I suppose you would like to know how I came to be what I am now. That would not be easy to explain. Truth be told, I have a hard time understanding myself. I think there must always have been a lingering fear, deep inside my soul, for what could happen in that one moment of letting down my guard. The very idea has haunted me, even in my youth. On a subconscious level I must have known all along, that the potential for surrendering was hiding there, deep inside my soul, invisible to everyone, including my oblivious self.  

Looking at me, you would not know that at one time, this mortal coil held a noble spirit, a shining paladin of humanity’s greatest hope. Needless to say it’s gone now. Yet, before this pallid flesh turned into the hideous and terrible form you now see before you, I was once a loyal and pious member of the proud Adeptus Astartes. A hero, even among my peers, I was regarded highly and according to many, on my way to the top. Yes; how the mighty have fallen.

 Although the seeds of doom have been lingering inside of my mind since I came into this universe, I suppose the beginning of the end lies somewhat closer to the present. It all began when we were on patrol in the vicinity of Vanaheim. After destroying two small pirate fleets, we were ready to meet up with the Unguis Leoninus again. It would have been good to sit with my brethren of the first company once more after all those years for a short time at least.

 However, en route to Paramar, we received a transmission from an Inquisitor called Belloque. Under jurisdiction of his Inquisitorial seal, he requested our help in finding immediate passage to Cadia, where at that time, the thirteenth Black Crusade raged in all its destructive ferocity. Assuming he must be carrying important news, to further the Imperial war effort, Captain Verschueren decided to grant the lord Inquisitor the use of the corvette Flaming Claw VII and a squad of marines to safeguard him. Strangely enough, this Belloque specifically requested the use of the very ship we would be assigning him in the first place and he accepted the starting price without bartering. In hindsight, that should have alerted us right then and there.

 I was given the honour of leading the escort and although I was looking forward to a homecoming after two years of patrol, I gladly accepted this assignment. Such was my devotion to duty at the time. Under my command were nine marines of squad Beyaert of the fifth company.. Their sergeant had been wounded in the last engagement and was undergoing cybernetic surgery at the time. Although these men were still relatively inexperienced, compared to my own two hundred years of service to the chapter, I was confident they would serve well.

 Some of the squad had been uneasy boarding the corvette we were assigned to and although I dismissed their reluctant behaviour and whispered stories as superstition and serf-talk, I would be soon to realise their anxiety was very much justified.

 It started out innocent enough. One of the serfs onboard committed suicide. Threw himself down an elevator shaft. A not uncommon occurrence in the Warp. No matter how strong the null field is, there is bound to be residual traces of warp energy through the ship. It takes a disciplined mind to ignore these maddening wisps of Aether and even though the serfs receive training and are screened, there’s always one or two in a crew that loose control.

 Then another one swallowed his own tongue. A next one drowned himself in a refresher station. And then another and another. Soon we were looking at a death toll of ten a week. This could not be allowed go on like that; the crewmen were getting restless and an investigation was started. I requested the Inquisitor to lead the inquiry, as his position warranted a certain amount of investigative prowess at the least. But he refused. He locked himself in his quarters, not to be seen by anyone outside for a long time.  

It was then that I started to get the visions. They were brief at first. Nothing I hadn’t seen before. Scenes of the hunt. True hunts at first, with worthy prey and skilful kills. Then they began to take on a darker tone altogether. Slowly but surely the scenes turned more bloody, less refined and more savage. Pretty soon I had terrifyingly real hallucinations of wholesale carnage, with me laughing and slaughtering with glee.

 This disturbed me greatly and although I tried my best to wash my mind clean of these vile images with soothing prayers, I knew deep inside already, that this was to be my fate and there would be no escaping it. Still, I fought it for as long as I could. As the in facto leader of the escort I should have been aware of the occurrences around me at the time and I should have addressed them accordingly. But I wasn’t. Too much of my time was taken up by vainly fighting the visions that haunted me. I should have been aware of the fact our Astropath was one of the many who were driven to kill themselves rather than submitting to their inner rage, like the rest of us. I should also have been aware that the ship’s navigator had been visiting the Inquisitor’s quarters many times, even while we were en route! Little did I know he was given course correction all the time by this charlatan Belloque.

 All this came to a halt though, when the navigator, whose name I cannot recall, too took his own life. In his navigator’s bubble no less; shot himself though the head with a laspistol. The shot broke the bubble and the raging Warp claimed both his body and his soul. As Belloque later told us, we were lucky to not have been too deep into the Warp at the time, or we would have been unable to drop back into realspace. As it was, the emergency cognigators were able to pull us out of the Warp, in deep space, lightyears away from any system.

 With no navigator to guide us through the Warp and no Astropath to call for aid, we should have been dead, al of us. And so we nearly were. At that time the bouts of rage and hallucinations were becoming harder and harder to discern from reality. I could no longer recognize anyone around me and in my fear and anger at my fate I lashed out at anyone coming near to me. This must have whipped the others into the same state, or perhaps they reached it even before me, who’s to say?

