Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Don't worry. None of this blood is mine.

The First Heretic – Extract

In the next Black Library Previews Catalogue (the one for September-December 2010), there are extracts from both The First Heretic and ‘The Core’, my Night Lords short story in Fear the Alien. The former shows the conclusion of a meeting between Lorgar and Roboute Guilliman, at a seriously key moment early in the novel. The latter shows the Covenant of Blood’s raptors being assholes, which is something they excel at.

I figure this might be of interest to some people:

(Bear in mind it’s still a draft, blah blah blah, usual jazz, blah blah blah, might change completely, blah blah fucking blah.)

—   —   —

—   —   —

‘Guilliman,’ the primarch spoke his brother’s name with an envenomed tongue. A shrug of his shoulders pushed Argel Tal and Xaphen aside, immediately forgotten.

Emotion flooded back into Lorgar’s eyes. His gaze was locked on Guilliman, who returned it – passionless where Lorgar was inflamed.

‘Does it please you,’ the Word Bearer lord sneered, ‘to witness my shame?’

Guilliman didn’t answer, but Lorgar wouldn’t back down.

‘Does it please you?’ he pressed. ‘Do you enjoy seeing my efforts reduced to ashes while our father favours you?’

Guilliman breathed slowly, utterly unfazed. He spoke as if no question had been asked.

‘Our father entrusted me to inform you of one last matter.’

‘Then speak it and begone.’ Lorgar reached for his crozius on the ground, and dragged it up from the ash. Dust rained from its spiked head.

‘These five warriors of the Legiones Custodes,’ the Ultramarines primarch inclined his head to them. ‘They are not alone. Fifteen more remain on my flagship. Our father has ordered them to accompany you, brother.’

Argel Tal closed his eyes at this final indignity. After kneeling in the ashes of failure, after being told by the Emperor that all their achievements were worthless… Now this. Lorgar laughed, the sound ripe with derision. His face was still smeared with dust.

‘I refuse. They are not needed.’

‘Our father believes otherwise,’ Guilliman said. ‘These warriors are to be his eyes as your Legion rejoins the Great Crusade.’

‘And does our father set hounds to watch over you? Do they reside in your precious empire of Ultramar, whispering of your every move? I see the shadow of a smile on your lips. These others do not know you as I do, brother. Our sons may not see the amusement in your eyes, but I am not blind to such nuance.’

‘You have always possessed an active imagination, Lorgar. Today has proven that.’

‘My devotion is my strength.’ Lorgar clenched his perfect teeth. ‘You have no heart, and no soul.’ A snort blackened his angelic features with a disgusted twist. ‘I pray that one day, you feel as I feel. Would you smile if one of Ultramar’s worlds died in fire? Tarentus? Espandor? Calth?’

‘You should return to your fleet, brother.’ Guilliman uncrossed his arms, revealing the golden Aquila emblazoned across his chest. The eagle’s spread wings glinted with reflected sunlight. ‘You have much work to do.’

The blow came from nowhere. In its wake, the air rang with the echo of metal on metal, the clashing chime of a great cathedral bell. It was almost beautiful.

A primarch lay in the dust, surrounded by his warriors. None present had ever witnessed such a thing. Argel Tal’s bolter was raised, aimed at the ranks of Ultramarines who mirrored the gesture in kind. A hundred gun barrels levelled at a hundred thousand. The Seventh Captain needed three attempts to form words.

‘Hold your fire,’ he whispered into the general vox channel. ‘Do not fire unless fired upon.’

Lorgar rested the immense crozius mace on his golden shoulder. His grey eyes flickered with uncertain emotion as he bared his teeth at the fallen Lord of Macragge.

‘You will never mock me again, brother. Is that understood?’

Guilliman’s rise was slow, almost hesitant. The golden eagle on his breastplate was split, a valley-crack running through its body.

‘You go too far,’ a softer voice said. Malcador, First Lord of Terra, still clutched his staff. It was all that kept him standing. ‘You go too far.’

‘Be silent, worm. The next time you bleed my patience dry, I will do more than slap you aside.’

Guilliman was on his feet now. He turned an expressionless face back to his brother.

‘Is your tantrum concluded, Lorgar? I must return to the Crusade.’

‘Come, my friend,’ Kor Phaeron’s corpse-sneer was directed at Guilliman even as his words were meant for his primarch. ‘Come. We have much to discuss.’

Lorgar exhaled, and nodded once. The anger was fading, and no longer offered a shield against shame. ‘Yes. Back to the ships.’

‘All companies,’ Kor Phaeron spat across the vox, ‘return to orbit.’

