Because you demanded it, and I was crazy enough to promise it....
Here's an exclusive chunk of the next Gaunt's Ghosts novel, out this Autumn. I hope it entertains. Pausing just long enough to remind you that I'm appearing at Alt-Fiction in Derby this coming weekend (details in the previous post), I'll leave you to get on with Salvation's Reach....
At midnight, local time, a new star woke in the skies above Anzimar. The city’s population was hurrying to attend the day’s Sabbat Libera Nos service, which had been held in the temples of the Beati every midnight since the Crusade began, in the hope of vouchsafing a brighter tomorrow. Some of the hundreds of thousands of citizens bustling from their homes, or even their beds, or suspending their labour, at that time may have turned their eyes skywards, for since the very origin of the species, mankind has entertained the notion that some ineffable source of providence may look down upon us. The upward glances were vain, involuntary wishes to glimpse the face of salvation.
No one saw the star light up. The smog that night was as thick as rockcrete.
Ship bells rang. At high anchor at the edge of the mesopause, the Imperial Tempest Class frigate Highness Ser Armaduke lit its plasma engines. The drives ignited with a pulsing fibrilation, and then calmed into a less intense, steady glow.
Below the ship lay the troposphere and the stratosphere. The shadow of the terminator lay heavily across Menazoid Sigma, and the smog atmospherics were so dense there were no visible light concentrations from the night-side hives. Part of the world was in sunlight. The fetid clouds, brown and cream, looked like infected brain tissue.
Small ships buzzed around the Armaduke, like flies around a carcass. Fleet tenders nestled in close to its flanks. Launches, lighters, cargo boats and shuttles zipped in and out. The Armaduke’s hatches were all wide open, like the beaks of impatient hatchlings. Entire sections of the frigate’s densely armoured hull plate had been peeled back or retracted to permit access. The old ship, ancient and weathered, looked undignified, like a grandam mamzel caught with her skirts hoisted.
Above the ship lay the exosphere. The vacuum was like a clear but imperfect crystal, a window onto the hard blackness of out-system space and the distant glimmer of tiny, malicious stars.
The Highness Ser Armaduke was an old ship. It was an artifact of considerable size. All ships of the fleet are large. The Armaduke measured a kilometre and a half from prow to stern, and a third of that dimension abeam across the fins. Its realspace displacement was six point two megatonnes, and it carried thirty-two thousand four hundred and eleven lives, including the entire Tanith First and its regimental retinue. It was like a slice cut from a hive, formed into a spear-head shape, and mounted on engines.
It was built for close war. Its hull armour was pitted and scorched, and triple-thickness along the flanks and the prow. The prow cone was rutted with deep scars and healed damage. The Armaduke was of a dogged breed of Imperial ship that liked to get in tight with its foe, and was prepared to get hurt while it hurt and killed an enemy.
To Ibram Gaunt, closing towards it about one of the last inbound launches, the ship had the character of a pit-fighter, or a fighting dog. Its scar-tissue was proud and deliberate.
Like the ritual marks of a bloody-pacted soldier, he reflected.
The plasma engines pulsed again. Hold doors began to seal, and cantilevered armour sections extended back into position. Gaunt’s craft was one of the last to enter the central landing bay before the main space doors shut. The swarm of small ships dispersed, either into the Armaduke to share its voyage, or away to planetside or the nearest orbital fortress. Formations of Fury and Faustus Class attack craft had been circling the ship at a radius of five hundred kilometres to provide protection while she was exposed and vulnerable. Now they formed up to provide escort. Buoy lights blinked. Lines detached. Fleet tenders disengaged and rolled lazily away, like spent suitors or weary concubines. The Armaduke began to move.
Initial acceleration was painfully slow, even at maximum plasma power. It was as though an attempt was being made to slide a building - a basilica, a temple hall - by getting an army of slaves to push it. The ship protested. Its hull plates groaned. Its decks settled and creaked. Its superstructure twitched under the application of vast motive power.
The other ships at high anchor unhooded their lamps to salute the departing ship. Some were true giants of the fleet, grand cruisers and battleships six or seven kilometres long. Their vast shadows fell across the Armaduke as it accelerated along the line of anchorage. To them, it was a battered old relic, an orphan of the fleet they would most likely never see again.
The Fury flight dropped in around the ship in escort formation. The plasma drives grew brighter, their flare reflecting off the noctilucent clouds below, creating a shimmering airglow. Mesospheric ionisation caused bowsprite lightning to dance and flicker along the Armaduke’s crenelated topside until the advancing ship passed into the exosphere and the wash of the magnetosphere’s currents swept the lightshow away.
