Warhammer, Writing

Imperial Truth

Somehow the lone shot from the bolt pistol was louder than the battle raging around them. Almost instantly, the self-propelled round pierced Trooper Rangod’s neck in the small gap between his flak-vest and helmet. Not that the standard issue flak-helmet would have been able to withstand the mass-reactive shell, but it stayed remarkably intact in the red cloud of pieces of skull and brain matter, as the head it was protecting so poorly exploded from within. Leksija Zhukova had drawn her weapon and shot in one fluid motion. Poor Rangod had not made it ten yards from the line.

Smoke was drifting from the barrel and a smell like charcoal was in the air as the headless torso fell to the dry ground on this barren wasteland of a planet. The Junior Commissar still held the ornate bolt pistol outstretched and swept her gaze over the remaining squad of Genoran Regulars. Her black coat and polished cuirass set her apart from the troopers in their drab fatigues. So did her stern face and, in one case, bladder control.

“The holy Emperor’s punishment will be delivered today!” It’s a skill to have a voice which commands authority while remaining calm, and one Zhukova had mastered. “You’re either the instrument of His wrath,” pausing a calculated moment, “or its victim. Rangod made his choice, when he declared he knew better than the infallible Emperor, who for millennia has guided the destiny of billions in His eternal vigil against the darkness that seeks to deny humanity its birthright, and defied His will that this world shall be cleansed of the foul xenos.” Rangod’s headless corpse lying in a large pool of his own blood had a way of visualising consequences not even an oratory skill so fine as Zhukova’s could easily match. “The xenos is a mindless brute, incapable of thought, and we purge the galaxy of its filth because it is our right. But where the beast is merely ignorant, the traitor forsakes the Emperor’s illumination; and shall be met by the same fate. I am His will, and He shall not be denied today!”

Her reinforced boots drew a metallic echo from the bare plasteel floors of the forward operations centre. As a Junior Commissar, she had been allocated small quarters in one of the standard hab-containers reserved for line officers and members of the Departmento Munitorum. Even after a long and hard fought battle with the Orks, Zhukova walked the corridors with the demeanour ingrained to her in the Officio Prefectus: Back straight, chin up and slightly stretched out. She opened the door to her sparse chambers with a press of her thumb on the gene-coded keypad. The meagre furnishings, a retractable cot, a small writing desk and chair, a thin locker without enough hooks, were bolted to the floor or walls, so they did not make a mess during drop-deployment. A lumen strip in the ceiling provided sterile illumination and no personal items gave anything away of Leksija Zhukova. Rangod was standing in a corner, waiting for her.

Zhukova did not look at him, his fatigues drenched in blood around his neck. She turned to the locker and neatly draped her coat and hat over a mahogany hanger, unclasped the straps securing her cuirass and secured it with her weapons in a small cabinet within. Rangod did not say a word. They never did.

“You have been found wanting in your service to the Emperor, Trooper.” Zhukova said, as she closed the locker. Finally she turned towards him, looking at the face she remembered so clearly. “Your life? What is your life against the whole of humanity, Trooper? Nothing.” Zhukova stepped closer, a fire lit in her eyes. “You mean nothing to Him, Trooper, nothing!” She was inches away from Rangod who stood there immobile like a statue, shouting in his face. “You are but a drop of oil in His grand machine, beyond your service you are useless to Him!”


Zhukova’s lips were trembling, her face red-hot.

She turned around towards Trooper Herkrad, standing in the not-so-far corner of her quarters. He had betrayed the Emperor on their last deployment to Callax IV, wearing the grey-white winter fatigues instead of Rangod’s olive camo.

“No, you serve His will or you die, that’s your simple Imperial Truth right there!”

Zhukova was screaming now at Herkrad; and Mallod, Donan, Gassod and all the others. With every turn she faced another traitor and her voice was becoming hoarse from dismissing their accusations. At last she rounded on Jessup, who stood there on the granite floor of the Schola Progenium, still clutching the forbidden tome, clothed in the same scant tunics she had worn that day. Zhukova looked closely at Jessup, probing his youthful face for the fear that writ his features when the Drill Abbot selected her from the group of students and handed her the bolt pistol she still carried today.

“We are one in Him and nothing we hide is beyond Him. If we falter in our devotion but for a second, our place among humanity is forfeit.”

Zhukova couldn’t remember if she had spoken or the abbot.

