ocean of crimson stretched before Zadkiel, as he stood erect behind his pulpit of stone. A thousand Astartes watched him dutifully, a full Chapter split into ten companies, each a hundred strong, their captains to the fore. All heeded the Word.

The Legionaries were resplendent in their power armour, bolters held at salute in their armoured fists, clutched like holy idols. Zadkiel’s suit was the mirror-image of those of his warriors, although sheaves of prayer parchment, scorched trails of vellum writ over with litanies of battle, and the bloodied pages ripped from sermons of retribution were affixed to it. When he spoke, it was with the zealous conviction of the rhetoric he wore.

‘Heed the power of the Word and know this is our destiny.’

The congregation roared in affirmation, their voices as one.

5

Ben Counter – Battle for the Abyss

‘We have our lance of vengeance. Let it strike out the heart of Guilliman and his weakling Legion,’ Zadkiel bellowed, swept up by his own vitriolic proclamations. ‘Long have we waited for retribution. Long have we dwelt in shadow.’

Zadkiel stepped forward, his iron-hard gaze urging his warriors to greater fervour. ‘Now is the time,’ he said, smashing his clenched fist down upon the lectern to punctuate the remark.

‘We shall cast off falsehoods and the shackles of our feigned ob-eisance,’ he snarled as if the words left a bitter taste in his mouth,

‘let slip our cloaks and reveal our true glory!

‘Brothers, we are Bearers of the Word, the sons of Lorgar. Let the impassioned words of our dark apostles be as poison blades in the hearts of the False Emperor’s lapdogs. Witness our ascen-sion,’ he said, turning to face the great arch behind him.

A vast ship dominated the view through the hardened plexi-glass of the blister dome. It was surrounded by massively over-engineered machinery, as if the scaffold supporting the hordes of menials and enginseers had been built around it, and thick trails of reinforced hosing bled away the pneumatic pressure required to keep the gargantuan vessel elevated.

Cathedra soared from the ship’s ornate hull, their spires groping for the stars like crooked fingers. So armoured, it could withstand even a concerted assault from a defence laser battery. In fact, it had been forged with that very purpose in mind.

Its blunt bullet prow, and the way its flanks splayed out to encompass the enormous midsection, spoke of strength and precision. Three massive crenellated decks extended from it like the sharpened prongs of a stygian trident. Twin banks of laser batteries gleamed in dull gunmetal down its broadsides. A single volley would have annihilated the loading bay and everyone in it.

Cannon mounts sat idle on angular blocks of metal filled with viewpoints that hinted at the myriad chambers within. The rapacious bristle of the defensive turrets along the dorsal and ventral spines, and the dark indentations of the torpedo tubes, shimmered with violent intent.

6

Ben Counter – Battle for the Abyss

Spiked antenna towers punched outward from multitudinous sub-decks, interspersed with further weapon arrays and torpedo bays. The ship’s ribbed belly shimmered like oil and was replete with dozens of fighter hangars.

At the stern, the huge cowlings of the exhausts flared over the deep glow of the warming engines, primed to unleash enough thrust to force the warship away from Thule. Like chrome hexagons, the engine vents were so vast and terrible that to stare into their dormant hearts was to engulf all sense and reason in a fathomless darkened void.

Finally, sheets of shielding peeled off the prow, revealing a massive figurehead: a book, wreathed in flame, wrought from gold and silver. Words of Lorgar’s choosing were engraved on the pages in letters many metres high. It was the greatest and largest vessel ever forged, unique in every way and powerful beyond reckoning.

Other books

Dream Team by Jack McCallum
Mayenga Farm by Kathryn Blair
Flesh Failure by Sèphera Girón
Honey Flavored Tears by Joy, Love N.
Thrown by a Curve by Jaci Burton
Residence on Earth (New Directions Paperbook) by Pablo Neruda, Donald D. Walsh
Trinity by Kristin Dearborn