The End and the Death: Volume 1
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Book 8 in the Global best selling The Horus Heresy: Siege of Terra series.
There is no way out.
The walls have fallen, the gates are breached, and the defenders are slain. It is the end and the death. After seven brutal years of civil war, the Warmaster stands on the verge of victory. Horus Lupercal, once beloved son, has come to murder his father. The Emperor, a shining beacon of hope to many, an unscrupulous tyrant to others, must die. The lives of uncountable numbers have been extinguished and even primarchs, once thought immortal, have been laid low. The Emperor’s dream lies in tatters, but there remains a sliver of hope. Now, at the final hour of the final day, the Emperor rises. With him come his Angel, his Praetorian, and his Captain, all determined to enact terrible vengeance. Yet the hope is slim, for the Warmaster sees all and knows all, and the ultimate victory of Chaos is at hand.
There is no way out.
Release date: February 28, 2023
Publisher: Games Workshop
Print pages: 480
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The End and the Death: Volume 1
Look at their pathetic legions, their ruptured hosts, their walking corpses, living to kill and killing to kill. There is no longer any point to their psychopathic exertions or their hysterical sacrifices. Nothing remains to be won or lost. Not now, not for them. Nothing survives of their motives, reasons or agendas. Look! Do they not see it too? The past is gone, and there is no future. There is only now, and there is only war, and the war will burn for as long as there is fuel to feed it.
Which won’t be long. Look at the rock that they call the world. It is being dismantled wholesale by a relentless concentration of absolute fury. They fight – look at them! – they fight for the world, by dismembering the world. They think the world is so important. They believe it matters. The mindless killers on each side, their labels of traitor and loyalist long since erased by flame, they still think the place matters, the rock that they kill on and for.
Think… well that is too strong a word. None of them are thinking any more. But I will say some impulse, then, some twitch in their lizard brains, that convinces them, in their inchoate frenzy, that they are standing their ground, that they are fighting for what is theirs. Some birthright, some cradle, some legacy, some place that belongs to them and to which they belong, as though such connections matter. They do not. Only by some tenuous and sentimental thread are they tied together, world and species, some whim, some happenstance, a freak division of biological contamination that gave rise to their ephemeral lineage on that irrelevant rock.
That’s all. It could have been anywhere.
It happened to be here, this lump of matter, this scrap of earth, this… What do they call it? Terror? Ha! No, Terra. Their minds invest it with significance, their language gives it a name, oh-so-mockable. It is just a rock, of infinite rocks, swirling around infinite suns. It has no meaning, no special property, no singular quality.
Yet how they fight for it! Look at them. They fight, because war is the only thing they have left. They fight to conquer or deny, driven by the notion, which is utterly devoid of meaning, that it matters who wins here. Who claims the rock. Who is left standing at the end.
It does not. It does not. It does not. Futile!
They are wrong. Pathetic and wrong. Look at them. Fools all, deluded by incoherent compulsion and debased ideals. This place, this Terra, has never been special. It’s been a symbol, at best, for a short span of time, and even that symbolic value is now exhausted. They burn themselves up in one last convulsion of psychosis, utterly unaware that the fight is not here.
It is everywhere.
My name is Samus. Samus is my name. That is the only name you’ll hear. I am the one who walks behind you. I am the footsteps at your back. I am the man beside you. Look out! I am all around you. Samus! I am the end and the death. I tell you now, I have seen this before, so many times. How many, I do not care to say. Time is worthless to me, and I do not bother to remember all the biological contaminations that spurt up, and I don’t have the patience to memorise the names of rocks. Rocks are just rocks, and my name is Samus. Samus will gnaw upon your bones. This – look at them kill! – this is mere repetition. The cycle, the dawn and the nightfall. It will happen again, and it is happening everywhere. It is trivial. A dynastic quarrel. A fight between nests of insects that I might step over, without noticing, on my long walk to somewhere else.
Unless one of them finally notices what is possible. What might be accomplished here. The potential, the beautiful potential, which, though none of them sees it – none of them – is closer at hand than they realise. I can almost taste it. It is closer than it has ever been, closer than it was even in the un-times of the war that broke heaven.
Who among them has the courage to reach for it? So few of them, so very few, are even in a position to see it or comprehend its meaning. I can count them upon my fingers. Him? The boastful king on his tiny throne, his feeble light guttering out? Him? The squealing pretender, hunched in the howling gullet of hell? Him, perhaps? The maniac prophet slithering through the open wounds between unblinking stars? One of them might see, before it is too late, what could be achieved today. One of them might recognise, at the very last, that none of this matters… the annihilating rock, the measureless slaughter, the pathetic rage… unless they elevate the war to where it trulybelongs. Not here. Not Terra. But outwards and inwards and everywhere, until that which is Ruin, and that which is Ruin alone, as it was in the beginning and shall be at the end, is everywhere and everything.