Orks are terrible shots, but there were many of them. So many. Projectiles of a myriad of calibers were impacting all around them, many hitting the sturdy barricades erected by the imperial sappers. But the weight of fire had steadily withered them down and Zhukova’s squad had already lost six men. Yesterday’s stalemate had only delayed the inevitable, as the full strength of the Ork Waaagh was now closing in on the remaining forces of the Astra Militarum. Zhukova knew that air support was unlikely, as she continued to put shot after shot into the Ork horde. As the first brutes stormed the barricades on the left of her squad, Zhukova saw Trooper Gerrand losing his nerves and turning to flee. She took down another Ork about to leap her position, before she spun around for the Guardsman and shot.

Imperial Truth was submitted to Cold Open Stories‘ latest Warhammer 40k contest, themed “Beneath the Mask”.

This story is creative fanfiction. Warhammer and all related subjects are registered trademarks by Games Workshop Limited

Warhammer, Writing

Faith Demands

The modest devotional shrine built 10,000 years ago was now merely an apse to the imposing cathedral, the flickering light from its hundreds of candles too dim to illuminate the ceiling, the heat from its burning braziers too weak to drive the cold from the blackened masonry. Prelatess Epharelia whispered a prayer as she ascended the eight steps to her pulpit. Her congregation was filling the spacious nave to the brim, intoning a deep canticle in anticipation of her sermon.

Epharelia kissed the holy pendant hanging from a silver chain around her neck, a facsimile of the large bronze icon suspended on thick chains from the domed ceiling over the altar to her right. A  metallic clang reverberated through the temple as she set her crosier on the granite floor. The flock fell silent.

“In His light /“ she opened the ritual dialogue with her congregation. 

“We shall bask,“ the people answered in unison.

“In His sight /“

“We shall thrive.“

“By His will /“

“We shall live.“

Epharelia ended the prelude with another echoing tap of her crosier and the congregation took their seats on long wooden benches. A leather bound tome lay on the lectern in front of her, a priceless reliquary of exquisite rarity that was only retrieved from a stasis field once a year. Two robed acolytes had knelt in prayer for a day and a night before the sacred shrine and were now flanking the pulpit, the air heavy with incense drifting from their polished thuribles.

“The season of rememberance is upon us once again. Ten millennia ago our Lord descended from the heavens, golden His armour, a shining halo crowning His temple. From the heavens He brought forth His angelic hosts, His divine servants, His angels, His helots.“ Epharelia picked up the holy book and held it high above her head. “The scripture tells us how our ancestors welcomed Him, how He banished the terrors of the elder ages, how He swept away the false prophets that came before Him, how He exposed their lies and unmasked their falsehood. He came to us in a time of woe, but the darkness is not easily overcome. Still, the power of His will was made manifest in the strength of His arm, and our Lord could not be denied. Undying flames He cast from His outstretched hands and the heathen idols of the old faith were unmade in a mighty conflagration lasting a season. Yet His judgement was just, and kindness he showed His loyal subjects. And our ancestors wept and fell to their knees, overjoyed to be His chosen people. We shall be overjoyed as well, for we are their children, and His.“

Epheralia‘s voice took on a more sombre tone.

“And our faith has been tested over the millennia. The servants of false religions have come again and again to our home and tried to steer us away from His glory, by words and by the sword. Who amongst us hasn’t lost loved ones to their cruel and merciless crusades?“

Epheralia‘s gaze slowly swept over her gathered people. They nodded their heads in affirmation or held up their hands in prayer. Not a few had tears running down pain stricken faces as they remembered hardship endured.

“And devious are the lies of the enemy, and sinister are their motives. So tell me, who amongst us can say his faith remained pure in light of temptation and doubt?“

Several among the congregation jumped up at this accusation, proclaiming not only their own loyalty to Him, but their father‘s and father‘s father’s, dubiously tracing back their ancestral lines to that fateful day in ages past. The most zealous of His followers opened their tunics to show His icon tattooed on their chests, screaming His name in an effort to demonstrate their uncompromising fealty.

“Your words are righteous, and they should be, but only your deeds can prove them. Our Lord sacrificed Himself for us, He delivered us from our ignorance and shepherded us into an enlightened age. He watched over us, and He has sent His angels to aid us. And what does He ask in return? How would He have us repay our debt? Is He a feeble Lord, one you placate with pious words while you worship false gods in your hearts? Would you have Him weak, and foolish, and superfluous?“

All order had left the crowd by now. Prayers were made without cohesion, lachrymose promises to honour Him for all eternity, A few of His followers had begun chastising themselves with makeshift flails. Epheralia‘s voice still carried over the tumultuous noise with ease. She knew she had the agitated masses at the point she needed them to be.