 The end result was no less grizzly. Hundreds lay dead. Corpses everywhere. The ship had become a slaughterhouse and there was blood everywhere. Blasphemous sigils were drawn in blood and excrements on the walls, limbs lay crisscrossed in the hallways and piles of skulls were raised in intersections. The inside of the ship looked like a hell. A hell we had created. Our very own hell from which there would not be an escape. The blood would not wash off my claws or my armour. Another effect of the portion of abyss we had sired for our own damned souls..

 Only myself and 3 other marines were left. All others were dead. Strangely enough though, the wiry, frail inquisitor too was still alive. I would have gathered he would have been one of the first victims of the bloodrage that had gripped all those of us who did not take their own lives. What bothered me most though, was the fact he appeared untouched, both by the bloodrage and the sufferers of it. He simply said to us: ‘There’s a ship coming’ and returned to his quarters.

 He was right of course. An old, almost derelict freighter found us on its course and came to the rescue. To this day I do not know whether it were the machinations of that wretch Belloque or some automated distress signal that brought them to us but there they were. Two score of hired help and a proud but impoverished captain, owner of the ramshackle ore-hauler that docked with our shadow of former glory, the badly battered Flaming Claw VII. She had sustained some serious damage during our last hours in the Warp, when the ship was attempting to return to our reality.

 The crew welcomed us as honoured guests as I’m certain this was the first time any of them saw a spacemarine in person. Still, I knew it wasn’t our being Astartes that made them fearful as well as respectful. The blood was still on our hands and armor after all. They wanted to salvage the Flaming Claw VII but Belloque was adamant in his refusal. It should have been my call but I was too preoccupied by keeping the hallucinations at bay to make any kind of decision. He probably would have overruled my orders anyway. The hauler remained docked for a few more hours, during which Belloque disappeared back onto the Flaming Claw, returning at the very last minute before we cast off, carrying something small, wrapped in his cloak, pressed to his frail body.

 Once underway, Belloque again shut himself in the captain’s cabin, which had been offered to him, for what reason only he knew but he took the object he recovered from the corvette with him. I too confined myself to the quarters provided to me but for completely different reasons no doubt. I had felt the change starting to take hold of me.

 Yes; the change. For I was not always the being you see before you right now. Noble features once graced this damned face and toned muscles could be revealed from under bright and clean armor. It was there though, onboard that centuries old, near scrapped civilian ship that I discovered my body was changing into something no longer human. The pains wracked my body for days, as tissue melded with armor and changed in unforeseeable ways. That time is all a blur though and although I have flashes of memory from that time, when the pains and madness subsided for a few merciful hours, I cannot recollect much.

 I do know that once I finally emerged from my seclusion, my consciousness finally returned, the crew went mad with fear. The captain was more than shocked and told us that he would no longer tolerate us on his vessel and would drop us off at the nearest spaceport. It was all he could do to keep his men in check, well aware that they would not be a match for our powerarmored might. He was right.

 Belloque came out of hiding and during his long talks with the captain, I could once again feel the rage building up inside of me. I could see the same thing happening to the others, although they had not undergone the change I went through. They had been surprised at first but seemed to accept my change in stride. If nothing else, it appeared to strengthen my position as their leader as if it was only natural. It wasn’t, I knew that much. I also knew the bouts of primal rage coming over us were anything but natural either and already, there was no way back for any of us.

 The rest is all a blur again. I know we slaughtered the crew, laughing out loud and feasting on the flesh of our victims, I know Belloque was watching us in our gory work, smiling darkly all the time. Some waking moments I remember, usually when boarding other ships, most very much like the one we left behind, in much the same way we left the Flaming Claw VII in the beginning. A score of vessels we must have boarded and slaughtered this way, all the time nearing a destination only Belloque knew.

 I wish I could tell you more about this terrible time but this is all I can recall. I do not seek to apologise for our actions because we were well aware, as I am now, that what we had done was far beyond redemption for any of us. I cannot help but think, that if we had been more vigilant in the very beginning, our faith stronger and our resolve faster, we could have overcome whatever corrupting influence brought us to this point of eternal damnation. As it was, we had at that point lost all hope of salvation. Then, we arrived at a spacestation and something new happened. Belloque, well aware of our internal struggle and our knowledge of our damnation, confided he would be leaving for a couple of days and we were to wait for his return to the station, while he descended to the world below.

 Immediately, it was as if a veil was lifted from our eyes, when he boarded a shuttle going planetside. And although the crew of the station desperately tried to leave on any available vessel as well, even using the escape pods in the end, leaving us to ourselves on the enormous construct, we felt a weight lift of our souls for the first time since we had boarded the Flaming Claw. To us, it became clear that whatever Belloque was, he no longer was walking in the Emperor’s light, if indeed he had ever. And although we agreed something needed to be done about Belloque, it was unclear to us how or what we should do. Brother marine Geeraerts volunteered to conduct a search of Belloque’s quarters and as he searched the cabin for anything at all that might give us an edge on that rogue Inquisitor, the rest of us were in the control chambers of the ancient station, to monitor Belloque’s return.