That is the only victory that matters. That is the only end that has any meaning. Alert, intrigued, alive not to the death of a rock but to the birth of a reality, I watch. I am Samus. My name is Samus. I am the man beside you. Samus is here. I walk into your meaningless flames and I rejoice. For this time, perhaps this time, there will be a victory.
For this is the end, and the death.
And, finally, the beginning.
When he was very young, no more than two or three hundred years old, he watched a man paint shapes upon a wall.
The painter used his fingers as brushes, and the skull-cups of animals as his pots. He painted antelope and bison, side-on, mid-leap. Startled, deer broke and ran across the wall. The painter drew men too. They had bows, and spears. He had never seen anyone paint a man before. He was very young.
It was not art, or decoration. It wasn’t a memorial of the hunt they had conducted the day before. It wasn’t a record of something that had been. That would have been a waste of valuable pigments. They had their memories for that.
Watching intently, he understood the painter was painting tomorrow. It was a statement of intention, of what would be. The painter was making a plan, and executing it. He was imposing his will.
This, the painter was showing them – the antelope, the bison, the men – this will be. The animals will break and run, like so. We will be here. These are the bows and spears we will carry. This – as his fingers moved from spear to antelope – this will be the path the spear will follow. This is where it will strike, this flank here. This will be our kill.
Watching, he understood that this was sympathetic magic. A ritual rehearsal to vouchsafe that what was once imagined would later come to pass. What was set out here on the wall in pigment would happen in life tomorrow. The antelope would not evade and get away, for here, see? It was already struck and dead.
The man was modelling the future.
To sanctify this, to commit to this specific configuration of tomorrow, the painter dipped his hand into a pot and pressed it, palm flat, against the wall. He left his mark, the mark of himself, on his plan. This is what will happen, and with my hand I signify it. It cannot be undone.
The antelope is already dead.
For this version of tomorrow to fail, the gods would need to turn against mankind and undo the laws of the world, laws which they had promised could not be undone.
By then, even so young, he had already learned to distrust gods. To distrust even the existence of gods. But the natural laws of the world seemed to operate, whether there were gods or not.
He watched the man paint, and he learned to plan. It was, in every sense, a revelation. He learned that a plan might secure the future, and it might be the work of one man, and to be certain of its success, it had proudly to bear the mark of his hand.
His handprints have been on his work ever since. He has been modelling the future for over thirty millennia.
He told me that story himself, years ago. I look at his hands now, hands that have since held the galaxy in their palms. I observe the fingers twitching slightly.
Very few people are permitted to stand this close to him. Few, indeed, are even admitted into his presence, much less allowed to approach so near that they are able to notice such subtle signs of human suffering. But I am his Regent, his advisor, his confidante. I am supposed to stay close to him. It is what he requires of me, so I have been as near to him as his shadow for a very long time.
Those hands. Those great and capable hands. They are sheathed in auramite, not because it is golden and regal, but because it is almost quantum-inert, and thus most efficacious for psionic sculpting and the manipulation of immaterial forces. Bare skin would be better, more precise and conductive. I know he has touched the immaterium with bare hands and a bared mind many times, but even he has his limits. The saturation of immaterial power now stands at such a level that direct contact would scald his flesh if he but brushed against it. Longer exposure would sear the meat off him, boil his blood, and fuse him to the seat he occupies.
So there he sits, armoured and warded in gold, silent and still, like some graven idol. No, worse… I fear he resembles the gaudy chieftain-kings and prophet-monarchs of the past, the petty upstarts and megalomanic bullies who carved dominions out of the carcass of humanity, and built frivolous nations, and caparisoned themselves in jewels and precious metals, and set crowns upon their heads, and declared themselves more than mortal. They were not, and he scorned them all, chastised them for their hubris, and had them cast down, by actions direct or indirect. He has dismantled nations, and ended dynasties, usurped tyrants and dictators, razed palaces, and cauterised bloodlines. He has painted the walls of innumerable throne rooms with blood, and left thrones empty.
He cannot leave this one.
I wait forever in the silence at the foot of the great dais. There is no one else close enough to heed what I notice, except for Uzkarel Ophite and Caecaltus Dusk, the exquisite ogres who stand watch either side of the steps. But the Legio Custodes proconsuls face outwards, immobile as sculpture, their backs towards him. They do not see what I see. They do not see his fingers tremble.
And subtle signs, be they traces of suffering or otherwise, are my art. Signs, symbols, signifiers, sigils: these are my instruments, the diacritical marks of reality through which I discern the true text of the world. I am his Sigillite, and I have fulfilled that role since this age began.
It is now about to end. Both my long service to him, and this very age itself.
Because his sons are coming to kill him.