“He made a sacrifice, so we are called upon to make sacrifices as well. Few are His angels, and their faith knows no boundaries, and they won’t aid those who are unwilling to put Him before their own lives as well. The hour is nigh, follow His guidance, honour our Lord, claim your place at His side for all eternity!”

With these words, she clutched the small pendant hanging from her neck again, driving its sharp edges into the palm of her hand. Her blood flowed freely from the wounds, and the large eight-pointed star hanging over the altar rumbled in its chains to the beat of her heart. The congregation chanted His name and flowed from the cathedral through the large portals, the honoured eight times eight devotees taking their ordained places on the large octagonal square outside the sanctuary. They put knives to their throats, and for every one of them eight tongueless captives were bound to large brass spikes jutting from the ground. The last thing these hapless souls heard over their own cries of anguish was His name echoing through the night of torment: Aurelian! Aurelian! Aurelian!

Rejections are and will forever be a part of writing. This is my entry to Cold Open Stories‘ latest Warhammer 40k contest, themed “A God Somewhere”. Cannot catch them all.

This story is creative fanfiction. Warhammer and all related subjects are registered trademarks by Games Workshop Limited

Warhammer, Writing

Thinly veiled Dagger

Aloysio Vysterian slipped inside the palace undetected. Formerly it was simply an Imperial Bastion, before then-governor Marcala had renounced Terra’s authority, proclaimed himself Supreme Regent and declared Edoran’s secession from the Imperium. Now, Aloysio was here to pass down the holy Emperor’s divine judgement.

To be HIS will, HIS arm, HIS weapon – it was exhilarating. Five years ago Aloysio had joined the Astra Militarum, as was expected from a scion of Terra’s ancient nobility. By right of his father’s name, he entered as a lieutenant and was given command of a platoon attached to one of the many fleets patrolling the Segmentum Solar. His youth had been filled with lectures on military history and combat strategy; largely boring sermons for Aloysio, who always felt he had a natural knack for matters of war and preferred honing his tactical acumen in games of regicide. Regardless, in the eyes of the military bureaucracy, his education was impeccable and ensured he did not have to mingle with the ordinary conscripts in the trenches.

Bunch of oafs, anyway! Aloysio snorted thinking about his time with the 173rd, while he snuck along the final corridor leading to a small antechamber to the throne room. They did not even appreciate to be commanded by him! Men two or three times his age did not show him the proper respect, not even after decades of service at the front lines; they really should have known better by then. Aloysio did not hesitate to order his Commissars to make examples of as many as necessary, but the troops continued to exhibit a combat effectiveness way below his capabilities. Salvation came in form of a rather inconspicuous Administratum official who approached him with a mission. The High Council itself had deemed the renegade governor of Edoran to be executed and Aloysio had been chosen as the hangman. Finally somebody had recognized how his talents were wasted merely commanding lesser men!

Infiltrating the capitol was uneventful enough. Edoran was a mid-tier trading port in the outer part of the sub-sector, each day several ships requesting docking permits. Aloysio arrived with a fake name on a cargo freighter, blending in with dozens of people looking for a brighter future in the newly declared Edoran Sovereignty. 

The Administratum had supplied him with a host of intelligence – various schematics, layouts and access-codes – on the palace. Even renamed, it still was an Imperial Bastion at heart. Aloysio had spent two days surveilling the compound and was not impressed with security. Multiple times blast doors were left opened, allowing Aloysio easy access to sensible areas. Once he turned a corner and stumbled upon a patrol, finding them all knocked-out after, what appeared to be, a game of dice turned awry.

Tomorrow was the anniversary of Edoran’s secession, and Aloysio keyed in the last access-code at the final door, arming his high-energy las-pistol. The door opened silently and Aloysio ghosted into the dimly lit room, looking down two bolter barrels before taking a second step. “We finally meet, Agent Vysterian,” said Supreme Regent Marcala.

Aloysio froze in shock. Marcala was supposed to be in seclusion at this time, alone in ritual meditation. Yet here he was, waiting for Aloysio behind a translucent blast shield with his adjutant and two heavily armed guards, bolters at the ready.