‘Yes, first captain,’ Argel Tal replied with the others. ‘By your word.’

May 12, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized |


  1. Well, I dare say that sounds shit-kicking, sir.
    Kudos, I’m looking very much forward to it. In fact, just for this excerpt, I’ll buy you a beer at Games Day.
    You can hold me to that..

    Comment by Fantomex | May 12, 2010 | Reply

  2. “Guilliman uncrossed his arms, revealing the golden Aquila emblazoned across his chest.”

    I was under the impression that only the Emperor’s Children had the honour of displaying the Aquila on their armour?

    Other than that, seems pretty interesting.

    Comment by Sam | May 12, 2010 | Reply

    • I knew that would be one of the first things people said. I just knew it.

      The Emperor’s Children were the only Astartes to be allowed to wear it. That was their singular honour.

      Primarchs aren’t Space Marines, though. Guilliman can wear whatever he likes, especially in moments of symbolism.

      Comment by aarondembskibowden | May 12, 2010 | Reply

      • You know, I thought that was quite a subtle show of favour.

        Wasn’t it around the end of the Crusade that the other favoured Legions started wearing it, too? Also, isn’t one of the Crusade era armour marks called “Aquila” armour?

        I hope Gulliman get’s slapped around some more. “And that’s for your stupid book, Bob! If we chucked it, we could have psychic dreadnoughts, too!”

        Ultramarines, the most over-rated Legion: didn’t fare as well as the Dark Angels, Space Wolves and Sons of Horus during the Great Crusade. Never made it to Terra in time for the Siege. Very quiet during the Reign of Blood. No real presence in any of the 3 Armageddon wars. Beaten by the Tau. Eaten by Tyranids. Uriel Ventris is the only one worth listening to and they sent him to die in the Eye of Terror.

        Still, maybe Sean Pertwee and John Hurt can redeem them.

        Comment by G | May 12, 2010 | Reply

      • Guilliman! My Primarch, I hope they didn’t hurt you! 😛

        I like how Guilliman knew he was outnumbered and so he was content with rattling Lorgar’s nerves and pissing him off by staying calm and collected rather than engaging them in battle. He knew he couldn’t take the Word Bearer’s at that moment so he relied upon subtle wordplay to get to him.

        Well done man!

        Comment by John the Great | May 12, 2010 | Reply

      • Heh, well at least I got it out of the way early right?

        Comment by Sam | May 12, 2010 | Reply

      • Yeah they didn’t do much in the Heresy but they held the Imperium together during the Scouring succeeding it, they were 1 of only 3 chapters to deploy in force at the 2nd Armageddon War, and you know the whole Tyrannic Wars thing…

        Comment by Baron Spikey | May 12, 2010 | Reply

      • The Imperium does have a tendency to piss away their best warriors. The Ultramarines sent Uriel into the Eye as punishment for saving Tarsis Ultra and defeating the Tyranid. Then the Grey Knights sent Alaric on a suicide mission because his “imagination” led him to defeat a daemon prince and destroy a super titan.

        Comment by Nick Sharps | May 12, 2010 | Reply

      • See, what i’m getting from that is that Lorgar took the showing of the aquila [and therefore the implied favour] as the insult which caused him to get all hissy.

        Comment by Tom | May 12, 2010 | Reply

  3. Guilliman can wear that pink skirt and halter he keeps in his underwear drawer for all I care, he’s still a lapdog.

    Great stuff Aaron. Can’t wait to read the whole thing.


    Comment by Commissar Ploss | May 12, 2010 | Reply

  4. He’d have to fight Fulgrim for the right to wear a pink skirt and halter mind…

    Cool to see Guilliman finally pop up though, I’ve been wondering when he was going to factor into Heresy in some way/shape or form. I wonder if the Ultras role might be developed a bit more, stuck in the galatic south for seven years is a bit lame even with Calth. (I’m ignoring Battle for the Abyss for obvious reasons)

    Is this set before or after Russ and Magnus’ little tete a tete on Shrike? because Lorgar seems rather more testy than he was then.

    Comment by ajp100688 | May 12, 2010 | Reply

  5. Did I just see blue-boy get the crap beaten out of him? Yes I did. And it was glorious.

    Comment by Brother_Kaelgrim | May 12, 2010 | Reply

  6. Wow such emotion – I love finding out more about the relationships between the primarchs.

    I really want to know what the source of that ash was!

    Well done sir.

    Comment by Wolf Lord Mjolnir | May 12, 2010 | Reply

  7. As usual anything primarch related whets the appetite and that Malcador sure does get around.

    On a seperate note has the ‘totally gay’ idea been implemented?

