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Black Library Competition, Story 1: Fallen Legend Sample (Open for feedback)

As promised, here is the sample for the story. For a summary of the plot, go here.

This part of the story takes place immediately after the confrontation between the protagonist, a Fallen Dark Angel looking to live out his existence in isolation on a back water planet, and a Thousand Son Sorcerer who is about to sacrifice a village of humans on the planet to enact a psychic ritual. 

"All is dust..." whispered the Rubricae.

"Yes," murmured Nathal back. He stepped over the corpse of the Sorcerer, the bolt hole of his judgment still smoking in the helmet of the former astarte. Some substance, black, sticky and no longer blood, oozed from the wound, hissing as it hit the ground. 

The Rubricae folded gently at the knees, almost like he was powering down. It came to a rest on a boulder, sitting upright with it's back straight, the armour fully supported by ancient servos and mechanisms. He tried to hold his weapon up, but it fumbled, crashing to he ground, its arms flopping to its sides.

Nathal found a boulder opposite to the Rubric marine, and sat himself, setting his bolt psitol to the ground. Around him he could see the empty shells of the other Rubric Marines fading away, part evapourating and part dissolving into the soil of the cave floor. A dull surusses, like shifting sands, was the only accompianemrnt t their departure. 

"All is dust..." whispered the Rubricae.

Nathal nodded. He was tired. The Sorcerer had hurt him more than he thought, and although he couldn't see any obvious injuries, he knew he had internal damage. His head was heavy, the pressure from before the fight floating away into simple fatigue. 

A picture emerged in his head, of him donning the Sorcerer's helmet and taking up his staff. In his mind's eye, he saw the Rubricae coming to life again, eyes glowing brightly, brandishing it's ornate bolter and shining in the sunlight. The thought felt dry, and scratchy, tinged with a pleading edge.

Nathal shook his head.

The Rubricae's eyes dimmed further.

"All is dust..."

Nathal patted his chest, and was amazed to find his water skin still there. He swallowed some water, washing away the sand paper of the Rubric Marine's thought. "I will not wear armour again."

A flurry of images flew past him like a cold breeze, images of men, women and aliens cut under the fire of the Rubric's own weapon. They wore no armour. It had not saved them. Another image formed of the Rubricae staggering under the bombardment of tank shells, wading through the fire and fury like a rough tide. Armour had saved him there.

Nathal nodded, "I remember days like that too. Not as grand as that. I remember wearing the black and red, and strolling through autoguns and las-fire. I was hit by a mortar shell once, and all it did was dent my chest plate."

Nathal winced with remained pain, and then again with actual pain as his injuries flexed. "That was a long time ago."

"All is dust..."

They sat in silence for a few moments, the quiet rushing of former loyal soldiers of the Emperor drifiting into the dirt being their whole world. The Sorcerer's body remained, which seemed hardly fair to Nathal. After all those years of loyal service, his bodyguard would disappear forever, leaving just the corpse of the master.

He'll have to bury it too, lest someone like his poor adopted son finds it and became powerful and corrupt. His aching limbs said this was the most unfair of all.

The Sorcerers armour was far more ornate than his guard. More features and representations of birds. Ravens no doubt, considering the traitors patron. Nathal had never really looked before, so focused on guessing what was inside the Sorcerer's head he had missed the obvious signs the villain had worn.

No doubt the armour would corrode over time. The cloak would certainly be eaten away by whatever creatures lurked in the earth and fed off the failed ambitions of people. So perhaps the Sorcerer would just fade away, like the Rubric Marines, as long as Nathal did his part with a shovel.

"All is dust..."

"One day," Nathal agreed.

"Do you remember when you first got your armour? I remember. Nathan was there. We became initiates together, after slaying that beast of Caliban."

"Gloss black and blood red. I barely remember the ceremony, but I remember how it felt. Seeing the winged sword for the first time on my own body, I finally felt somewhat complete. Like all my cracks were filled in. Like nothing could get to me. I was sure, sure I was doing right, and sure I was going to do right, and that I was protected in doing that."

Nathal frowned, "And then the mortar shell hit me. It was a week later, on active duty. Some rebel world, some compliance job. Mortar shell hit me, and blew a hole in the chest plate. I was okay, but the armour was wrecked. The tech-priests did their best after that, but it was never the same. The sword on the chest plate had a great crack sent through it, and they never fixed that."

He smiled sadly, "Nathan told me it was like my own heraldry, marked by fortune and fate."

"All is dust..."

Nathal nodded.

The eyes of the Rubricae were fading slowly. It was dying. He was dying. The amour was losing power, and the soul losing its grip. 

The Rubric Marine could not say words. Could not beg for forgiveness, even if forgiveness was sought. Could never leave the armour, if there was anything but a few fragments of memory left to leave the armour.

That armour was a cage. Secure, and relatively safe, but once on could not easily come off. Nathal considered the Sorcerers armour with the black ooze dripping from his attack. No matter the decoration, it did not save him, and it had been no less than a cage for astarte wearing it. He wondered if any of them had ever been free.

Nathal looked at the Rubricae, the eyes flickering a ghostly green. It was desperate for guidance. Desperate to keep it's grip on the armour. Desperate not to fall asleep inside, and become nothing more than a still suit in the shape of a man, and quiet, stagnant oblivion. Desperate to not open the armour, and find out what oblivion really was.

"All is dust..."

It would never leave the armour, just as Nathal could never leave the planet. Better to wait for the end of time, suffering on hope, than to accept the judgement of the world beyond.  

Nathal stood up, taking his bolt pistol in his hand. Light was fading outside the cave, and the warp beasts would be out before he returned to his shelter. No time left, and he'd be dragging this twice damned Srocerer outside for burial, although disposal would perhaps be the best word. Such was the fate of a failed astarte.

"All is dust..."

He gathered up the useful pieces of equipment, ropes, tools, power packs. There was little to be found. He made a rough sling to drag the Sorcerer in, and then bundled the corpse inside, all under the watchful eye of the still sitting Rubric Marine. Shame for it's failure? Satisfaction of a tyrant's retirbution? Did it care at all?

Nathal found the Sorcerer's books too. These he wouldn't bury. Far too dangerous to simply be left there, but far too valuable to be simply destroyed. The other Rubricae were gone now, fully absorbed into the murky soil of the cave floor. He could almost feel the hum as they settled in to the deeper layers of this blighted place. 

"All is dust..."

Nathal left the cave. As he went out, cursing the Sorcerer on his way, he cast a glance back to the Rubric Marine. 

It's eyes still glowed, faintly. Flickering in and out. Hanging on until he very end, with everything left to itself.

Alone.

All was dust.

Rough, and unedited. Please have a look, and see what you think. Does the story grab you? Burn it and try another? You decide!

Until next time.

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Comments

  1. Very good, I think it misses something of the regret / anger a Fallen Angel would feel though?

    Dont get me wrong for a stranded astartes I think this hits the nail on the head, and it is a short excerpt.

    Would be interested to see more about it.

    Also small correction - pistol is spelt psitol in the 4th paragraph.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the feedback (and for catching the spelling error!). It's going to be important to pack all the emotion of the whole book into about 500 words, and you pointing out that the anger/regret of a Fallen is missing is really vital advice!

      I'll see where I can work it in.

      Delete
    2. Happy to help :-), and as I say loved reading it. I think as it is would work well if Loyal Space Marines ever retired as such (or got stranded somewhere), but yeah probably needs something for the Dark Angels / Fallen twist.

      Look forward to any future posts you do about this!

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