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July 18, 2013
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Czernin's Choice

For years House Czernin gave away their sons to the tyrant and his warriors in Thunder Armour, but no more. The Silesian bloodline was almost at an end and Aloysius, the last son of Czernin, would not be given up. As soldiers in ceramite stormed the mansion to claim the boy who was hidden in his room, a door opened and his mother, Lady Czernin, entered the chamber.

“Forgive me, my child”, his mother whispered, approaching the bed. Aloysius could see she had been crying, her face was covered in maquillage. “It seems that even the gods can’t protect us now”, Lady Czernin grabbed a pillow and placed it over her son’s face. The boy understood what she was doing. House Czernin was dead, no matter what; the tyrant had condemned the bloodline to die when Silesia fell, but Aloysius’ death would be the final act of defiance against him. As Aloysius let out his final breath, he could hear a birdsong drifting through the bars of his window.

***

Aloysius opens his eyes; he isn’t dead? Around him figures in purple armour battle large green skinned creatures. Somebody pulls him up. He recognizes this figure, its Eidolon, one of the new recruits. Aloysius cannot understand why their Primarch has personally ordered to have this lowborn Chemosian promoted to sergeant. Isn’t he, born from nobility, more suitable for command? The sergeant hits Aloysius on his helmet and orders him to keep on moving. Aloysius can feel Eidolon’s disdain for the highborn Terran marines.

Up and running again, Aloysius charges the aliens. He punches one of them right in its face. The Ork’s head is reduced to a puddle of dark blood. As Aloysius lunges at the next Ork everything turns quiet. From the silence he slowly hears a melody building up, it sounds familiar. Was it something he heard aboard the Proudheart, or was it perhaps something older? Before Aloysius can answer that question he feels something sharp at his neck. A large Ork is standing in front of him, a bloody axe in its hand.

As everything turns bright he remembers the melody, it was the birdsong from Silesia he heard when his mother had denied the Imperial forces their victory over House Czernin. But wasn’t that just a dream? Aloysius is falling down, all he can see is the headless body of a purple armoured Space Marine.

***

Crashing down a communication tower Aloysius knew Baztel III was lost, the sons of Russ had already claimed most of the planet, and it wouldn’t be long until Rykstag would fall. Landing on a rockcrete floor Aloysius found himself surrounded by enemies. It mattered not, Aloysius could easily defeat them. After the Istvaan campaign the Chief Apothecary had personally transplanted two additional arms to his torso. Each of his four hands armed with a chainblade Aloysius cut down any wolf approaching him.

Climbing down a pile of dead marines Aloysius cleaned the blood off the chainblades. He was victorious, having slain over a dozen Space Wolves. Once again he hears that familiar melody, but wasn’t that from a dream? He had spoken to the Chaplain about it, who told him they were divinations from the gods themselves.

Aloysius could hear footsteps behind him. As he turned around, several lascannons were aimed at him. The birdsong grows louder as everything around Aloysius illuminates brightly.

***

The radiant light fades away. After two centuries Aloysius is once again on Terran soil. He and brother Legionnaires have teleported into what used to be the capital of Silesia. The city he grew up in is no longer the same. Most of the beautiful mansions are gone, having been replaced by bunkers and turrets. Looking up, Aloysius can see the skies burning, raining down debris from ships the size of cities that are tearing each other apart.

Aloysius enters one of the last remaining mansions. Inside Aloysius can hear that old familiar melody, the birdsong. Climbing up the stairs he cuts down any looter that stands in his way. The marine enters one of the rooms and sees a decayed body lying in the bed. Aloysius runs towards it. As he tries to grab it the body fades away.

The door behind him shuts. Aloysius turns around and sees a woman in filthy robes. “So our last son returns”, she says as if speaking with a thousand voices. Aloysius immediately recognizes this woman, it is Lady Czernin, his mother.
“What is this?”, he demands as he draws his weapons.
“House Czernin has always been favoured by the gods, and so have you. They have shown you your deaths, and now you must choose one of them.”
Aloysius laughs: “I have been made immortal, Slaaneth commands when I die now!” The chainblades come to live and tear the woman down.

With the woman dead the melody abruptly comes to an end. Has Aloysius’ faith saved his life?

***

The war was lost, Horus is dead, and those who sided with him try to flee Terra as fast as they can. Three full Legions are on their way to crush whatever rebels remain. Aloysius and his brothers have taken command of the Megaron, a transport ship that belonged to the Warmaster’s Legion. In order to make a quick escape Aloysius needs to get to the Navigator’s chamber. Charging through the corridors, ignoring the ratings who try to resist, Aloysius once again hears the birdsong. He knows it doesn’t matter anymore; he will die. As he looks outside he sees a ship rapidly approaching him; it's the Terminus Est. Aloysius knows that the Megaron won’t stand a chance against the Death Guard’s flagship.

The capital ship rams Megaron, tearing it in two. Aloysius is sucked outside as the pieces of the transporter bleed crew members and Legionnaires alike. Everything is silent now, and all Aloysius can hear is the melody of the birdsong as his body floats away into the void.
Short story for I submitted for a writing challenge on The First Expedition forum, a 40k (Horus Heresy) themed forum. z13.invisionfree.com/The_First_Expedition/index.php

The idea behind the challenge was to write a 1000 word story that had to contain the following phrase: "Birdsong through the bars". I ended up writing a short story about a Space Marine who is dying over and over. The idea kind of came from that German film 'Lola Rennt' and the Doctor Who episode 'Amy's Choice'.

Hopefully there'll be more of these writing challenges, which means I'll be more driven to improve my fictional writing.
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