Stepping out of the launch into the excursion hold as the ship ran out, Gaunt sampled the odour of the vessel’s atmosphere. Every ship had its own flavour. He’d traveled on enough of them to know that. Hundreds or sometimes thousands of years of recirculation and atmospheric processing had allowed things to accumulate in a ship’s lungs. Some smelled oddly sweet, others metallic, others rancid. You always got used to it. A ten or twelve week haul on a shiftship could get you used to anything. The Armaduke smelled of scorched fat, like grease in a kitchen’s chimney.
He would get used to that. You could get used to the smell, the chemical tang of the recycled water, the oddly bland taste of shipboard food. You got used to the constant background grumble of the drives, to the odd noises from a vast superstructure constantly in tension. Once the drives were lit, the hull flexed; once the Gellar Field was up and the ship had translated into the Warp, the hull locked tight, like a well-muscled arm pumped and tensed. You got used to the acceleration sickness, the pervading cold, the odd, slippery displacement where the artificial gravity fields fluctuated and settled.
Once translation had been achieved, you got used to the ports being shuttered. You got used to ignoring whatever was outside. You got used to the baleful screams of the Empyrean, the sounds of hail on the hull, or burning firestorms, or typhoon winds, of fingernails scratching at the port shutters. You got used to the whispers, the shudders and rattles, the inexplicable periods of half-power lighting, the distant subterranean banging, the dreams, the footsteps in empty corridors, the sense that you were plunging further and further into your own subconscious and burning up your sanity to fuel the trip.
The one thing you never got used to was the scale. At high orbit, even with the vast extent of a planet close by for contrast, a starship seemed big. But as the planet dropped away to stern, first the size of an office globe, then a ball, until even the local star was just a fleck of light no bigger than any other star, the embrace of the void became total. The void was endless and eternal, and the few suns no bigger than grains of salt. Alone in the bewildering emptiness, a starship was dwarfed, diminished until it was just a fragile metal casket alone in the monstrous prospect of night.
The Armaduke was accelerating so robustly now, the fighter escort was struggling to match it. Course was locked for the system’s mandeville point, where the warp engines would be started up to make an incision in the the interstitial fabric of space. The Warp awaited them.
The crew and control spaces of a starship tended to be kept separate from the areas used for transported material and passengers, even on a military operation. The transporters and those they were transporting needed very little contact during a voyage.
But the Armaduke was still twenty-six minutes from the translation point when Gaunt presented himself at the shipmaster’s quarters. He did not come alone.
“No entry at this time,” said the midshipman manning the valve hatch. He had six armsmen with him, all with combat shotweapons for shipboard use.
Gaunt showed the midshipman his documentation, documentation that clearly showed he was the commanding officer of the troop units under conveyance.
“That’s all very well,” said the midshipman, displaying that unerring knack of Navy types to avoid using Guard rank formalities, “but the shipmaster is preparing for commitment to translation. He can’t be interrupted. Perhaps in a week or so, he might find some time to–”
“Perhaps he’s done it a thousand times before,” said Gaunt’s companion, stepping out of the bulkhead shadows, “and doesn’t need to do more than authorize the bridge crew to execute. Perhaps he ought to bear in mind that his ship is a vital component of this action and not just a means of transportation. Perhaps you should open this hatch.”
The midshipman went pale.
“Yes, sir,” he said, his voice as small as a shiftship in the open void.
“I hate that,” said Larkin. He froze and refused to continue walking until the ship lights returned to their original brilliance. There was an underdeck tremor. A distant exhalation.
“Worst part of any trip,” he added. The lights came back up, a frosty glare in the low deck companionway. He started walking again.
“The worst?” asked Domor.
“Yeah,” said Larkin. “Apart from getting there.”
“All true,” said Domor.
They had reached the armoured hatchway of a hold space originally designed as a magazine for explosive ordnance. Rawne and Brostin were waiting for them.
“I want a badge like that,” said Larkin.
“Well, you can’t have one,” said Brostin. “It’s only for the kings.”
“The kings can actually kiss my arse,” said Larkin.
Domor looked at Rawne.
“This could continue all day, major,” he said.
“And it still wouldn’t become amusing,” Rawne agreed.
“Gaunt wants us to see him,” said Domor. “Is that all right?”
“Yes,” said Rawne. “Provided you’re who you say you are.”
Larkin winked at Rawne.
“Come on, Eli, these’d be pretty shit disguises, wouldn’t they?”
