Free Fulgrim by Graham McNeill

Book: Fulgrim by Graham McNeill Read Free Book Online
Authors: Graham McNeill
Tags: Science-Fiction
twos as they passed through the great bronze portal and took their seats around a wide, circular table placed at the centre of the dark floor. Reflected light from the ceiling bathed the table in light and crackling orange flames burned in a brazier set into the surface of the table’s centre. The high-backed chairs of black wood were equally spaced around the table, half of them occupied by cloaked warriors of the Emperor’s Children. Their armour shone, but each plate was battered and had clearly seen better days.
    Solomon Demeter watched Julius Kaesoron and Marius Vairosean pass the Phoenix Gate, and the remainder of the Legion’s captains that were not currently in battle filed in after them. Solomon could feel their weariness and nodded to them as they sat to either side of him, grateful to see that his friends had returned safely from yet another gruelling tour of duty on the planet below.
    The cleansing of Laeran had been tough on them all. Fully three-quarters of the Legion’s strength was in the field at any one time and there was little chance for respite in such a demanding war. No sooner had each company’s warriors returned to the fleet for re-supply than they were sent into battle once more.
    Lord Fulgrim’s plan was audacious and brilliant, but left little room for rest and recuperation. Even the normally indefatigable Marius looked exhausted.
    ‘How many?’ asked Solomon, already fearing the answer.
    ‘Eleven dead,’ said Marius. ‘Though I fear another may die before the day is out.’
    ‘Seven,’ sighed Julius. ‘What about you?’
    ‘Eight,’ said Solomon. ‘By the fire, this is brutal. And the others will have suffered a similar fate.’
    ‘If not worse,’ said Julius. ‘Our companies are the best.’
    Solomon nodded, knowing that Julius was not boasting, for such a thing was unknown to him, but simply stating a fact.
    ‘New blood too,’ he said, seeing two faces around the table that were new to the Brotherhood of the Phoenix. They bore the rank insignia of captain on their shoulder guards, the paint probably not even dry yet.
    ‘Casualties are not confined to the rank and file warriors of the Legion,’ said Marius. ‘Good leaders must necessarily put themselves in harm’s way to inspire the men they lead.’
    ‘You don’t need to quote the book to me, Marius,’ said Solomon. ‘I was there when they wrote that part. I practically invented going up the centre.’
    ‘Did you also invent the concept of being the luckiest bastard alive?’ cut in Julius. ‘I’ve lost count of the number of times you ought to have been killed.’
    Solomon smiled, pleased to see that the war on Laeran had not crushed everyone’s spirits. ‘Ah, Julius, the gods of battle love me and they wouldn’t see me dead on this piss-poor excuse for a planet.’
    ‘Don’t say such things,’ cautioned Marius.
    ‘What things?’
    ‘Talking of gods and the like,’ said the captain of the Third. ‘It is not seemly.’
    ‘Ah, don’t get upset, Marius,’ smiled Solomon, clapping a hand on his friend’s shoulder guard. ‘There’s only one god of battle around this table and I’m sitting next to him.’
    Marius shrugged off his hand and said, ‘Don’t mock me, Solomon. I’m serious.’
    ‘Don’t I know it,’ said Solomon, a hurt look on his face. ‘You need to lighten up a little, my friend. We can’t go around with grim faces all the time, can we?’
    ‘War is a grim business, Solomon,’ said Marius. ‘Good men die and we are responsible for bringing them back alive. Each death lessens us and you would make jokes about it?’
    ‘I don’t think that’s what Solomon meant,’ began Julius, but Marius cut him off.
    ‘Don’t defend him, Julius, he knows what he said and I am heartsick of hearing him run his mouth while brave warriors are dying.’
    Solomon was stung by Marius’s words, and he felt his choler rising at the insult in his friend’s words. He leaned close to Marius and

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