Renascence was written back in 2000 and is the first meeting of Colonel Arcturan Senekal – commander of the 4th Danikan Imperial Guard and his afterwards longtime friend the Lord Liche, Chief Librarian of the Void Phantoms Chapter of the Legiones Astartes, called the ‘Undying’. There are five parts to it – this page is part I and part II and links follow to the other pages.
Renascence – Part I
On the third day the Chief Librarian of the Undying was reborn in a shriek of tearing metal. For the first time in three days a wan pale light caressed the retinas of his dark eyes as he opened them to stare into another set only inches away. Pale grey eyes met the dark ones of the psyker, the color changing to green as the man turned his head to look at something out of the marine’s line of vision.
“I’ve got to move this support. It’ll be a bit before I can get you free.”
“I have nothing but time, Commander,” the Librarian replied in a raspy voice made harsher by several days of disuse.
“MMmmphh.” The other man disappeared from sight.
Now that he had some light, Lord Liche was able to better assess the situation that he had abided in for the last several days. Large supporting beams and hull plates from the atmospheric transport had hammered themselves around his armored form like the shell of a pearl around a grain of sand. His actual memory of what had happened was rather vague but he knew that such things were common with the kind of trauma he’d experienced. He’d known for days, for instance, of the severe damage to his right leg but had no real idea of how it had come to be injured or how he had become trapped. He remembered boarding the shuttle with a unit of his Void Phantoms to rescue a group of civilians trapped by an encirclement in the Waymish mountains. That was the last thing that he could recall before awakening in a coffin of plasteel and ceramite.
With the additional information provided by the small amount of light leaking into his tomb he could be reasonably sure that without his tactical dreadnought armor he would have been crushed to death instantly. As it was, the armor would be needing the attention of a techmarine artificer if it was ever to see duty again. The water dispenser still worked, but that was about the most that could be said for it. His chain of thought was interrupted by more noise of ripping steel. Several thunderous blows actually shook his metal tomb and then another part of it came free.
The dim light leaked from titanic rents in the hull of the giant transport. The great supporting ribs of the forward bay were bent like mangrove roots and the vast space was barely a quarter of its original size. Here and there he could make out the bone colour amongst the wreckage that marked the remains of a Void Phantom. Just before him much of his vision was blocked by the ruptured track unit of a Land Raider in the bare steel of his Chapter. It appeared that much of the Tank’s mass was atop his own lank form, save where the other man had pried him loose. He watched as bright red fingers of the officer’s power glove locked around the junk before him and crackled with barely constrained energy as they ripped at the hull metal. The man wedged his body into the small space.
“Can you give me a hand with this piece?”
“I am sorry, Commander. This armor is no longer functional. There is little I can do to assist.”
“Ahh, bitch.” The officer swore without real feeling, “Okay, then. Keep your eyes shut.” He slapped the visor of the psyker’s terminator armor down, returning him to darkness. In spite of himself, Liche nearly cried out against the inky blackness. He comforted himself with the thought that three days buried alive might have disturbed even the nerves of a primarch. Thunder like the wars of the gods filled his darkness and shook his tomb seeming to go on forever before ending in another shriek of metal under torment. His visor came up again and he could feel the weight of his ruptured breastplate being lifted away. He was then lifted from his coffin, his injured leg screaming like an Eldar Banshee. The pain he bore easily despite its intensity. Marines of any station were long used to pain.
“Crap! Why the hell didn’t you tell me you were wounded?”
Now out of his Lazarian tomb, Lord Liche could get a better look at his rescuer. That the man was an
officer of the Imperial Guard there could be no doubt, though he was no one that the Void Phantom had ever met. He wore an elaborate officer’s cuirass washed with copper and emblazoned with the Imperial Eagle in gold and silver. It was dented and smeared with dirt and more than a bit of dried blood as were the white uniform trousers that he wore. He had a waist length battle dress jacket of brilliant crimson, the shoulders of which were marked with a planetary rank which Liche couldn’t identify and one arm was clad in a great white and scarlet power fist. The back of the destructive weapon was painted with another imperial eagle and its edges were highlighted in bright yellow which matched the double stripes on the seams of his pant legs. His features were regular, but not exceptional and his thick hair was cut short. A pair of tall boots and a weapons belt with sword and pistol completed the picture. He answered the officer’s question, “You didn’t ask.”
“Wonderful. I spend hours digging you out only to find an old cripple.” He sighed in exhaustion as he sank to a seat on a shattered crate. There was a long moment of silence. “I’m sorry. That was un-called for. It’s been kind of a rough couple of days.” The man wiped the sweat from his face before settling a white peaked cap on his damp hair.