    Comment by Rob | May 12, 2010 | Reply

    • if not, that excerpt sure makes it seem that way… Nice touch Aaron. 🙂 Always knew you had it in you.

      Comment by Commissar Ploss | May 12, 2010 | Reply

    • It has, yeah. I liked it too much to leave it out.

      Comment by aarondembskibowden | May 12, 2010 | Reply

  8. Tantrum.

    Comment by pyroriffic | May 12, 2010 | Reply

  9. Isnt it more traditional to punch out Dorn? 😀

    Looking forward to another cracker…

    Comment by Noserenda | May 12, 2010 | Reply

  10. Hi ADB,BigWill here from Great Crusade.
    Aquila armor is Mk7 which might of saw action during the Siege of the Palace.
    In Mechanicum which took place a little before the Siege Sigismund Left Mars with Shiploads of Mk4 Maximus Plate.
    Mk5 Heresy Armor and Mk6 Corvus Armor were probally the New Fabricator General whipped up when he was moved to Earth with Sigismund.
    Mk7 Aquilla Armor May or May not have seen action as a Prototype probally given to Champions,Captains and Sergeants during the Siege.
    I guess that is up to you and your colleagues.
    I see the Aquilla as a Great Award kind of like The Medal of Honor.
    The Emperor’s Children were the only Legion to be allowed to wear it as a whole.
    Probally due to the fact that only a couple a hundred of them survived whatever calamity befell them and they fought on while they were built back up to legion strength.
    An Impressive Feat even for Astartes.

    Comment by BigWill | May 12, 2010 | Reply

  11. Awesome to see Guilliman finally getting a look at in the Horus Heresy novels. Loved it, especially the way he comes across as a commanding and intelligent presence.

    PS: To all you Ultra-Haters out there: Jealousy ill becomes you 😉

    Comment by Brother-Captain Alecto | May 12, 2010 | Reply

  12. Intense man…intense. It makes me so happy to see Lorgar smack a bitch. He’s basically the Rick James of 40k after that move. “Hey Guilliman, what did the five fingers say to the face? SMACK!”

    Comment by Lord Tharand | May 12, 2010 | Reply

  13. Good stuff, can’t wait for more!

    Comment by Murphy | May 12, 2010 | Reply

  14. I won’t read it. I won’t read it. I won’t read it.

    I need to maintain a strong will.

    Comment by Artein | May 12, 2010 | Reply

  15. I read it. Brilliant!

    Your writing seems to effortlessly capture my own deeply felt picture of the 40k universe. How the f*** do you do that?!

    I’m in the middle of writing my review of Helsreach for bscreview. I loved it for the reasons that my review will make clear but at some stage I’m going to have to ask myself whether there’s any point in writing further reviews of your books. I suspect that people are beginning to catch on to the fact that I love your writing.

    Maybe I’ll keep future reviews short – “It’s written by Dembski-Bowden, buy it, read it, froth at the author’s brilliance.”

    Yup, I think I’ll do that 🙂

    Comment by Phillip | May 12, 2010 | Reply

  16. Lorgar: further proof that superstitious idiots can’t keep their temper! Ha. That’s current enough for me to say “oh you rule Mr ADB”.

    But all fuckedy aside. Nice one. Can’t wait to hear of some posession & custodian carnage man.



    Comment by Rob Ash Lion White | May 12, 2010 | Reply

  17. Did it feel good to write how Lorgar showed Roboute Guillamen that his pimp hand, is indeed, strong?

    Very nice. Looking forward to seeing the rest.

    Comment by Joe Wright | May 12, 2010 | Reply

  18. Holy shiit how awesome wasnät that? =D Man Lorgar truly despices Guilliman. And the characters will be intruiging to see more off here.

    Comment by Forkmaster | May 12, 2010 | Reply

  19. An awesome story, full of emotion – what can be more important than the meeting of two Primarchs, and not only that but then one striking the other??

    Yet, virtually the first comment is whether or not he has the correct markings on his armour.

    This makes me concerned for a couple of reasons. Most people who read the books don’t give a crap about that kind of thing – they are more concerned with things like characters and story-telling. If you’re going to spend hours of your life getting into a book then these are the components that need to function. But, my concern is that if the writers are doing back-flips trying to work out if the characters are wearing the right armour, have got the correct symbol on their cuff-links (pre-nicaea), or hold their genitalia in their left or right hand. This for a handful of people who seem to take it as a personal affront if something isn’t lining up with an article which was written 20 years ago, quite possibly by the work experience boy on a sunday night, and set in an entirely fictional universe.