“What are you suggesting?” asked Domor, a smile forming. “We forced our own faces to change shape?”
“I’ve seen more fethed up things,” said Rawne.
“Nobody here is surprised,” said Larkin.
Rawne nodded to Brostin. The big man banged on the door, and then opened the outer hatch.
“Coming in, two visitors,” said Rawne over his microbead.
A peephole slot in the inner door opened, and Rawne stood where the viewer could see his face.
The inner hatch opened. Rawne took Domor and Larkin through.
“Got anything he could use as a weapon?” asked Rawne.
“My fething rapier wit?” suggested Larkin.
Mabbon Etogaur was sitting on a folding bunk in one corner of the dank magazine compartment. The walls, deck and ceiling were reinforced ceramite, and the slot hatch for the loader mechanism had been welded shut. The prisoner was reading a trancemissionary pamphlet, one of a stack on his mattress. His right wrist was cuffed to a chain that was bolted to a floor pin.
Varl was sitting on a stool in the opposite corner, his las rifle across his knees. Cant was standing in another corner, nibbling at the quick of his thumbnail.
Larkin and Domor came in and approached the Etogaur.
He looked up.
“I don’t know you,” he said.
“No, but I had you in my crosshairs once,” said Larkin.
“Why didn’t you take the shot?” asked Mabbon.
“And miss a touching moment like this?”
“That’s Domor, that’s Larkin,” said Rawne, pointing.
“Don’t tell him our fething names!” Larkin hissed. “He might do all sorts of fethed-up magic shit with them!”
“I won’t,” said Mabbon.
“He won’t,” Rawne agreed.
“He can’t,” said Varl.
“Why not?” asked Larkin.
“Because how else would I be the punchline for another of Varl’s jokes?” asked Cant wearily.
“He won’t because he’s cooperating,” said Rawne, ignoring the others.
“And if I did,” said Mabbon, “Rawne would gut me.”
“He does do that,” Larkin nodded.
“What did you need from me?” asked Mabbon.
“A consult,” said Domor. He had a sheaf of rolled papers under his arm, and a dataslate in his hand.
“Go on,” said Mabbon.
Larkin took the pamphlet out of Mabbon’s hand and glanced at it.
“Good read?” he asked.
“I enjoy the subject matter,” said Mabbon.
“A doctrine of conversion to the Imperial Creed?” asked Larkin.
“Fantasy,” replied Mabbon.
“He’d be a fething funny man if he didn’t scare the shit out of me,” Larkin said to Rawne.
“We’re leading the insertion effort,” said Domor. “There’s training to be done, planning. We want to use transit time to get as ready as possible.”
“Are you combat engineering?” asked Mabbon.
“Yes,” said Domor. “Larks... Larkin, he’s marksman squad.”
“I saw the lanyard.”
“We want to go over the deck plans and schematics you’ve supplied so far. It may mean several hours work over a period of days.”
“I’ll try to build time into my schedule.”
“Some of the plans are vague,” said Larkin.
“So are some of my memories. It’s all from memory.”
“If you go through them a few times,” said Rawne, “maybe you can firm things up.”
The Etogaur nodded.
“If you go through them so many times you’re sick of them, maybe we’ll actually do this right,” Rawne added.
“I’ve no problem with that,” said Mabbon. “I offered this to you. I want it to happen.”
Domor showed him the dataslate.
“We want to talk about this too,” he said. “This firing mechanism. We need to mock some up for practice purposes. You say this is fairly standard?”
“It’s representative of the sort of firing mechanisms and trigger systems you’re going to find,” said Mabbon, studying the slate image.
“It’s just mechanical,” said Larkin.
“It has to be. They can’t risk anything more... more complicated. They can’t risk using anything that might interfere with, or be interfered with by, the devices under development at the target location. It’s delicate. Any conflict in arcane processes or conjurations could be disastrous.”
“So just mechanical?” said Larkin.
“Complex and very delicate. Very sensitive. But, yes. Just mechanical.”
Larkin took the slate back.
“It looks very... It looks very much like the sort of thing we use,” he said. “It looks pretty standard.”
“It’s the sort of trigger mech I would rig,” Domor said.
“Of course,” said Mabbon. “Tried and tested Guard practice. This is the sort of thing I taught them how to do. And I learned it the same place you did.”
Larkin looked at Domor. There was distaste on his face.
“Go get the folding table,” Rawne said to Varl. “Let’s look over these plans.”
Nnngghhh... must... proofread... everything...
