Aaron Dembski-Bowden

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

Betrayer Prologue

The Dead and the Dying

SKANE WAS THE ONE to find the body. Skane, armoured in Destroyers’ black, his armour stained by the sin of the weapons he wielded. He stood knee-deep in the dead, next to the wrecked hull of a Land Raider battle tank.

“Kargos,” he voxed. His voice was tinny, laden with static. One of the of the enemy had caught him in the throat during the battle, and it had jarred his augmetic vocal chords. They needed tuning once he returned to the Conqueror.

“Kargos,” he said again, across the quiet vox channel.

“What?” His brother’s reply was also flawed by static, but from more traditional vox-corruption rather than a bionic oesophagus.

“Track my locator rune,” said Skane. “Get over here.”

“Look around you, sergeant. You think you’re the only one that needs my help at the moment?”

Skane didn’t bother looking around. He knew where he was and what he’d see – he was at the heart of it all, and the dead numbered in the thousands. Most wore armour the green of shallow oceans, cracked and shattered by the treachery of their former kindred. These were Horus’s former Sons, betrayed by their brethren and slain for their disloyalty. Among their number, armour of bloodstained white stood out like pearls among seaweed. Too many World Eaters had fallen here, though victory was undeniable. The city was dead in every direction, reduced to ash and rubble.

A shadow fell across Skane, blocking out the weak sun as a Legio Audax Warhound passed with its rattle-clank stride shaking the tortured ground. He lifted a hand to the passing war machine, receiving no acknowledgement beyond dull sunlight glinting on the Titan’s ursus claw spears. It stalked onward, splayed feet grinding ceramite and bone and twisted iron into the earth, its wolfish cockpit lowered as it hunted for life signs and scanner-scents among the dead and the dying.

Skane turned back to the ruined tank, kneeling by its front end where the minesweeper plow was decorated in scratches and a wealth of gore. A body impaled on the ‘dozer blade’s spikes twitched in uneasy repose, its fingers still scraping in futility across the metal. Skane wasn’t sure how the pinned warrior still lived, and doubted the trembling, bleeding figure would survive being pulled from the plow. Nevertheless, he spoke again.

“Kargos,” he said for the third time. It took the Apothecary several seconds to answer.

“I told you I’m busy. Fix your own damn throat, or shut up and wait until we’re back aboard the ship.”

Skane disengaged the seals at the dying warrior’s neck, lifting the helm free with a hiss of released air pressure. The revealed face was pale, bloodstained from the lips down, the eyes open and blind, while the mouth worked in silent, wordless rage, an emotion lost between fury and pain.

“I’ve found Kharn,” Skane voxed.

This time, there was no delay in Kargos’s reply. “I’m on my way.”

June 6, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , ,


  1. omg omg omg awesome awesome awesome

    Comment by Elliot | June 6, 2012 | Reply

  2. Kargos…

    Kargos Bloodspitter?

    Oh, damn you, man. Damn you to the blackest hell. I was buying this book anyway, but this makes the wait even worse.

    Comment by Lexington | June 6, 2012 | Reply

    • It is indeed Kargos (of Bloodspitter fame). Along with why he’s named that, and why Angry Apothecaries are the best Apothecaries.

      Comment by Aaron Dembski-Bowden | June 6, 2012 | Reply

  3. I’m curious to see how the depiction of Kharn will go. Almost everything we saw of him prior to the Heresy novels was monosyllabic, but since then he’s become a character of depth and nuance – especially in “The Butcher’s Nails”. I wonder if this portrayal will survive the events of Isstvan and Terra.

    Comment by greekojtac | June 6, 2012 | Reply

  4. And once more I finish writing something of my own, read a sliver of your prose, and then tear up everything I’ve written to date. Your talent makes a mockery of my feeble pencil scrawls.

    You set the bar way, way up there, Sir ADB, and I thank you for that.

    Comment by Jon Beer | June 6, 2012 | Reply

    • On one hand: Aww, thanks, dude.

      On the other hand: I feel the same way when I read anything by about twenty other writers in particular, so I think it’s just a sign of the Human Condition. I wouldn’t sweat it, if I were you. (Or rather, sweat it, but keep writing anyway.)

      Comment by Aaron Dembski-Bowden | June 6, 2012 | Reply

      • You’re entirely welcome; after all, I get to read the books.

