The Astartes

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Consider the Space Marine.

The giant stands a head above all other men, taller still when you consider his armour. That armour itself stands apart as much as the man inside it; thick and hardy, painted bold colours in defiance of the foe.

See him now, upon the battlefield. The image is almost comical. The ground, once well-tilled farmland, is now split and scarred by war. Fallen grain-grass has composted into sludge, mixing with the mud and blood to produce a foul tar that clings to any who touch it. The roads are lost to the fury of guns, or torn apart to build earthworks. Here, on the front line, bodies are left forgotten where they fell.

Men scurry like ants around the Space Marine. Uniforms of terracota and mertyl, crude metal helmets and roughened lasguns, they cower and cringe as guns blaze all about them. The Astartes does not.

He is otherworldly, out of place. Perfection is the term used to describe him; bold blue armour, trimmed in black. White insignia, clear to see. A gothic IV numeral on his left knee, a Tactical marking on his right shoulder, an omega on his left. Pure gold for the Aquila on his breast. This creature, this God of War does not hide from the foe; he wants them to see him coming.

See him they do. One falters, then another, then a third. His stillness unsettles them more than any shell or bomb or mine. For days the Loyalists have ran and hid and fled and failed... and now there stands but one man, one man who is in every way the opposite of everything they have faced.

And they know it.

The beast moves. The first Traitor falls away, a rag-doll smashed aside by the fury of the bolter. Another thunderclap, another corpse upon the ground. The blazing of the gun matches the wet squelch of his feet. Step, shoot. Step, shoot. Slowly, inexorably, the Space Marine begins his advance.

The terror of his coming is more than the sum of the warrior. The fear is not born of the bolter, nor how the lasgun fire sparks feebly off his ceramite shell. This Angel of Death is the Emperor's wrath made real, his vengeance given flesh. Now there can be no quarter. No surrender will be accepted, and no terms will be given. The Space Marine may be but one man, but he does not march alone. To his left and right, a thousand strong come the phantoms of his Brothers. A thousand ranks deep, this ethereal legion approaches, phantom manifestations of the one million souls who embody His righteous fury. "If I fail," the Space Marine says, "They will come in my place."

He says it not with words, but with deeds. Already a dozen lie dead by his hand, and still he fights on. The bolter runs dry. In slow motion he raises his weapon, hand moving to the pouch to find another clip. There is the chance. Hard rounds fill the air. The giant is struck, staggers, and drops to his knees. Yet still he lives, rising again, bolter screaming defiance. Its guttural roar is joined by the harsh snap-crack of lasfire as the Loyalists find courage once again. Together, Man and God push back the Traitor, purging him without mercy.

Through lasgun and autogun, through mortar and mine, the God of War advances. Eight-score have died to him this day, and he fights on. He has been struck a thousands times, and a thousand times again. His great armour is torn and dented, the parchments ripped and ruined by uncaring ammunition, the purity seals defiled. His heraldry reflects the pyre-flames of an enemy tank, destroyed with a well-placed krak grenade. His presence, his aura, inspired the Loyalists to push their enemies back mile upon mile, retaking in just scant hours what the Traitors fought days to claim.

Now, at long last, his life is spent. Broken by a storm of hate that would have massacred a hundred men countless times over, the God of War at last falls silent. His body strikes the ground with such force that it shakes the fractured glass in the ruined windows. A stillness comes as the Traitors watch him. Is he truly dead? No, look! His hand moves still! It was but for a moment, a last spasm, that is all. He is defeated.

But there is no joy in that. The survivors look to the horizon, and see a chariot of steel. Watching them, immobile, stand nine giants. Adorned in bold blue armour trimmed in black. A white gothic IV on each left knee, a Tactical marking on each right shoulder, an Omega on each left.

The coming of one had been a maelstrom of murder, a horror no man could bear to endure again. Now where one had failed, nine had come; Brothers to avenge the fallen and carry on his mission. The Emperor demands vengeance, and his Angels shall bring it.

The Traitors know fear, for the Astartes know none. A million Battle Brothers under arms, knowing nothing of mercy or respite.

They look upon the Giants, and they know they have lost this day.
 




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