Geeraerts finished his search of the quarters well before the Inquisitor returned, nothing of interest having been found by him. Later that night, while we were waiting for yet another ship to fall into Belloque’s trap and the oppressive atmosphere was slowly returning, Belloque requested a meeting with Geeraerts. Fearing the worst, we accompanied him to the Inquisitor’s doors, waiting outside, ready to burst in at the first sign of something going astray. It wasn’t necessary. Geeraerts came out unscathed half an hour later, confiding that Belloque wanted information on the rest of us. We would be called in as well, to be questioned likewise.

 Although the prospect of being alone in one room with Belloque filled me with loathing, I was relieved to know nothing serious would happen.

Until we found Geeraerts the next morning that is. Bloated, sickly green and dead. An anguished look on his still features, as rigor mortis had fixated his shrivelled lips in a snarl that left his teeth in a perpetual death grin. We knew enough. Belloque had to die, right then and there.

We gathered outside of his quarters and fighting back the rage, we forced our way in and restrained him. I admit it was not pretty but no suffering would suffice to atone for atrocities that had been afflicted, through his influence, in the past couple of months. Before we met him, torture would not have occurred to us but in the direst circumstances. Yet I set upon my gory task with relish. I will not go into details here, they are both mundane and unnecessary to the purpose of this story but know that he did not die without pain. We finally revealed his true allegiance when we discovered a very large, viciously moving, Electoo on his back, depicting a multi-headed serpent, which we identified as a Hydra. Only one faction that I knew of, and know of, uses this despicable symbol. Belloque had been in league with the Alpha Legion and with this knowledge we took turns mangling this wretch of a man that was responsible for so many deaths. Not only that, but he was the one that pried us from the Emperor’s light with his vile magics, denying us to ever return to his grace again. What his goal was, what his obvious connection with the Alpha Legion was or what the object was he recovered from the Flaming Claw, we will never know, as he died after hours of our administrations but the veil of darkness was again lifted from our souls.

Having bled his corpse dry, the three of us remaining, discussed our options. There were not many. Tonningen wanted to disappear, he argued the Galaxy is large and there are places the Imperium would never find us. Lages wanted to push on. It had been clear from the location of the spacestation we were on, in the Kato system, that we had been slowly headed for the Maelstrom anyway. We might as well try to reach it and try to somehow contact the Red Corsairs. They were vile traitors but then again, so had we become. At least we would be able to be amongst peers there. The closest thing to a chapter, to call home. After some discussion, we unanimously agreed that that would be our course of action and set off. We left the station by lifepod to the surface. There we secured passage on a ship headed in the right direction. Its captain the sort which did not ask questions. We had to get used to this type of scum we now mingled with, as we had made our choice. Better to embrace our path and not look back.

For a while we succeeded in this. I will not bore you with the countless months we spent looking for a contact into the Red Corsairs. When someone does not want to be found in the area around the Maelstrom, he rarely will be. Suffice to say they finally found us. Although they displayed large amounts of distrust and I can’t blame them for it, we were inducted into their ranks and split up. Apparently, it is uncommon for more than one marine from one chapter to make it that far and they did not trust us together. I have not seen either Tonningen or Lages again and I can only assume they’re dead. The deathtoll for Red Corsairs is quite appalling, especially as there are precious few apothecaries to tend to the wounded. Also, there rarely are enough hormonal balancers and tailored drugs available to sustain a large gathering of marines. That’s probably why individual units are spread out over such a large amount of worlds and ships.

My days are numbered too I fear. I’ve never been able to fully appreciate the chaotic nature of the Corsairs and although the rage has so far protected me from the rest of my compatriots; they rightfully fear both my mutations and my martial prowess, I know I’m being looked for.

We are here on this old outpost now; you can hear the battle raging in the distance. The fabled Legio Bolter and Chainsword has come to seek out the Red Corsairs at last and is slowly forcing our forces back. They are here now. Inside this old asteroid base, looking to capture it with as much of us as possible in it, no doubt. We know our fate at their hands of course. If they succeed in taking the base, there’s nowhere to go for any of us so we fight with abandon, knowing we are dead already.

I have killed over half a dozen of our erstwhile, still loyal, brethren so far but I feel the final confrontation is coming soon. I have seen him; a glint of familiar orange in a sea of black, silver and red. Our escape into the Maelstrom must not have been as inconspicuous as we thought, as my old chapter has sent a hunter to seek us out. Maybe it was he who killed Tonningen and Lages, after all, he knew them best. He was their sergeant in a time long gone. He will not stop and he will blame me for their fall. Maybe he’s right.

All I know now is that he is stalking me, seeking me out as I relate all this. He comes closer by the minute and the time nears for me to finally confront my past. I will let the rage finally embrace me whole and I will fight to the end. Who knows? I might even make it through. Do with this information as you see fit. By telling you this, I am not trying to redeem myself; it is far too late for forgiveness as you no doubt know, but perhaps my story will foster some understanding for our actions. It is all I can hope for. Now, go! I can feel the rage building again and this time I will not hold it at bay; I am damned beyond redemption and will act as thus. The end is nigh and I embrace it wholeheartedly. Whatever transpires in the next few hours, one lion will fall and one will walk away…