Ravenwing Online - Gav Thorpe

VETERAN REBORN

How did the Lion die?

It was a simple question, innocently asked, and Brother Annael had wondered why, in over four hundred years of service to the Dark Angels Chapter, it had not occurred to him before. It was the question that had propelled him from an assault squad in the Fifth Company to the ranks of the Second Company, the lauded Ravenwing, and that was when he had found out the truth.

Horus, arch-traitor, thrice-cursed, had murdered the primarch of the Dark Angels.

So he had been told by Brother Malcifer, Chaplain of the Ravenwing, when Annael had been inducted into the lore of the Second Company. Annael had understood immediately why such knowledge was so closely guarded; that the Dark Angels had been brought to the brink of destruction by other Space Marines had been a testing revelation.

He had known that there were always the weak-willed, even amongst the Adeptus Astartes, who put themselves and their ambition above the call of duty and their oaths of dedication to the Emperor. He had fought against such heretics on eight different occasions, bringing the justice of death to them with chainsword and bolt pistol, but had never suspected the full horror of the temptations that draw good warriors away from the service of the Emperor.

Weeping, Annael had listened as Malcifer had related the tale of the Horus Heresy, a cataclysmic civil war that had threatened to destroy the Imperium at its birth. The Dark Angels, the First Legion, greatest of the Emperor’s warriors, had fought against the evil of Horus and those primarchs who had been corrupted by his silken-tongued promises, and they had triumphed. The victory had been won at great cost, and Lion El’Jonson, the primarch of the Dark Angels had given his life to defeat the enemy.

Now that he was a member of the Ravenwing, it was Annael’s duty to hold to that knowledge and keep it as a sacred fire in his heart to lend strength to his sword arm and to fuel his courage in battle. Armed with such understanding, it was the Ravenwing that sought out those traitors who had turned on the Emperor, so that they might be brought to account for their sins. As a Space Marine of the Dark Angels, Annael had never lacked conviction, honour or valour, but as a chosen warrior of the Ravenwing he now understood the importance of discretion and brotherhood even more sharply.

As the attack sirens sounded again across the strike cruiser Implacable Justice, Annael considered the sacrifice of the Lion and knew that he was willing to make the same sacrifice to protect the Chapter and the Emperor’s dominion. His existence was not for a normal life, but to be an instrument of the Dark Angels’ vengeance against those who had so wronged them.

While he pondered his change of perspective, Annael continued with his pre-battle preparations. He had already donned his armour, allowing the adepts of the Techmarines to perform their consecrations to the Machine-God before attending to his mount.

That machine, called Black Shadow, was as much a symbol of his position in the Ravenwing as the emblem on his knee and the markings on his shoulder pad. In the Scout Company he had been taught to honour his weapons and his armour, and they had served him well for four centuries of battle. Now that same honour extended to his steed, and Annael was attentive in his application of the unguents to the engine and suspension, and conscientious as he spoke the dedications to the spirit of the motorbike.

It was a fine mount, and it had a history no less acclaimed than his own. In the yellow light of the boarding bay’s lamps the black enamelled fairing gleamed with polish that he had applied himself only an hour before. A serf of the armoury was checking the belt feeds of the twin bolters housed in the front cowling above the handlebars, muttering invocations that would ward away jams and misfires.

‘Are you excited, brother?’ Still with a hint of his Lauderian accent, Zarall’s deep voice was unmistakable. Annael looked around and saw his squadron-brother standing at the back of Black Shadow, his helm in one hand so that his features could be seen. Zarall had a broad chin and rounded cheeks, a flat nose and bright, blue eyes, and his head was topped with white hair cropped almost to the scalp. His black armour was festooned with purity and devotional seals – strips of parchment on which were