The Pale Moon
An unofficial Warhammer 40,000 Short Story
Written by Jennie Ruskin
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Reality tore open with a sound like ripping fabric and the echo of a gunshot. The gaping hole bled colours no living being could name, and from it bloomed the smell of ice and sulphur.
Kasiya looked up from where he knelt on the floor and laughed bitterly. His gaze fell upon the bodies of his brothers; their armour, once crimson trimmed in gold, was ripped, punctured and blackened. He touched a pauldron reverently. Just visible through the devastation was the symbol of a serpent devouring its tail.
‘I will see you again,’ said Kasiya, ‘When we tread a different path.’
He rose to his feet, pulled his cloak about his shoulders and strode into the anomaly. It shivered and then closed behind him.
When his vision returned, Kasiya found himself on a barren moon beneath a kaleidoscopic sky. A world he hadn’t seen for many thousands of years, unnamed and unremembered, save for him. The broken remnants of the moon’s siblings tumbled across a tapestry of nebulae and galaxies above him. On the western horizon a gas giant rose into view, bathing the white rock of its cratered satellite in pink and amber light.
Before him were laid out the tools of a ritual just as he remembered them, in the same places and the same condition as if no time had passed. Because, of course, it hadn’t. Candles sputtering green flame were placed around an intricate design of runes and wards painted onto the pale rock in a thick, glistening substance. And standing in the centre, a dark-skinned astartes with a shaven head and gold trimmed ruby armour adorned with a scarab on the chest. Kasiya stared, then grinned at his younger self.
‘It is about time,’ he said.
The legionary in red frowned, ‘The ritual was not precise enough to know when. Only who.’
Kasiya nodded, ‘It was the same when I performed it.’
‘How long has it been?’
‘That would be telling,’ said Kasiya. ‘No one should know the span of their life.’
‘Very well,’ said the younger man. ‘I am glad that you came. The only person I can trust for this is myself.’
‘But first, I must prove that I am you,’ said Kasiya, ‘by explaining why you summoned me.’
His younger self nodded.
‘You are a long way from your legion. There are rumours of legionaries, even whole legions turning traitor, and you believe that some of the astartes you have been assigned to are among them. You must find out the status of your brothers and your primarch, and you cannot do so alone. You trust no one. However, what you have not told anyone, is that you think some of those who have turned traitor are right.’
The young Kasiya took a step back, eyes wide.
‘You cannot hide anything from me,’ said Kasiya, ‘I am you.’
‘I have to know the truth.’
‘We always do,’ sighed Kasiya.
‘Time is short,’ said his younger self, ‘Follow me.’
‘It is done,’ said Kasiya.
Two rough platforms had been raised up from the rock of the pale moon. Standing half the height of an astartes, they were surrounded by intricate designs made of lines and symbols that seemed to shift in the light of pirouetting galaxies. A figure stood on each, one clad in ruby armour, the other in a simple taupe cloak, both with heads bare to the sky. Two facets of a person, separated by millennia.
‘Will you tell me anything of what to expect?’ asked his younger self.
The ground began to rumble. It was deep and low; Kasiya could feel it rise through his legs into his gut.
‘I am sorry,’ he said. ‘This never gets any easier.’
Kasiya lowered his head, averting his eyes from his younger self. The rumbling grew louder and more urgent, as if the moon was trying to shake itself apart. He heard his counterpart grunt in pain. With a speed only an astartes could muster, the younger legionary went from stationary to full sprint in barely a moment. Runes flared red in the air around the platform, and Kasiya’s younger self collided with them as if they were as solid as a ship’s hull. Imprisoned on the dais, he roared in frustration.
‘You altered the ritual. Why?’ said his younger self.
‘Fate binds us. Binds me. But I will not be its slave,’ said Kasiya.
‘Do I become so blind? We could work together.’
‘You think I haven’t tried that?’
The ground cracked along the patterns drawn in the rock, and a hot wind gushed forth. It whipped Kasiya’s cloak about his shoulders, and his counterpart paled at what was revealed. Kasiya wore armour of a similar hue to his younger self, though it was perverted, warped into strange patterns. In the centre of the chest, where there was once a gilded scarab, now an eye stared out. Kasiya’s right arm was bare, and from the elbow down, his umber skin turned a vivid shade of violet. Magenta feathers sprouted from his forearm, which ended with long, gnarled talons instead of fingers.
‘I require the strength to change what happens,’ said Kasiya. ‘To tread a different path.’
His younger self spasmed in pain. ‘How many times?’ he asked.
Kasiya remained silent.
‘How many times have you done this?’ he bellowed over the roaring from the earth. ‘How many of us have you killed?’
Kasiya looked away. His younger self screamed and fell to his knees. White light erupted from him. It poured into the runes, which glowed ever brighter until each one shone like a sun. Kasiya spread his arms. In a great flash, the light flew to him and into him. Then there was stillness. And silence.
Kasiya stood for a moment, before slowly facing the empty armour on the opposite dais.
‘Truly, I am sorry,’ he said.
He saluted his former self briefly, in the old fashion with a clenched fist.
‘This time, I hope our paths do not cross.’
About the Author
Jennie works as a software engineer. She lives with her partner and her dog, Fox, and spends her time drinking tea, reading too many books and painting Warhammer models which she posts about on twitter. After running out of stories about the Thousand Sons to read, she decided to write her own.