Para. 8, sen. 1: "To Ibram Gaunt, closing towards it about one of the last inbound launches..." -- should be aboard. I know: it's rotten luck to get your blog followed by the only subeditor in the world who actually works for a living.
Hooray for the Ghosts, though. Will there be cock-spankingly awesome space battles, à la Sabbat Martyr? I seem to recall you promised us some of those.
Bravo - as usual simply awesome! Anakwanar Sek takes his hat and bows to you!
P.S. Please don't kill me yet! I want to live till the last book=)
Ooh, very exciting indeed! And am I right in thinking the Tempest-Class is lifted from the FFG Rogue Trader RPG?
So there'll be some awesome-cunning cat-and-mouse space stuff, and Salvation's Reach is a space station perhaps? Where some kind of superweapon is being made.
This is going to be some kind of awesome Ouranberg-style mission, one ship and one regiment to win the war. First and Only, Huzzah!
I may have squeed myself a little.
If only I could wake up with the Ghosts every morning!
Tell me you gonna kill some ghosts!
After Only in Death and Blood Pact they becoming really immortal!
Thats not do - thats not do at all - you need to thin their line. So they become like livings beings again!
After Only In Death and Blood Pact the Ghosts are becoming immortal?
Which copies if the books did that happen.....because [SPOILERS!!!!!!!]
In Only In Death the regiment got pummelled quite badly, to the point where I think they're about half strength, and as for Blood Pact....the nature of the book didn't lend itself to a stupidly high body count. Plus there's the fact that a big part of the Tanith First and Only soul is going to die and such a thing was way more emotional and shocking than a hundred Guardsman getting perforated while well behind their own front lines. Hell, even if Captain Daur got shot in the face during the course of Blood Pact....his death would have been totally overshadowed by the conversation in the Chapel.
A little persecutive please....after all, Dan only kills his Ghosts at the right time and during moments when it's going to punch the reader right in their guts. If he starts doing as you want Anonymous, and just bumping them off for the sake of it, to make up a high body count....I think there'd be a much MUCH higher propotion of fans out for blood and wondering who's been writing the books instead of it's usuall Master Wordsmith that there would people happy to see such characters killed needlessly.
Agreed with Xhalax especially about Chapel - but SPOILERS^
iN oNLY IN DEATH all the Ghosts which are indeed die are a simple meat fodder! Even Domor survived, and Hark and Bonin again and Rawne and Ezrah - the only real loss was - SORIC (but it was the most fantastic piece of writing by Dan for me - had tears)! I agree that Ghosts must be picked for slaughter in the grim 40k universe in the right moments but it would be good to saw the death of someone from the lucky Gereon 8! Like Larkin or Brosrin - or (snigger) Mkoll!
No i know now who needs to die - Tona Creed! Dalin must be left with his real father =)
Without all the fodder there is no regiment....not matter how many main/named characters are left.
My guess for what happens: Mabbon converts to the Imperial faith seeing a leader he can follow in Gaunt.
I mean Gaunt is known for taking in unusual characters to the First and Only's fold.
ARE you crazy BOOM? It never happen because it would be the deathblow to w40k universe lore! All heretic must burn even if they are loyal heretics!
And Mabbon is already twice the traitor (from Blood Pact and now from Sons of S) - and who in the sain mind believed in TRAITOR!
And even if not this - do you really believe that Inquisition - real w40k INQ. would alove that to happen?
Mabbon will eventually die one way or another!
Right now the main question is the fate of Mkvenner because if he reunites with Ghosts on board the space station i will eat my eyes! HOW DOES HE COME TO BE WHERE AND WHERE HE WAS ALL THIS FETHING WHERE IS MKVENNER YEARS?
Arrrghh who is that with Guant the suspense is killing me.
Great job with describing the ship.
Well i really enjoyed that. You have a way of invoking particular imagery that adds to the sense of, for lack of a better word, epicness.
As for the small proofreading errors, i for one am just glad that we got a sneak peak. Since i havent noticed a huge number of typographical problems in previous books, ill presume that the finished work will be fine.
Pretty intriguing stuff and now I'm even more excited for the coming book.
I absolutely love your writing, and I have lost untold hours in your books. I'm gutted you're in Derby this weekend, my hometown, as I have to be in Southampton visiting the in-laws. Sods law eh?
Level of excitement got really hot! Nicely done as usual mister Abnett!
But only one grim note! In your answer to my friend Anakwanar you said yes about spb!
But only 1 Tempest frigate? I am so confused now - 1 ship against a chaos fortress?
