"We are the chosen of the Emperor!"
The Master looked out over the massive deployment bay of the battlebarge, where a thousand warriors stood ready for battle. His voice echoed around the vast space, fighting the noise of the ion drives which struggled to guide the warship through the tempestuous immaterium to its target. The deck vibrated under the Master's armoured feet, a constant pressure punctuated by deep rumblings as warp fronts crashed against the shields.
"At our destination we will find the enemies of the mighty Emperor. Even now they hold His worlds in their grasp, and defile His realm by their very presence. We shall cleanse those worlds, and restore that realm! Let the bodies of the traitors burn as funeral pyres to their heresy!"
He saw the hunger for battle in the eyes of his battle-brothers, and knew they would not be stopped. He opened his mouth to speak again, but as he drew breath the deck lurched beneath him, a roar echoing through the bay as the battlebarge's engines fought the storm. The Master looked for a moment at the group of tech-priests clustered around the servitors slaved to the bridge systems, but all seemed well enough. He looked out again over the rows of warriors, the fires of battle already burning in each pair of eyes, and raised his sword above his head, reaching up towards the giant stone eagle that decorated the ceiling of the bay, a hundred feet above the deck.
"For the Emperor," he bellowed, "death to His foes!"
"Death to His foes!" echoed the chapter, their armoured fists clenched. The Master turned to speak to the tech-priests, about to order the Thunderhawk bays to be readied, but he never gave the order. The giant eagle split in half, raining stone and metal down on the warriors who stood beneath it. The deck twisted, then tore along its length sending vehicles and men crashing into each other. The tear widened, and the Master caught a glimpse of the writhing warp beyond. His hands closed around the railing by his side as decompression began to pull his warriors into the warp. There was a flash, and then he knew no more.
The wounded battlebarge leaned to one side as its front tore away, the entire deployment section breaking into fragments as the warp lashed at it. The central hull twisted as a wave front smashed into its side, then a second wave struck the engine core, crumpling the layers of protective shielding as it they were paper. A shockwave ripped through the ship as its engine core exploded, blasting section after section to pieces, travelling along the torn hull until a wall of flame roared from the gaping hole where the front section had been. In seconds all that was left of the mighty warship was debris, and even that began to fade, dissolving into the storm. And there it should have ended...
Another time, another place. The Imperial mining colony Altra Prime had been under siege for three months, and the last bastion of resistance was on the verge of defeat. Less than a hundred guardsmen remained, spread out over the walls of what had been the fortress-precinct of the Adeptus Arbites. The lawmen were all dead now, and to the guardsmen it seemed they would soon follow. Beyond the metre-thick walls the night was filled with the sounds of the daemons, screaming and roaring between the thunderous salvoes fired by the renegades artillery.
In the warp a maelstrom was gathering, the shades of the daemons swarming around the souls of the humans, readying themselves for the time when the souls would be released, and they would feed. Black lightning played across the immaterium as sorcerers tapped its power, and within the shifting colours and patterns of the warp the spirits of the few remaining humans echoed their despair.
There was no-one to see it, but a ripple passed through the warp, like a wave far from shore. For a moment the clouds of energy parted, as if to let some massive intruder pass, but when they swirled closed again nothing had emerged. If anyone had been watching, they might have believed for a moment they had seen something, a shadow, from the corner of their eye. But there was nothing there but the pattern of the warp itself.
The renegade artillery fell silent as a massive section of the fortress wall crashed inwards, replaced by the roar of engines as troop transports crested the hills before the fortress and rolled towards it. Cannon and laserfire lashed out at the oncoming renegades, but too little to save the desperate men inside the broken fortress. The first of the transports bulldozed through the debris at the base of the wall, its hatches swinging open to reveal rows of armoured warriors. The last of the defenders prepared to sell their lives dearly against the towering Berzerkers who charged towards them.
One moment the renegades were alone, then they were surrounded by black-armoured marines. They had no time for surprise, as the boltguns crashed in unison, cutting the renegades down in an instant. Soundlessly the ghostly warriors turned from the bodies of the Berzerkers, towards the hordes that had followed them.
The Master tried to think, but his thoughts seemed to come slowly. He saw his warriors around him, the enemy before him, but it seemed distant, as if seen through layers of mist. He tried to remember how they had come to be on the battlefield, but memory eluded him. They had been preparing for battle... Death to His foes... then fire and death... Death to His foes. The single thought swirled around him as he fought, sweeping away the vague memories of the past.
And then it was over. The Master stood on the balcony, overlooking the deployment bay of his battlebarge. Below him stood a thousand warriors, his battle-brothers. Had they been fighting? No, they were preparing to fight. Preparing to fight the enemies of the Emperor, as always. Death to His foes. They would not fail. Death to His foes.
Another time, another place. The din of battle, as a tide of greenskins swept across the battlefield, their bestial chants striking fear into the hearts of the handful of humans who stood against them.
One moment the orks were alone, then they were surrounded by black-armoured marines. They had no time for surprise, as the boltguns crashed in unison, cutting the greenskins down in an instant. Soundlessly the ghostly warriors turned from the bodies of the nobs, towards the hordes that had followed them.
The Master tried to think, but his thoughts seemed to come slowly. He saw his warriors around him, the enemy before him, but it seemed distant, as if seen through layers of mist... Death to His foes...
The battlebarge, a thousand warriors standing before him. Preparing to fight the enemies of the Emperor. Death to His foes.
They had no time for surprise, as the boltguns crashed in unison, cutting the Eldar down in an instant. Soundlessly the ghostly warriors turned from the bodies of the aspect warriors, towards the hordes that had followed them. Death to His foes.
A thousand warriors, preparing to fight the enemies of the Emperor. Death to His foes. In the immaterium, the sea of souls, the spirits of a thousand warriors sailed onwards in the ghost of a warship, their minds locked in a single endless battle. Death to His foes.