        The way I look at it is that I’m not trying to emulate your (or anyone else’s) style. Every writer should have their own voice, and all the energy I waste bemoaning that mine isn’t as good as whoevers is energy that ought to be spent making mine better.

        Comment by Jon Beer | June 6, 2012 | Reply

  5. I always try to avoid these teasers as they are often too teasing for me and I’m not a patient man.
    And this is why.
    On the note of an angry apothecaries, I think ever since Star Trek’s Dr McCoy, everyone has loved an angry medicine man. There’s something oxymoronic about it but difficult to write well. I’m sure you’ll pull it off though. I know no writer who writes such 3D characters as you Mr ABD.
    I am now going to go for a shower as outspilling my man-crush has left me feeling a little grubby!

    Comment by Rich Finegan | June 6, 2012 | Reply

    • O dear. Did you just compare a star trek character to one of mr Bowden’s characters ? I could be wrong, but this might rattle the cage :P.

      Comment by Jerry | June 6, 2012 | Reply

  6. You know, its little snippets like this that make an otherwise shite day entirely bearable. I keep thinking you can’t possibly keep the quality up forever, you can’t possibly be THAT good, and you keep damn well proving me wrong. Kudos sir.

    Comment by G | June 6, 2012 | Reply

  7. oooooooooo….tasty!!!

    Comment by trukkasaurus | June 6, 2012 | Reply

  8. Very nice. Can’t wait for the novel to be released.

    Comment by Zac | June 6, 2012 | Reply

  9. Awesome 🙂 I’m getting overly excited…so now I’m going to get a new pair of trousers.

    Comment by Christopher Meyer | June 6, 2012 | Reply

  10. I have the strangest boner right now. . .

    Comment by Khestra the Unbeheld | June 6, 2012 | Reply

  11. Sweet baby Jesus, this is awesome.

    Comment by bittermanandy | June 6, 2012 | Reply

  12. “Destroyer’s black”: Is that an early Havoc cult? Flamers? Energy weapons? Or just World Eater / War Hound heraldry for heavy weapon squads? If he’s a heavy weapon trooper at all…


    Comment by G | June 6, 2012 | Reply

  13. Can you write my books for me Aaron?

    Comment by shavenwookiee | June 6, 2012 | Reply

  14. I’m just closing in on the end of Emperor’s Gift, I have the final NL book lined up next, and then you post this?! My reading calendar is rapidly becoming your books and then padding to fill the gaps between releases.

    Really looking forward to this (ardent fan of HH series, and proud owner of a gold copy of Aurelian) and can’t think of another author better qualified to bring nuance and texture to a superficially one-dimensional subject matter, or resist the urge to write 300 pages of “hurr, kill!”

    Comment by Nick Smale | June 6, 2012 | Reply

  15. Cracking stuff as always, can’t wait to get my hands on it!

    One thing is bugging me though, I’ve read The First Heretic, Aurelian and Know No Fear, I’ve just finished listening to Butchers Nails… And the events of Battle for the Abyss aren’t mentioned – has that book been swept under the carpet and been fully expunged from the series? Will we never see you write about good old Skrall?

    Comment by Keith | June 6, 2012 | Reply

    • I’m not really interested in writing about Skraal. I like that BftA essentially went with legion stereotypes/archetypes as main characters, but Skraal never really interested me that much. He was “A loyalist World Eater” and never showed much personality beyond that.

      Comment by Aaron Dembski-Bowden | June 6, 2012 | Reply

      • Yeah, my looking back may have been through rose tinted glasses, I think he stuck in my head as he was essentially the best of a bad bunch…

        Comment by Keith | June 6, 2012 | Reply

  16. Kharn? Are you there Kharn? Kharn? Khaaaaarn! dun dun dun boooooo

    Comment by Lysander45 | June 6, 2012 | Reply

  17. Shit just got real.

    Comment by Daniel | June 7, 2012 | Reply

  18. You’re the best author ever! I can’t get enough of your work. My copy of “The Emperor’s Gift” arrived today and it felt like Christmas. Keep you the awesome and amazing work.

    Comment by Micheal | June 7, 2012 | Reply

  19. this after istvaan 3 then? when Kharn gets hit by a land raider… smooth

    Comment by VDOG | June 7, 2012 | Reply


    Comment by Rob Ashley White | June 7, 2012 | Reply

  21. I believe they are still Istvaan.

    Brother G

    Comment by brothergoochman | June 26, 2012 | Reply

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