Larkin is a god amongst characters.
Mabbon is reading "A doctrine of conversion to the Imperial Creed"....I'm just saying...
And I think it's official that Ven died :(
To BOOM! sPOILERS!
Dan never sad that Ven dies! And in the Armour of Contempt we have alive Mkvenner looking for his Gereon team at the end of the book after saving the resistance
To Boom - definitely no way that Ven is dead. They faked his death, and he's still leading the partisans - it's just a question of where and how. He might not even show up in this book, but he'll be there when he's needed, and he will be the most awesome Cavalry ever.
I think keeping him away for even longer would be awesome, just to build up tension - and when he does show up, well, a short story of what he's been up to can go nicely in sabbat worlds collection #3...
Nobody faking Mkvenner death! They only presume that he was wiped out with his squad og Nightgane! Mkvenner is VERY VERY ALIVE and i have a feeling that it would be him who win the Sabbat Worlds Crusade=)
Right now iam more concerned about SPACE BATTLES! REALLY 1 TEMPEST FRIGATE? GIVE US SOME MORE SABBAT MARTYR!
Larkin is a very very happy man!
Its lovely to see so many care about the fate of the Imperial soldier - this means that Dan made a great job with the serie!
And yes Mkvenner alive! I think we saw him and Milo with Sabbat in the last book of the ark! Meantime - excellent job Dan
Nicely done - maybe some more extracts in the future!
And if I remember correctly in your interview in december 2010 you promised to kill Larkin and Daur - or you was joking?
Love the snippet. Really looking forward to reading about the "pragmatic-chaos-worshipper" helping the ghosts out. Getting some information about the practical workings of chaos-oriented soldiers sounds very fun.
Hope for some Sons of Sek! Blood pact are like the pussy for the Ghosts now!
Larkin must die - Dorden must die heroic - Tona Creed must die for the sake of Dalin!
Mkvenner will come back and saved all the universe!
Ibram Gaunt is an incredible character. He barely has to say anything, and just the mention of him on the page makes me fist pump to see him again.
The section that filled out what shipboard life is like, especially under Warp-power, was tasty.
I look forward to more Mabbon and Gaunt conversations. Blood Pact made my day, and it looks like the energy from that book is going to spread itself across the rest of this arc.
Can't flarking wait to read more of Cant. Rock on, Mr. Abnett.
Already the most interesting book of the year after Dance with the Dragons! Hope to see some epic battles again and usual ghosts traits - courage and honour, sacrifice and glory! How i missed that! Thank you Dan for the great work on the Ghosts cycle!
Dan - Where has THE KEELER IMAGE gone?
Along with Salvations Reach this Eisenhorn audiodrama is THE thing I am most looking forward to this year but it is no longer listed on the coming soon pages on the BL website!!!!!
Very sad face with jibby lip pout!
I've just pre-ordered it with Amazon. Can't wait to get hold of it!
Where The Keeler image gone? What happened to the book? it isnt in 2011 or 2012!
Where has the keleer image gone?
Just read the extract of SR on the BL website. My guessing is this person is in fact a Space Marine...
...dun dun dun!!!!!!
P.S. As per the entries above WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE KEELER IMAGE?!?!?!?!?!?!
Am i the only one who still likes the Cant jokes?
To Nesh - yes you are =)
Cant must die wothout glory for all the stupid jokes Dan make for him! And yes sir Abnett you promised that Daur would be eaten by tyranids =)
P.S. Really what happened to Keeler image? Are you busy with Know no fear that it was postponed?
Dan come back to us! Can we see you on Comic-Con San-diego 21-24 July?
And yes - the book looks great!
And now I have to wait impatiently for the rest. Thanks for the teaser.
wow, if there was even the smallest chance of me not pre-ordering this it just flew out of the window, to hell with food and rent bills, i want this book
love the sneak peek, just wondering if the ghosts will ever get the recognition/homeworld they were promised and also wondering who is with Gaunt when he visits the ship master? who could inspire that reaction from the men? (no-one unaccounted for springs to mind, new character me thinks?) just an idle request but it would be nice to see a Van Voytz esque Astartes recurring character, it just seeems that in an undertaking as big as the Sabbat worlds Crusade, Gaunt is bound to rub up against a Space Marine post-Balhaut sooner or later.
Another Commissar with some Space Marine assisstance? Sounds like Cain tbh.
The thing about a new GG novel is that a couple pages in, it already feels like slipping on a really comfortable, well-broken in pair of shoes you've had for years.
Just waiting to slip them back on again....
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