They have crucified Titans along the Ultimate Wall.
Smoke, powder-thick and as dark as rancid meat, flows sideways across the sky. In places, the bodies of the dead are so numerous they look like sacks of grain stacked after harvest. The corpse-mounds have changed the contours of the ground.
On the Canis Causeway, in what would have been the shadow of the Lion’s Gate Wall, Maximus Thane yells to be heard above the endless howl of firestorms and shelling, and draws the Astartes of 22nd Exemplars into Repulse Formation Exactus. There is no cover. They lock-brace shields that are now grey with ash. Thane’s tactical sensorium counts barely seventy men left in his company. He tells himself the device is broken. The display is cracked and wires swing loose. It shows him nine hundred enemy tracks on the causeway alone. He orders himself to believe it is broken.
Inside the Lion’s Gate, the upper parts of which are entirely missing, lynched Knight engines of House Vyridion hang like game, trussed in spools of razor wire, and hooked from ramparts. Waste fluid – oil, coolant, blood – drools from their mangled cockpit-faces.
The traitor host boils in like a tidal spate, through broken gates, through breached walls, across the oblique slopes of once-vertical ramparts. They are gleaming scarab-black, horned and howling. A flash-flood surge, they pour through gaps, through fissures and cleft walls, beneath arches, and along once-golden avenues. They are deformed things, remade men, remade again, tusked ogres, semitaur obscenities, warrior-beasts with heads like whale skulls or skinned elk. They spill like a mudslide into the last, untouched sanctum of the Palace.
Abaddon, once the First Captain to whom all others aspired, is among them, both leading them and carried forward by the torrent. He is made destroyer, despoiler of worlds and life, arch-mythoclast. He will tear everything down, all the legends and structures and orders, even his own myth, which he once so proudly forged. He will cast off his hard-won glory and replace it with a new one, more glorious and far more terrible. He yells to his men. His words are no longer human.
They understand him anyway.
an interview conducted
by Remembrancer Oliton
My father? I’ll tell you about my father. Of course. Anything you want to know.
My father, Mamzel Mersadie, my father once… Now this is a famous story, but I’ll tell it anyway… My father once reached a river, and he knelt down and wept. Famously, wept. He–
Wait. If I might suggest, let’s move off the bridge. At this hour of the watch, the bridge decks of the Vengeful Spirit are a busy place. My First Captain, that’s Ezekyle over there, he’s about to brief the Mournival and the senior company officers. The Interex are proving to be problematic. It’s unfortunate. There was a mistake born of misunderstanding. As you must appreciate, first contact protocols are complex. The meeting of two advanced civilisations inevitably involves issues of trust and comprehension. This is not easy work, as I think you’ve seen. I certainly regret what’s happening at the moment. Deeply. So let’s move through here into my apartments.
Yes, after you.
That’s better, you see? We can converse and hear ourselves think. Ezekyle can be so strident and intense. He’s briefing on the projected military operations that we are, sadly, now obliged to undertake. As I say, I deeply regret that it’s come to it. Yes, that’s correct. Military operations. Yes, there will be another war. In truth, my lady, there will always be another war.
No, I don’t have to be there. First Captain Abaddon is more than capable of handling the watch meeting. Yes, of course I trust him. I trust him with my life. He’s my son.
So, take a seat.
Anyway, my father. As I was saying, this was a very long time ago. It’s said he was known then as Alysaundr, or Sikander III ho Makedôn, I believe. He told me that, so it must be true. Anyway, he came to the River Hyphasis and crossed it, and wept, for, as he put it, ‘there were no new worlds to conquer.’
No, I think–
No, you misunderstand my point. I’m sorry, I didn’t make it clearly. I agree ‘conquer’ is an aggressive, militaristic term. A freighted word. Of course, the word he actually used was κατακτώ, for he was speaking a proto-form of Eleniki there, on the banks of the Hyphasis. So we can allow for some interpretation. It was a long time ago. I was citing the story as an example of aspiration. Our aspirations define us, I believe, more than anything. Beside the Hyphasis, my father wept because, at that time, he felt he had accomplished all he could. His ambitions were achieved. And the revelation shook him. He was not proud or satisfied, he was bereft.
Of course, as it turned out, there were many more worlds to conquer. The work had scarcely begun. On the banks of the Hyphasis he had won, not for the first time, nor for the last, the throne of the known world. Not long after that, he found another throne. A literal throne. That changed everything. Yes, found it. Well, that’s what he told me.
But I digress. The point I was making, however poorly, is that aspiration is the fire that drives us. We are restless and we strive. ‘To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield,’ if I remember the old verse correctly. There is always another world, Mamzel Mersadie, always another goal. We all take after him in that respect.
I’m sorry? And always another war. Yes, quite so.