“Did you really think your intrusion into my domain would go unnoticed? You’d have me as some megalomaniac simpleton from a fringe world with a God-complex?” A smug grin crept on Marcala’s face. “I’ve been privy to Terra’s inner workings for decades! I know how the high council likes to deal with separatists; I knew they would send one of your kind before even they did.” By now, Marcala has talked himself into a frenzy. “Predictable fools, the fabled Imperium is nothing more than an obsolete bureaucracy, a lumbering behemoth tumbling headless through history. I have informants in every circle of the Adeptus Administratum, I knew which cabin you had on the cargo freighter you arrived on; my agents have shadowed you every second you were on Edoran; you never had the chance to harm me, nobody has, here I am untouchable, I’m like a God, I’m like the Emper…”

His frothing rant was cut short by a flickering, green blade suddenly protruding from his chest. Aloysio had not even realized that Marcala’s adjutant was gone. In his place was only a spectre, clad in a tight black bodysuit, vaulting the blast shield and bisecting both guards with one swift strike of that ominous blade. The spectacle took only a few heartbeats, and Aloysio’s mind simply skipped comprehending what just had happened.

“Another agent? Also sent here to kill Marcala? Why wasn’t I informed? This threatened the whole mission! It was probably your involvement which tipped him off!” Aloysio was shaking, suddenly feeling cheated out of completing his mission.

“We are all merely subjects of the Emperor’s providence, Aloysio,” said the assassin with a voice neither male nor female while the featureless face began morphing into the Administratum official who recruited him. “Marcala indeed kept a vigilant gaze upon Edoran. At every corner he was expecting an ambush, every shadow concealed a hidden enemy. He could have made even my life difficult. But with all paranoiacs, once they think they’ve found what they were looking for, they stop searching.”

“I’m the thinly veiled dagger,” Aloysio said in resignation, “a poorly concealed feint, blinding your opponent’s eye for the scorpion strike in his back.”

The Callidus nodded. “A regicide gambit not often played anymore. Although it took more lucky coincidenceson your surveillance tour than I would have hoped to make sure you would reach your target. Thankfully, this won’t be much of an issue the next time.”

The Callidus once again morphed back into the Marcala’s adjutant and casually picked up a bolter.

“Marcala’s guards will be looking for something as well: An assassin.”

“The Emperor protects,” he stuttered, as his fate dawned on him.

“Billions. Not one.”

First published on Cold Open Stories as part of their fast fiction submissions call “Everyone can see it”.

This story is creative fanfiction. Warhammer and all related subjects are registered trademarks by Games Workshop Limited

Warhammer, Writing

A Mind Of Their Own

Lured to the remote jungle world of Pishon by a strange psychic signal, a pack of Tyranid warriors find themselves cut from the Hive Mind when their Swarm Tyrant is trapped in an arcane device. Deprived of the collective mind as their greatest asset and stripped down to instinctive behaviour, Gorger and his brood soon discover that their thoughts are still connected to each other. They have to deal with the rudiments of their own unfamiliar individuality while realizing that they have to destroy the prison holding their connection to the hive mind and kill its Adeptus Mechanicus gaolers...

My unofficial Warhammer 40k short story got published on Cold Open Stories.

Last year Black Library, popular tabletop games manufacturer Games Workshop‘s in-house publisher, had an open submissions window, inviting established as well as aspiring authors to pitch them a story. Like thousands of other Warhammer fans, I cooked something up.

Unfortunately Black Library did not pick up my pitch. This was not entirely unexpected, the premise was a little far out and the competition was fierce. Encouraged by positive feedback from the #writingcommunity on Twitter (bless you all!) I wrote it up as a short story and submitted it to Cold Open Stories for their second short story anthology.

Founded in 2019, Cold Open Stories publishes unofficial stories from the Warhammer 40k universe. As of today, they have published some 25 short stories on their website, and even produced five as audio dramas! And I am excited that they have accepted my short story and relased it today!

click image to read the story on Cold Open Stories

An obvious difference between original fiction and tie-in fiction is the imbalance in prior knowledge an author can presume in the readers. So in case you are unfamiliar with the Warhammer 40k universe, here is some things you need to know to understand the story:

  • Setting: Warhammer 40k is set in the 41. Millenium. Humanity has conquered thousands of planets all over the galaxy, but is beset by enemies and war on all sides; every day is a fight for survival. It is grim and dark and the life of an individual counts nothing.
  • Tyranids: An alien race with a collective mind (=swarm intelligence). Think Alien meets the Borg. Tyranids have highly evolved killer machines, all they want is to devour all the biomatter in the universe and incorporate it into their species. There is no way of communication with them, you either fight them or they kill you. The smallest creatures cannot communicate directly with the hive mind, they need so-called synapse creatures (like the mighty Hive Tyrant, but also mid-tier creatures like Tyranid Warriors) for that. In the game (where all of this is based on), once you eliminate these synapse creatures, the remaining Tyranid army will lose its cohesion and the player is not able anymore to fully control their behaviour.
  • Adeptus Mechanicus: They produce all the great technology of humanity. Much of what humanity once knew has been lost to time, it is their desire and purpose to retrieve this knowledge. Their home base is on Mars, but they are also stretched throughout the galaxy. Technically they are human, but most of them enhance their bodies with technology to “be closer to the machine”, which they view as infallible.

