Home > The Emperor's Legion (Watchers of the Throne #1)

The Emperor's Legion (Watchers of the Throne #1)
Author: Chris Wraight


Warhammer 40,000


   It is the 41st millennium. For more than a hundred centuries the Emperor has sat immobile on the Golden Throne of Earth. He is the master of mankind by the will of the gods, and master of a million worlds by the might of his inexhaustible armies. He is a rotting carcass writhing invisibly with power from the Dark Age of Technology. He is the Carrion Lord of the Imperium for whom a thousand souls are sacrificed every day, so that he may never truly die.

   Yet even in his deathless state, the Emperor continues his eternal vigilance. Mighty battlefleets cross the daemon-infested miasma of the warp, the only route between distant stars, their way lit by the Astronomican, the psychic manifestation of the Emperor’s will. Vast armies give battle in his name on uncounted worlds. Greatest amongst His soldiers are the Adeptus Astartes, the Space Marines, bio-engineered super-warriors. Their comrades in arms are legion: the Astra Militarum and countless planetary defence forces, the ever-vigilant Inquisition and the tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus to name only a few. But for all their multitudes, they are barely enough to hold off the ever-present threat from aliens, heretics, mutants – and worse.

   To be a man in such times is to be one amongst untold billions. It is to live in the cruellest and most bloody regime imaginable. These are the tales of those times. Forget the power of technology and science, for so much has been forgotten, never to be re-learned. Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim dark future there is only war. There is no peace amongst the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of thirsting gods.

 

 

   Huge thanks to Nick Kyme, Aaron Dembski-Bowden and John French for their invaluable help in planning this story.

 

 

Tieron

 

 

   I have considered it. Making an end to it all. Of course I have. I looked to the skies. I saw good souls succumb to weakness, and foul souls seize their moment.

   What of it?

   We all doubt.

   I have lived over two hundred standard years. Too long, I think now. I have buried two wives, and seen seven children enter service and leave me for the void, and still I remain here, old, stubborn, in irritatingly good health despite an atmosphere of toxins both natural and political.

   I am alone again now. Strange to say that, surrounded as I am by the quadrillions of the Throneworld, and yet it is truer now than it has ever been. The faces pass me by. I know all of them. I know their histories and their allegiances. I see the plots they hatch and hear the whispers they make under gilded archways, and I grow numb to it all, for it matters so little. Even now, hard against the End of Time, when the death rattle of our species has become audible even to the thick-eared, they still grasp for a little more of the things we have always desired – coin, power, know­ledge, gratification.

   We are yet animals, at heart. Nothing has changed that. Not even He could change us really, though I think He wanted to once. I like to believe that we must be a disappointment to Him. If we are not, then His ambitions for us must have been so very poor, and that strikes at all I believe and hold dear.

   I am Alexei Lev Tieron, and I was a supremely powerful man. I was not a warrior, nor was I a witch, nor was I a commander of great vessels. My power came only from the Lex Imperialis – a cold source, but an ancient one. Like so many within the bureaucracy that swathes us, I was protected by words written on parchment. It gave me my station and defined it. Without this piece of paper, the meanest hive-ganger could have ended me with impunity – she would have ripped the jewels from my fingers and tried to sell them for weapons, and none would have come to my aid, for this galaxy only recognises strength.

   But there are many kinds of strength. I learned this during schola, when I was as sickly as I am now hale, and the smooth-limbed scions of noble houses sought to crush my spirit with their brutishness. I might have died in that hateful place, had I not possessed the one talent that has preserved me ever since – the ability to deflect the ambition of others, to make it swerve, to direct hatred onto a target other than myself, to emerge from the lattice of competing egos intact and with no one aware of what veils have been cast over their stupid, powerful eyes.

   No, I was not a witch. I just understood the pull of glory while having little attraction to it. I saw a man, or a woman, and I knew what they desired. I knew what to say to them, and I knew where to direct them. If they wished to do me harm, I found them prey more alluring. If they wished to help me, I extracted a suitable price. Thus I weaved my path between the paths of others, evading death while it devoured my rivals, until I reached the pinnacle, gazing back on a life of dissemblance and brokered deals. Compromise was my way, and for that I am despised, but that is as it should be. The Emperor has many servants, and we cannot all be power-armoured killers, can we?

   I had many titles. This Imperium adores titles. The governor of the lowliest backwater rock will have a hundred names, each more ludicrous than the last. As for myself, only one really mattered: ­Cancellarius Senatorum Imperialis. Chancellor of the Imperial Council, in Low Gothic. Should you be inclined to trace that title back to its origins, you will find the true meaning of the words.

   I was a doorkeeper. I watched people come and go. I made note of their intent, I had soft words with the ones who carried the weapons. I considered those who might be better suited to more exalted positions, and those who might be better extinguished. Over time, that capability generated a mix of terror and attraction. Many were afraid of what I could do to them; others speculated wildly on what I might desire, so that they might buy me and make me their creature. I was always amused by both reactions, for I did not act from malice and I cannot be bought. I was a cipher. Even now I wish for nothing other than that which I already possess, for I possess a very great deal.

   I served in that station for nearly eighty years. I saw the composition of the High Twelve change over that span as death and rivalry took its toll. Some of those lords were vicious, many of them narcissists. Two were positively psychotic, and I remain convinced that a slim majority were always technically insane.

   And yet – here’s the thing – they were all quite superlative. You doubt this? You wish to believe that the masters of the Imperium are men and women of grasping inadequacy, forever squabbling over their own ambitions? Believe away. You’re a fool.

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