    My concern is that this is pulling the writers creative efforts away from where it needs to be – on the story. Or else the narrative is hamstrung by attempts to make it 100% kosher with everyone else’s work. I understand you need a certain level of co-operation between the writers, especially when you have so many writing about the same events, but they need to know that the frightening level of banality you get from some of these comments is not indicative of the tens of thousands who will read and enjoy the book – whether a marine is wearing mk6 before the fall of mars or not.

    Comment by Slightlyagitated | May 13, 2010 | Reply

  20. @Slightlyagitated:I agree with all your points,
    The story should come first.
    That being said the 30k background is extremely important
    otherwise it would be modern 40k,that could be why some people are quick to point out things like Aquilas on armor.
    He should not feel locked into anything otherwise it would stale,but the little things are more important than you give them credit for.
    But you seem to not be aware of a large Pre-Heresy Community out there.
    And one of the PH communities biggest questions is when which armors came out and when.
    So please excuse those of us who it does mean something too.
    And belive me there are more than a handful of us.
    But then again if you are not a 40k modeler than it would’nt be important to you because an armor mark to you is just a number

    Comment by BigWill | May 13, 2010 | Reply

    • On the plus side, since I’ve been into 40K for almost 20 years, something basic like armour marks isn’t something I’m likely to get wrong. So we’re safe on that score.

      Comment by aarondembskibowden | May 13, 2010 | Reply

      • Is that science?

        Comment by Commissar Ploss | May 13, 2010 | Reply

  21. That is good to know,Just be sure to remember that Lorgar had small pores and he exfoliated all the time.
    Otherwise the gold make-up would give him acne. :p

    Comment by BigWill | May 13, 2010 | Reply

  22. Loving the work, I hate you for making me wait for teh next installment of Night Lords and now you have my Primarch get slapped in the face! How dare you sir!!!!!!

    Keep up the great work, I look forward to giving you more money for your creative writing :).

    Comment by Moogs | May 13, 2010 | Reply

  23. Tense! What are they like?!

    Glad that we finally get to see Guilliman actually DO something, even if it is getting a good old fashioned bitchslapping. So far, he is my least favourite of the Primarchs. Don’t know whether it’s an in-built anti-vanilla marines thing.

    Looking forward to First Heretic, and just finished reading Helsreach as well. Just wanted to say, poor Nero >_<

    Also.. MOAR Night Lords!! *excited face*. Soul Hunter was the reason for me starting a Night Lords army, so super excited for that.

    Comment by RayeRaye | May 13, 2010 | Reply

  24. Epic stuff! good to see head smurf get smacked upside his face!

    Comment by Worldeater XII | May 13, 2010 | Reply

  25. Now that was just plain awesome to read. I am really looking forward to this book.

    JvK B)

    Comment by Jared van Kell | May 13, 2010 | Reply

  26. Now im looking forward to reading this

    Comment by G | May 13, 2010 | Reply

  27. Hey guys, long time reader, first time writer and I have a question I was wondering if anyone could help me. What was the original pre-heresy Word Bearers chapter symbol?

    If its a spoiler in the book or something then don’t worry I can wait, but if anyone can shed any light on the subject it would be much appreciated.

    Comment by James N | May 13, 2010 | Reply

  28. P.S. If you could extend that beating that Guilliman got from Lorgar to what Sonny gave Carlo in the first Godfather it would be much appreciated! 😀

    Comment by James N | May 13, 2010 | Reply

  29. Wow, this is such a powerful scene, so intense for all its subtleness. And very symbolic too; brother striking brother, an aquila split in two. Of course Guilliman needs to wear an aquila for this scene, it’s too perfect to leave out. 😉

    I love how you convey such powerful emotions with just a few well-chosen words, how your characters come to life. Kor Phaeron has one line in this extract and I already dislike him – since when did anyone get to address a Primarch as ‘my friend’ and order him about? Who exactly is in charge here?! He’s got entirely too much influence on Lorgar, and he’s showing off his power to Guilliman unabashed – Kor Phaeron’s corpse-sneer was directed at Guilliman even as his words were meant for his primarch – no, I can’t help feel that those words were meant for Guilliman too, a demonstration of Kor Paheron’s power over Lorgar even as Guilliman is failing to handle his own Primarch brother. Chilling to see how far Lorgar has already fallen without even realising it. I wonder if Guilliman does… *Shivers.* Great stuff, Aaron, can’t wait to read the next part!

    One a final note, though, I must disagree with the previous commenters: I don’t think Guilliman lost this one. Lorgar may have hit him, but it must rankle that he just didn’t care; Lorgar’s childish loss of control is simply beneath his notice, that’s how on top he is.