“Apology accepted, Commander. In truth it is seldom that I am ever addressed so honestly, if incorrectly. I am Lord Liche, Chief Librarian of the Void Phantoms, called the Undying.” The officer went ashen under his tan and barked his knee as he tried to snap to attention. He grimaced and tried to shift his weight to his other foot in a dignified fashion but only succeeded in looking silly. The psyker waved him back down to the crate. “Hardly appropriate behaviour don’t you think, Commander?” He looked about the devastation that had been the transport’s troop bay. “My men – ?” He broke off as the guardsman simply shook his head. Liche looked down at the deck and said a silent litany to the Emperor for their souls.
“And to whom do I owe my -” the old librarian broke off at the officer’s hand motion for silence. The man’s hotshot laspistol cleared its holster with a swift and silent motion that showed long familiarity, coming around to cover the great rents in the hull. Liche wondered at the motion, at first. The wreck was quiet, the only noise being the buzzing of flies on the bodies. However, long centuries of experience had taught the Void Phantom to trust those more familiar with the situation than he was. He remained silent and gently -ever so gently- opened his mind to the warp.
And from behind one of the rents, a terrible foulness flooded into his consciousness.
Renascence Part II
Recoiling, Liche snapped his mind shut like a steel trap. He tapped the guardsman and pointed at one of the rents, the one closest to the creeping evil that he had briefly touched.
The guard officer moved silently, with the grace of a dancer. His feet came down on solid pieces of wreckage and made no sound as he moved toward the rent, ducking from cover to cover. Liche wanted to call out to him, to warn him not to get near but he didn’t dare make a sound. Nor did he dare touch the man’s mind. Not with what was out there. He watched as the officer halted, not far from the rent. The man dug about in a pouch on his belt.
While the guardsman prepared, the psyker cast about hurriedly. Careful of his leg, he hopped a couple of feet to the remains of a dead Void Phantom. Keeping his eye on the officer and the rent in the hull, he carefully extracted the bolt pistol from a holster on the dead marine’s belt.
Under his breath he whispered, “Be at ease, my brother. I will honour your wargear as best I can. By putting it to use against the enemies of our Emperor.” He checked the weapon with an ease born of decades of familiarity with weapons of this type, careful not to let the bolt snap too loudly in the silent chamber.
There was a faint sound from beyond the rent, and the guardsman reacted. A pair of tiny grenades sailed from his hand and through the opening, going off with a roar. The man followed up this attack, moving to the opening while drawing his gold chased sword.
A filthy green brown hand gripped the edge of rent, staining the grey ceramite with yellow gray fluid which leaked from the sores that covered it. It was followed by a head out of nightmare. The thing’s head was the colour of a rank swamp, humanoid, but with a single cyclopean eye and a thick yellowish horn growing from its forehead. Its flesh was riven with sores and pustules which leaked unclean fluids and it crawled with more flies than an abattoir. Liche watched as the single white eye roamed back and forth between the two men, its words matching the movement, “One, two, one, two, one, two.” It sounded like the ticking of some kind of mad clock.
Liche was raising his bolt pistol but, expert shot though he was, he had no clear line of fire. The guard officer wasted no time with horror however, driving his sword into the unclean face with his right hand.
The creature ducked its head and the weapon gouged a deep furrow through its horrid scalp which seemed to trouble it not at all as it began to climb through the rent. But the guardsman was having none of that. Pivoting his body he drew his sword back in a whistling arc; his body the fulcrum of his movement, the sword arm the lever, and the mighty power glove the weight to be moved. The crackling armored fist swung round, catching the creature in the middle of its twisted back and smashing it sideways against the sharp edge of the hole in the metallic hull of the transport. The thing was snipped nearly in half, before twitching twice and then fading from sight.
With an inhuman moan, others began climbing through several rents and the combat was joined. From his position near the center of the cargo bay the psyker blazed away with the dead marine’s pistol. He pumped round after explosive round into the soft tissue of the creatures’ distended bodies, blowing off terrible chunks of flesh. Nothing should have been able to survive such damage, but still the creatures came on, their dark metal swords gleaming with sickly green highlights like a promise of unclean death. A promise Liche knew could be fulfilled. He had faced Nurgle’s Plaguebearers before.
The marine had been prepared to say the Emperor’s grace for his brave saviour. Normal humans did not face daemons and live. He was astonished to find himself wrong. The man leaped from piece of wreckage to chunk of rubble with amazing agility, his sword darting and weaving and then clearing a hole for the deadly power glove to smash the creatures to pulp. Sometimes they would take a hit from the giant weapon without falling. Occasionally one would even survive two. But it didn’t matter. One by one, the daemons fell before the man. When the officer had dispatched his third, Liche finally managed to drop one with his pistol as it was closing in on the man’s back.
