The Guardians of the Covenant
Book One: Mortikah
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 the 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 battle fleets 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 countless worlds. Greatest amongst His soldiers are the Adeptus Astartes, the Space Marines, bio-engineered super-warriors. Their comrades in arms are legion: the Imperial Guard 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 cruelest 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 of the 41st Millenium, there is only war. There is no peace amongst the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of thirsting gods. Yet bright sparks of hope illuminate the starry heavens, struggling to stay alit in the maelstrom of malevolence.
The sun on Mortikah was rising rapidly now. The shadows cast by the rising star looked molten as they stretched across the rural landscape. In the far distance, the spires of the Astartes’ ancient and vast Fortress-Monastery pierced the glowing sky like the towers on a Titan of legends.
Slowly, peasants of all ages left their homes to work the fields. Life was uncomplicated though harsh on Mortikah, and this had been the way for untold years. Long ago, in an age all but forgotten by the Mortikans, the Astartes arrived. They founded a great Fortress-Monastery deep into the Mortikan mountains. A place of study and training, where equal time was given to pursue the martial- as well as the scholarly arts.
First and foremost attendants of this great center of learning were the Space Marines of the Guardians of the Covenant. A truly ancient brotherhood of super-human warrior-monks. Over the centuries their numbers have risen and dwindled, only to rise again. The sons of Mortikah slowly but steadily replenishing their ranks.
The people of Mortikah first of all worshipped the God-Emperor, beloved by all. A close second, without doubt, would be the Archangel, Saint Solaceon, lord of a thousand angels in the name of the Emperor. No one man born in a thousand years had known the Lord Solaceon’s predecessor, for his rule of Mortikah and the Chapter stretched back almost a millennium. Nothing without bones that long turned to dust over the ages was able to recall the past of the Archangel.
The bright morning sun was clearly visible now, cast shadows answering it’s position by losing their length as time progressed. Carts, most laden with grains and other foodstuffs, some empty, ferried hence and forth to the surrounding towns and villages and those too, woke up as the commoners began their day.
Terric Helyas, born and raised in one of such towns, noticed that the memories of his past life became less vivid with each passing day. He was now well on his way to becoming an Astartes, a Space Marine. The Chapter’s Apothecaries had tended to him many times, performing gruesome surgery to enhance him with the implants that would one day, soon he hoped, make him super-human. But not yet. Terric was still proving his mettle in the Scout Company. He was part of the Stalkers, a squad of Neophytes led by a Veteran Sergeant mostly operating behind enemy lines. One of the best, and he was proud to be part of it.
Terric Helyas thoughtfully observed the townsfolk and in doing so, he failed to notice Sergeant Melanchthon approaching from behind. “It is a fine morning indeed, Terric,” the jaded veteran had concluded. Helyas nodded and answered, “That it is, sir.” Both men gave the peaceful morning a final look and returned to the large, somewhat inelegant bikes and started the engines. A heavy roar and a jet of exhaust fumes escaped the bike's heavy engine, and it accelerated almost without delay. The two men rode until the sun was nearing it's highest point, and finally arrived at the city of Golgotha.
The settlement of Golgotha was a province capital, a well-populated city which revolved and was built around a cathedral of the same name. The Cathedral of Saint Golgotha was once a destination for pilgrims; a simple shrine dedicated to an illustrious predecessor of Lord Saint Solaceon, who, some three thousand years after his death, was all but forgotten by the local populace. Most probably didn't even know whom Golgotha really was, or that they themselves descended from the very pilgrims who settled near the shrine centuries ago, slowly making the humble shrine into the grand baroque cathedral it was today, living contently simply because there was a Saint to worship, Terric mused.
Ignoring the tall cathedral, both men had their eyes and auspex on another building almost as tall and prominent. They had come for Golgotha's Monastery-Outpost, a place of worship, but above all, a place of learning. The Monastery-Outpost housed the Theoreticum and the Practicum, respectively a school for the scholarly arts and one for the martial arts. Aside of that, a small garrisson of Battle-Brothers took residence within it's ancient walls.
As both men slowly rode their bikes into the courtyard, a hulking figure nodded at them and allowed the scouts to unmount their vehicles before he casually approached.
Even for an Astartes in regular Power Armour, Sergeant Tahriel was monolithic, towering over his subordinates like an iron giant, Terric thought, and he gave a Mortikan salute to his superior as he approached.