    This is a battle between wills, but as I see it, it’s Guilliman versus Kor Phaeron. Lorgar is so much not in control here. I’m actually feeling sorry for him, despite knowing how it all turns out eventually… :/

    *Waits impatiently for the extract from The Core.*

    Comment by Grephaun | May 13, 2010 | Reply

    • That’s more what I thought as well, yes Gulliman got pimp-slapped but he was sort of the bigger man and just walked away rather than starting a fight where the outcome could only be poor for all involved.

      I like how Gulliman comes across as the smug and magnificent bastard (in a good way) that I’ve always seen him as- I just hope that the brilliant genius of war aspect comes throught as well.

      Also if it wouldn’t be too much trouble Aaron would you mind giving Gulliman an impressive handlebar moustache?

      Comment by pinchy | May 13, 2010 | Reply

  30. The critic in me is broken.. because that was flawless.

    I think swept away into the story by the 5th line.

    Just wow.

    Comment by shaman | May 14, 2010 | Reply

  31. Awww man, that’s so not fair. I hate teasers like this specifically because now I want to read The First Heretic so bad. Also the whole Word Bearer/Ultramarine hatred towards each other also makes a world of more sense. I’ll probably have to reread Battle for The Abyss after reading The First Heretic to give it a better framing.

    I feel bad for those Custodes though. I hope that they give the Word Bearers what for at the eventual betrayal. Hopefully they’ll make a better show of themselves than the poor guys that got the “1k Sons are better than everybody” short end of the stick in The Thousand Sons.

    Comment by Inache | May 16, 2010 | Reply

  32. dude, aren’t GW going to shit the bed at you posting this?

    Comment by distilledmag | May 17, 2010 | Reply

  33. You never cease to intrigue me with your writings, good sir. It’s my hope that sometime in the near future you and Mr. Abnett team up to shed some light on the II and the XI Legions.

    Comment by Cameron | May 17, 2010 | Reply

  34. Is the Night Lords story set before or after the events shown in “Soul Hunter”? Raptors! Sounds interesting.

    Comment by Phoebus | May 20, 2010 | Reply

  35. A very cool Extract. i think people are underestimating how intelligent a primarch is, Gulliman knows full well of showing off the Aquila would enrage Lorgar at this point. Fiendishly clever.

    I guess it shows a different side to Gulliman as well as Lorgar. Looking forward to the “The First Heretic“.

    Comment by Lord Slaanesh | May 24, 2010 | Reply

  36. I’ve lost my ability to speak… AWESOME! November cannot come soon enough!! I love nothing more than those pansy Ultramarines getting a slap around, this is going to be chistmas come early for me!! Great work ADB!! And the Soul Hunters series is looking great too, I like the relationship between Septimus and Talos, and hope to see this deepen and continue in the future novels.

    Comment by Danny | May 24, 2010 | Reply

  37. Oh my gods! SO DAMN EPIC! I want more! Nay, I need more! Oh if this is a taste of things to come thing I may die a happy man, feasting upon this book. I love the Word Bearers and you write them so well!

    Comment by MalkyDel | May 24, 2010 | Reply

  38. Really looking forward to reading this, for many different reasons, but 1 reason above all others:

    All the primarchs and their legions go on about illuminating the truth of science over superstition (its a repeated theme in almost every HH book so far). However they are living in a universe with: psykers, navigators, astropaths, the emperor and another whole dimension (the warp) which falsifies every scientific theory or notion they have! Hence the name Chaos.

    Despite this the primarchs single-mindedly continue to have faith in their belief system (a belief system which falls apart when used to explain the universe they live in) and instead vilify/reprimand the one primarch who recognises this and as a result has a different belief system.

    You can argue that the Horus heresy is less about the fall of Horus and more about the designs of Lorgar for vindication. Looking forward to seeing how it all pans out…

    Comment by Andy | June 9, 2010 | Reply

  39. Excellent excerpt! Can’t wait for the final book.

    I like the feeling of Big Brothers humorous indulgence of a little brother in trouble that I feel from reading this.

    Gullimann is in the superior position – lots of subtle brotherly sparring – that takes a more serious tone at the end when Lorgor strikes him.

    I anticipate this being an EPIC entrance into the Horus Heresy world – as much as I thought Soul Hunter could have also been called a Heresy novel with as much insight as it gave into the Night Haunter and the ending of the Night Lords under his leadership.

    You’ve got some great skills and talents in crafting stories in this world! As a reader I really appreciate it and look forward to this and other down the road from you.

    Jobz a Gud Un!

    Comment by Al Gleason | August 5, 2010 | Reply

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