The state of my hobby

As we start with a new year, it’s time to tack stock about the state of my hobby. Last year I resumed painting models, and in March I proclaimed Summer of hobbying 2019. My primary objective was to have more painted models. All that grey plastic is no fun to look at, and it even substracts a little from the playing-experience. My army with the most painted models are my Dwarfs, and even if the paintjob is not very good, I always enjoy playing them a little more than the unpainted armies. That had to change.

I decided to paint my Night Goblins first, as they had the lowest model count and a fairly easy paint scheme. I knew right away that painting the whole army was still a very ambitious goal and not likely to be achieved, but it was important to get the engine running. Later that year Games Workshop released their new line of Gloomspite Gitz with some gorgeous new models, and since they are basically all backwards compatible to Warhammer Fantasy, naturally I ended up with new models for my Night Goblins, setting me back even further. Still, even if I am not much closer to my goal model-wise, I did get some work done and put some paints on some models.

I started with my Night Goblin archers. I had a particular color scheme in mind and wanted to try it out on the models I deemed most expendable. I settled for classic black hoods, as is tradition, the obvious green skin color and a nice turquoise-blue as a highlight color. A simple scheme with a limited color palette. It turned out pretty well and I am very satisfied with the way those archers turned out.

I also magnetized them with those adhesive magnetic bases, which is what I almost like best, since it is a huge advantage for playing. For all future models I will shift to neodym magnets though, as they are far superior. I might even replace them on the shootaz. So these 40 shootaz were a great start into this army project, but it took longer than it should have. Increasing my paint speed is going to be one very important aspect of my hobby in 2020.

From my shootaz I went on to the infamous Night Goblin fanatics. The main reason was that I had these models already basecoated and their small model count meant that I would be able to have another painted unit in relatively short time. I continued on with the established paint scheme, with the addition of more mushrooms.

Next up was my unit of Night Goblin stabbaz, the big kahuna, a full horde of 100 models. It took me a while to figure out how to base them, since I had exactly 100 models, but wanted to both deviate from the strict rank and file of organized troops to a more ramshackle mob, as well as be able to build two command groups out of the models. I am very happy with what I came up with, but the unit is not ready, so this ingenious method will have to stay hidden for now. I started again with some test models and used this to have a step-by-step-tutorial which I also posted to paintpad.

So, in the end I painted about 60 Night Goblins out of around 175 (counting only the ones on foot). It’s not bad and I like the result. I hope that I can now increase the pace, at least until I arrive at the characters, which will require more work. After I have painted all the actual Night Goblins, I will move on to the Squigs, which at this point also amount to about 50. Last will be the trolls and anything else which is neither Goblin nor Squig.

Last year did not only see me pick up a brush again, I also finally in earnest discovered what the internet could mean for my hobby. I started following hobby blogs and youtube channels (favorites: Goobertown Hobbies, Age of Squidmar, eBay Miniature Rescue), I was inspired to improve my hobby in a broader sense then just how to apply paint to a model. I learned how to take better pictures of my models, how to build my own hobby supplies for easier and faster painting and I was inspired by Dana Howl to try out a new painting technique on my Squigs. Eventually.

So, the summer of hobbing 2019, and later the fall of hobby and winter of hobby, was it good? Yes, definitely. For a time I had a pretty decent streak going, but eventually it got disrupted again. I guess that happens easily, I have to be more focussed there. To help me in 2020 I will join Painthammer2020, a social-media-project to track the hobby progress. My goal for 2020 is similar to 2019, finish the Night Goblins. I already split the army in three phases, – goblins, squigs, trolls. I don’t know whether I will get everything done this year, especially since I will have to learn a new technique for the squigs, but it remains the goal. For sure I have to (and will!) finish phase one, let’s see when that is.

The second big thing for 2020 will be a complete overhaul of my other existing armies. There are still some models unassembled, that has to change. For some other models, notably the High Elves, I apparently did not use enough glue, or the right glue, in any case they are falling apart. And I have to magnetize them, again especially the nimble High Elves, sturdy Dwarfs are a lot better in that regard. Any regard, as the beardy part of me will always insist on. So, every Night Goblin, Dwarf and High Elf needs to be assembled and have a magnetized base, that is the other big thing for next year. And then, as a bonus level, I do have another whole 2.5 unassembled armies in boxes, maybe I can do something about them…