Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Advent Calendar Short Stories: Heroes of the Astartes

With Evan putting out a lot of the book reviews for the Horus Heresy, I decided to take a stab at doing a few reviews of my own.  These are not the monsters of the Horus Heresy but the short stories provided through the Black Library Advent Calendar.  So far I have picked up Bjorn: Lone Wolf, Torias Telion: The Eye of Vengeance, Kor'sarro Khan:  Huntmaster, Azrael: Protector of Secrets, Kayvaan Shrike:  Shadow Stalker, Logan Grimnar: Defender of Honour, and Astorath the Grim: Redeemer of the Lost.  This is a bit of a Spoiler Review but it should be noted that if you are still interested, I would pick them up.  They are quick and a good read that helps with understanding the different heroes but I am only going over the ones I have read so far, Bjorn, Telion, Azrael, and Grimnar.

So let's get started.  Each of these books is a glimpse into the saga of each of these great figures.  The first story is that of Bjorn.  Bjorn is one of the oldest Dreadnoughts in the entirety of the Imperium.  He is brought out of the Fang when times call for the Leadership and Firepower only he can provide, when it is time for the Telling of Sagas and his stories of the Greatness of Russ are needed, and when The Fang is under attack (looking at you, Magnus the Red).  

This story is about Bjorn fighting on a Godforsaken world against the Demons of Chaos with his Wolf King Russ, and his encounter with a Demon Prince.  This story is unique in that it shows how a pack of the Space Wolves never forget each other.  Bjorn, who is the last of his pack, is granted a unique privilege.  As a Lone Wolf, he is allowed to hunt down the biggest and baddest enemies he can find to restore the honor of his pack, or to allow him one last chance at victory so he can join his brothers. As he is battling the Demon, he recites the names of his pack mates who fell to this demon.  As he battles the demon, the death of each is quickly recounted as he makes his strikes.  He finally destroys the Demon Prince and lets out a howl to signify his return to the chapter.  This also demonstrates how a Lone Wolf can return to the Chapter as a brother, join a new group, and continue his war against the enemies of the Empire.

Next out of the gate is Torias Telion: The Eye of Vengeance.  This is the story of one of the Greatest Snipers in all of the Imperium.  He is by all measures of a leader as one of the most respected and misunderstood leaders.  Never rising above Sergeant because of his unique feeling that he could do more for his Chapter in leading the Neophyte Scouts so that more survive, more learn, and they don't make as many mistakes as they would normally make.

His story plays out on the world of Macragge, specifically in Macragge City.  He is shown to be with his scouts preparing for a deployment.  He is hand loading ammunition which is a unique quality of snipers.  Most trust only themselves, making their own ammo, maintaining their own weapons, and never leaving anything to chance.  He also gets razzed by Captain Fabian of the Third Company while doing this hand loading.  He makes a comment to his other Sergeant Kaetan, "Don't say a word. He's still a captain, and we're both sergeants."  He then notices a man standing out from the crowd.  The man raises his suspicion and he begins to set in motion a series of events that would allow for him to take the man out should he be a threat.  The man along with another man show themselves to be a threat to both sergeants and they are taken out with extreme precision.

Azreal is a Dark Angel through and through.  This becomes very evident in this short story.  The Dark Angels are sworn to secrecy about a mission that only their Chapter knows.  It is one forged during the Horus Heresy and still goes to this day.  In the story, Azrael, some members of the Deathwing, and squad of Godesian Imperial Guardsmen making an assault against traitor Imperial Guardsmen.  They make an assault into the palace where they begin mowing down the Traitors.  As they progress through taking the Palace, they are charged by a group of Suicide Traitors looking to blow them up.  As the Traitors are charging, all but one are slain by head shots.  Azrael charges the lone traitor only to have his Combi-weapon jam on both guns.  As Azrael moves to try to decapitate the last one, the Major General named Absalom shoots the traitor in the head, killing him instantly.

Azrael calls to one of the terminators to make sure that the Librarians record the Major General's name in the Chapter annals for saving his life.  The Major General replies with a kind of loyalty that shows he is honored to be among the assault.  As the Deathwing, Azrael, and Guardsmen enter the final chamber, they are shocked to find a solitary figure in Black Armor.  The figure calls Azrael "Brother" and starts to mention the secret cells in the Rock and the other Fallen Angels.  As the Major General begins to ask why the figure has the same markings, he and his body guard are slain.  Azrael then commences Caliban Protocols, which is the order for all Dark Angels to kill the Guardsmen.

This is truly the darker side of the Dark Angels.  So haunted by their past, the actions of a group of their brethren, now called the Fallen, that they will track to the ends of the Warp and Universe all of those that they once called Brother.  It shows how all of the members know what is at stake, and even for loyalists that are honorable and noble, will never know the secret that they hide.  This is seen in many other interactions with the Dark Angels by Marines and Guardsmen alike.  It is the dark side of their nature that to find peace and restore honor that they will go to any lengths necessary to protect their secret, and find redemption.

The last one I am reviewing today is that of Logan Grimnar.  Now compared with the other books where the story focuses Telion, Azrael, or Bjorn, this one is actually on another Space Wolf in the company of Grimnar.  The book opens with a battle where the main character, Turin Strongheart, is battling Orks with his Space Wolf brothers in the battle of Mactalas.  Strongheart is thrown back by an explosion, then hit by an Ork weapon, before being run into by an Ork in Mech gear.

He is battling with the Ork until he is brought out of the memory and into the present.  Logan Grimnar is standing over him and they are engaged on a Hunt.  Strongheart is constantly thinking back to the battle while they are tracking a beast.  They come upon a carcass that has been killed and come to the conclusion that it is a Snow Troll.  The two take off into the snow to hunt the creature.  Strongheart is then in a memory of when they came back from the fight.  When they were sitting in the Fang remembering the dead that had been slain.  The Story of Strongheart had been passed to Grimnar who approached Strongheart about going on a hunt.  Strongheart was seen as a hero for slaying the Ork Mech, and a Metal fang around his neck was the symbol of his accomplishment.

Strongheart comes back into the present during a driving snow storm only to fall into cave, the entire time having flashbacks to the battle.  The snow troll comes out and attacks Strongheart, wounding him in the same way the Ork had done before.  The Troll moved in for the kill before being cut in two by Grimnar and his great ax Morkai.  Grimnar approached Strongheart burying his axe into the boulder behind the wolf.  Disgust on his face he demands to know the Wolf's name.  The Great Wolf had seen a Blood Claw attack the Ork and save Strongheart's that day.  Grimnar then says that he will find the Blood Claw's name and honor him with the trophy so all can know what really happened that day.  Strongheart then was left to think as Grimnar left for the Fang.

This is an awesome story that really shows a lot about the Space Wolves and their culture.  They take pride in the great deeds done by all, and above all is honor to the pack.  No matter the circumstances, they always hold themselves to a high standard.   This also shows how even though they are seen as barbarians, unruly, and outside of the idea of the Space Marine, they are in fact loyal, honorable beings that are very restrained.  As it is pointed out in other books, the Wolves of Fenris are often seen as savage beings that are the dogs of the Emperor, when in fact, they take great pride in their tasks and their loyalty to each other, the pack, the Rout, and the Imperium.

These books are awesome and I would suggest reading them to get a better insight into the back story of these commanders.  Each book shows a different aspect of not only the chapter, but some of the most infamous members in all the Imperium.  It is a quick look into the different Chapters and some of the secrets and stories that are rarely explored.

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