A work in progress I've been working on for a few months. Feedback appreciated.
| The temple’s atrium was cold in the winter night on the homeworld. The only illumination coming from twin two moons above and the billions of stars in the midnight sky. He had come to pray at the statue of his people’s god, the Sun God: Eos. Those who prayed to Eos in the night prayed for the sun to rise in the morning. Turmoil wracked his soul, uncertainty crept in to his mind like encroaching disease creeps in to one’s body. He prayed that this dark would be chased out of mind by Eos’ blessing and the rising sun.
He was a Star Knight. An elite soldier who belonged to an order known as Right Hand of the Emperor. He could not show this weakness, not even to his brothers-in-arms. So, to seek solace in the chaos, he turned to his God. He removed his helmet and knelt before the statue of his god.
“Can you hear me, Eos,” asked the Star Knight. “I need your guidance. I beseech thee.
“I am to leave the protection of Midgrid for the first time and I am unsure if I will return. The outer systems are bloody battlefields. Many of my brothers have given their lives for you and the Emperor. Please, Lord Eos. Protect me and my brothers so that we may bask in your rays once more.”
He gave an offering to Eos, a vial of orange juice mixed with rose petals. He laid the small vial at the foot of the statue and rose to his feet. He donned his crested helmet and left the atrium. He and his brothers were to leave Midgrid for the frontier by morning, which was fast approaching. His cape flapped in the winter’s breeze as he walked down the steps leading to the temple of Eos. His red and white armor shined beneath the light of the moons and the coming sun. He made his way to the platform the ship he was to leave. Laying in wait for their departure. The ship was a thing of beauty. Sleek and aerodynamic, with a wingspan of sixty yards combined. It could house an entire battalion of Midgrid’s best warriors. And it would by sun’s rise.
“Sergeant Valindor,” called a voice behind the Star Knight.
He turned to see one of his brothers-in-arms, a young knight by the name of Derestral. So wide-eyed and full of vigor. It reminded Valindor of himself when he was a youngling.
“Squire Derestral, good to see you,” replied the weary Star Knight.
“Likewise, sir. Ready for the big mission?”
The older Star Knight hesitated, he didn’t want to reveal his reservations, he couldn’t. Especially not to someone just out of training.
“Of course,” he said. “What greater honor is there than to serve His Gloriousness in battle?”
Valindor laughed, pressing his fist to his breastplate. The younger knight joined the jovial display. Valindor turned back to the ship.
“The battle ahead will be a glorious one,” said Derestral. “People will remember us as heroes! Statues will be built in our images. Generations will speak of our conquest in the Outer Systems!”
So foolish, thought Valindor. History books will not speak of us. We are rank and file soldiers, nothing more.
“Aye, lad. Prove yourself in battle, and you’ll be promoted. A true brother of the fold.”
“You think so, sergeant?”
“It’s possible. It’s how I got my promotion. Fought in the battle of Tartarus III thirteen years ago.”
Derestral looked out at the sun rise. The battle was coming, they could all feel it. The cold rush of blood, the knots in their stomachs; it was all there. Then it came. The sound of the war horn blaring from the horizon and the accompanying flap of startled bird’s wings. It was time. Valindor and Derestral stood in formation, waiting for their comrades to arrive.
And arrive they did, one-by-one they came in. Each one adorned in the royal colors of red and white with capes of orange. The seal of the Emperor embroidered on to them in golden thread. Single-file, they stood at attention, waiting for Hawk Company’s chaplain to arrive. The chaplain was their company’s spiritual and tactical leader. And come he did. Wearing armor in black and gold and holding a greatblade chained to his wrist. Its energy blade was inactive making it look more like a mace with a flat head. He wore a tabard of bone white cloth with the Emperor’s seal displayed in black. His helmet was crestless. Its faceplate in the visage of a bleached skull with eyes glowing red deep within the eye sockets.
The chaplain turned to the assembled line of men at least ten thousand in number. Their armor polished, their swords charged, and their hearts with Eos. The chaplain raised his shield, a stylized tribute to the sun and to Eos painted on to its face, shining in the sun’s rays.
“Brothers,” called the black armored knight. “Today we step on to the fields of the enemy and bring with us Eos’ fire. We bring fire and fury to the world of the barbarians! They will fall by our blades, for our blades are those of our Great Emperor and of our God. We stand and fight as one, together. Shoulder-to-shoulder as we march on their fields and through their streets.
“This will be a day of victory! A day of glory! Raise your light blades towards Eos, towards victory!”
The legion cheered, raising their swords and activating their hardlight blades. They shone a pure white, each one a pulsating ray of the sun. Horns sounded as they filed in to the carrier fleet, marching in tune to the beat of the drums. Within an hour and a half, the ships took off. Blazing past Midgrid’s atmosphere and in to the cold abyss of deep space. Once out of Midgrid’s sphere of influence, one-by-one the ships activated their ward engines. And one-by-one they accelerated in to speeds faster than light. Their destination tens of thousands of lightyears away.
In hyperspace, the Space Knights said prayers to themselves, asking to Eos for help and for guidance. Some asked for their souls to be guided back to the sun and in to Eos’ loving arms. Others for safe return home to see their loved ones again. The only thing on Valindor’s mind was if he was going to the sun again. Smell the honey scent of spring, see his beloved Aliffes again. Just to see one more day would be a miracle given to him from Eos’ bosom. He watched the company’s chaplain help those particularly disillusioned after the jump. Valindor had seen this all before. On Tartarus III, on Ethos, over a hundred shipments off to alien worlds. Dread crept deeper in to his mind.
He looked over at the company of knights. He thought to himself that he would not see most, if not all, of these faces at the end of the campaign. He would be burying most of these boys come nightfall. The same scene played over and over again each time Hawk Company shipped out. It never got any easier to stomach seeing the young ground to little more than meat. But he would reassure himself that it was all for the greater good of the empire and for the glory of Eos. Each time he would believe it less and less.
A jolt roused him from his stupor. The ship was shaking like a leaf in a hurricane as everyone aboard braced for realspace reentry. The chamber housing Hawk Company went dark and a hologram of the planet was projected, floating in the center. It was a small planet, the fifth in its system. The land was a deep crimson and lush green, contrasting with the blue water of its ocean. It was a beautiful planet, no doubt. A beautiful planet populated by bloodthirsty, barbaric aliens using technology they don’t understand.
“Knights,” called the chaplain. “This is our battlefield, the red sands and green fields of Mars. The barbarian Martians have refused the light of our god. And spit on the benevolence of our Lord."