Distracted, one of the blades nearly managed to hit the guardsman, glancing off his fancy cuirass. As two more came through the vents, the Librarian knew that he had to take a more active role. Carefully – oh, so gently in the presence of these things, he drew on the powers of the warp and found them at his call. With infinite caution, he shaped the power the way a normal man might shape clay, before hurling it at the guardsman and enwrapping him in a protective aura of force. The guardsman continued his battle. Liche changed clips.
Shielded by the Iron Arm, it was not difficult for such an excellent fighter to make short work of the remaining three creatures. Liche was staggered by the officer’s skill with blade, hand and even feet as he wove his dance of death around the filthy things. He wondered, briefly if the man might not even be his own match. The battle was soon ended, with the last of the daemons fading mysteriously away.
As it went quiet again and the sounds of the woodland outside returned, Liche touched the warp and discovered the surrounding region clean again. He let the energy field fall, as the man walked back towards him.
“Where did they go?” the man asked.
“No, my dirty socks! Of course the creatures.”
The Librarian looked down, debating telling the truth to a normal man. It was heresy. More, it was dangerous for a regular human to have knowledge of chaos or the warp. There was the chance of daemon worship. Or of the Inquisition finding out. In his experience, the latter was the more common of the two fates. If not the worst.
“Well?” the man prompted.
Finally the Librarian hissed out a long, grating breath. Truth, Honor, Loyalty. These were what his Chapter held most dear. The man had earned the answers. “You must tell no one.” The Librarian rasped, his voice dry as dust, “Not only for their sake but for yours. The Inquisition would kill you if they knew that you knew.”
“Our units are loyal!” the officer protested, “We always have been-”
“This is NOT about loyalty!” the marine interrupted, “This is about heresy and fear. Sit, Commander.” The man did.
“The creatures that you fought are called Plaguebearers. They are daemons. Creatures of pure warp energy given form and substance by the humans who would worship and summon them.”
“Aww – c’mon! Daemons? You gotta-”
“Listen!” The Librarian broke in again. If he had still been capable of shouting he would have right then. His death rattle voice still cut through the guardsman’s sentence. “I have been studying this since long before you were born! I will not lie to you. You have saved my life not once now, but twice. They are daemons, creatures of the warp. Minions of a foul creature whose name I will not speak in this place lest it be heard. Where these creatures are found, there are to be found those who brought them. We are not safe, here.”
“Right, daemons.” the guardsman looked rather cynical, but as the cold dark glare of the Librarian’s gaze bore into him, Liche could see one thing very clearly appear in his eyes. The realization that Liche believed it. The man nodded very slowly as if coming to a decision, “You’re serious, aren’t you?”
“Son of a Cthellan Cudbear!” he swore under his breath as he gazed around a bit uneasily. “I think I’ll take you up on that ignorance is bliss, bit. No offense, but this is just a touch too weird for Mrs. Senekal’s only boy.” The officer stuck out his hand toward the marine, “Arcturan Senekal, Colonel, 4th Danikan Imperial Guard.”
Liche stood, careful of his leg, and bowed deeply before clasping forearms with the man in marine fashion. “My pleasure, Colonel. And my thanks, again.”
Senekal nodded shortly. “Don’t mention it. Anything you think you might have owed me was paid for in that little scrap just now. Thanks for the help.” The psyker just nodded and then sat again. Without a word, the guardsman ducked into the Land Raider wreck and began rummaging around for something. He came out a short while later, carrying a white and red medipack.
“Okay, let’s get a look at the leg.”
Liche cast his eyes about, looking for a guard medic or marine apothecary. “You aren’t going to -” the Colonel just nodded. “Do you even know how?”
The man sat down near the librarian’s shattered leg with a smirk. “We have a saying, on Danika. It’s a soldier’s saying, but the civvies use it too. It goes:
“A proper man must know all those things which a whole man does need;
How to cook a good meal and make a bed
How to skin an animal and tan the hide
How to drive a ground car and fix it too
How to care for a horse and how to butcher it
How to hate and how to love
How to set a bone and how to break it
How to save a man, and how to kill him.
Know all that you can. Specialization is for the Tyranids.
He met the marine’s dark gaze with his steady grey one. “Besides, I can’t very well carry you, and we can’t stay here. There are 30 civs holed up in the aft part of this transport. That’s why it took me so long to dig you out. I had to get to as many of them as I could, first. They don’t have your marine constitution. And if we are going to walk out of here, you are going to have to walk…”