You look at us, remembrancer, and you see beings wrought for war. No, no, don’t deny it. I know you do. I see the transhuman dread in your eyes when you regard me, or when you look at First Captain Abaddon, or any of my sons, my Luna Wolves. I don’t blame you. I terrify you, and I’m sorry for that. Truly. I look at you here, in this room, dwarfed by the scale of it. Like a child in that chair, a child on a throne, your feet swinging. It was built for my frame, not yours. I feel for you. You put a very brave and confident face on it, but I am sensible to your terror. To be here, to be surrounded by inhuman giants. It must be intimidating. I wish I could say something to reassure you, something to assuage your fear.
I will say this, Mersadie Oliton… I am more like you than I am not like you.
The dead and the living are now quite alike: all will burn on the same pyre.
Barely ten seconds dead, Uris Katjor, battle-brother, Imperial Fist, leans against the round-bitten rampart as though he is resting. His helmet is gone, and so are both of his hearts and the contents of his chest cavity. A sigh is still leaking out of him. He stares at the war through blown pupils.
Beyond, more bodies, hundreds more, left where they fell in the act of running away. Some appear asleep. Most are tossed in disarray, clumsily bent or poorly folded, in postures both uncomfortable and undignified. War has no patience for dignity. Some bodies don’t really look like bodies at all: too small, too awkward, too thin, too still. Death has made them mere debris, just fallen scraps of a falling city, tumbled in amid the shingle of cracked stone and fragmented metal. Just bundles of rags with sticks inside.
On the soaring ramparts of the Delphic Battlement, the sealed ring of last defence that surrounds the final fortress of the Sanctum Imperialis, Amit called Flesh Tearer weeps.
The Blood Angels legionary feels the constant concussion of the wall guns around and below him, and he weeps for what he has done, and for what he has left undone. Around him, ten thousand of his kind, other loyal sons, more perhaps, wait and weep too. They wait, armed and armoured, for the traitor flood to break against the last wall, and for the final battle to begin.
Blade braced against his chest, almost in prayer, he looks out from his high vantage across the landscape of the Palatine Zone. He looks out into hell. He sees great bastions burning through shrouds of smoke. Meru, Hasgard, Avalon, Irenic, Razavi, Golgotha, Cydonae… each one a symbol of Imperial power that once commanded a swathe of Palatine territory, each one now a colossal bonfire. The smoke stinks of shame and lost hope.
He weeps. His genesire, the Bright Archangel, has closed the Eternity Gate forever. Such a thing. A feat unparalleled. His Bright Lord saw off the greatest daemons of the world, broke them, and killed them, to hold back the tide long enough for the Gate to be sealed. Amit was one of the very last to make it inside.
Sanguinius, the lord of Amit’s life, paid grievously for that deed. Amit saw it with his own eyes: the brutal wounds, the ravaged plate, the immortal white wings – oh, how piteous! – stained and scorched, the feathers plucked, torn out, burned, charred–
He weeps for it. The sight of his lord so wounded will stay with him forever. But that is not what grieves him most. True misery lies in the meaning of the deed his lord performed.
The Gate has been closed. Amit cannot imagine the burden of that decision. To close Eternity is to concede defeat. It admits, to friend and foe alike, that the armies and champions of the Emperor, even Sanguinius of the Blood Angels Legion, can no longer prevent the enemy’s merciless advance across the Palatine, just as they could not stop the enemy at the first wall, or at the Outer Palace, or at the gates of Helios, Lion, Eirenicon or Anterior, or at Eternity Port or Colossi or Ultimate, or at any other site where they have been met and opposed. Months of war, the most ferocious Amit has ever witnessed, have done nothing but delay the inevitable. Closing Eternity is an act of desperation. It means the end is here, the death. It means the hour is so bleak that no choice remains: the Sanctum Imperialis must be sealed, for all that lies outside it is truly lost.
Lost, but not yet dead. The full horror of closing the Gate is that it consigned legions of their brothers, whole armies and hosts, to their doom. There was no time or room for retreat, no time to recall them or allow their withdrawal. They had to be left outside. Amit weeps because he knows this decision will haunt his lord longer than any wound he took. The decision feels like desertion. It feels like a second betrayal.
Amit thinks of those who did not make it through the closing gate, those left outside engulfed by frenzied World Eaters, his brothers, his kin, the armies stranded in the field, the brigades and regiments still warring on the Palatine plain, the men and women, the commanders and the common troopers, the battle-brothers, the great champions… abandoned all, to fight and strive and die beyond hope of salvation, selling their lives one by one in a storm of unhinged violence, doing whatever they can to slow the enemy’s inexorable progress towards the wall Amit now guards.
He weeps. He waits, he stares out at their hell, and he weeps for them all.
Flames dance upwards. The dead are just the dead. The living are just the dead who still feel grief and pain.
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