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Ahriman: Exile (Novel)

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Ahriman: Exile
Ahriman-exile.jpg
Cover art by Cheoljoo Lee
Author John French
Publisher Black Library
Series Ahriman (Novel Series)
Followed by Ahriman: Sorcerer
Released December 2012
Pages 416
Editions 2012 ebook
ISBN 9780857878212

2013 softcover
ISBN 9781849704267

Ahriman: Exile by John French is the first in a planned trilogy of novels featuring Ahzek Ahriman, the former Chief Librarian of the Thousand Sons, as its protagonist. It was first released online in December 2012, and in softcover in June 2013.

Cover Description

All is dust... Spurned by his former brothers and his father Magnus the Red, Ahriman is a wanderer, a sorcerer of Tzeentch whose actions condemned an entire Legion to an eternity of damnation. Once a vaunted servant of the Thousand Sons, he is now an outcast, a renegade who resides in the Eye of Terror. Ever scheming, he plots his return to power and the destruction of his enemies, an architect of fate and master of the warp.

Synopsis

Spoiler!
This page contains spoilers for: Ahriman: Exile (Novel)


Prologue

A hunting pack of Space Wolves is ambushed by a band of Chaos Sorcerers. Both are hunting for the same man, but the lead sorcerer says their grievance takes precedence. When the last surviving Wolf refuses to share what he knows, the sorcerer cuts out his progenoid gland and eats it, using his omophagea to extract one name that gives the sorcerers a new lead to follow: "The Harrowing..."

Part One: Fate's Messenger

Ahzek Ahriman, former Chief Librarian of the Thousand Sons, has fallen far indeed. After the disastrous failure of the Rubric that bears his name, he and his cabal of sorcerers were exiled from their Legion. Now Ahriman, ashamed of his failure, has renounced all but the most minimal use of his prodigious psychic powers, and can only survive as a servant to lesser Chaos Lords.

Under the alias "Horkos," Ahriman now serves the vile Khornate army, The Harrowing, whose leader, Gzrel, collects sorcerers for his inner circle, of whom "Horkos" is the lowest-ranked and least regarded.

The Harrowing's ship, the Blood Crescent attacks another, the Titan Child currently controlled by a Renegade Space Marine chapter. Ahriman and a Chaos Champion named Karoz are selected as the leaders of the first wave that boards the ship. Karoz is killed by Astraeos, the renegades' librarian, but this unleashes the daemon that has been slowly taking over Karoz's body. Ahriman, reflexively tapping into his dormant psychic abilities, destroys the daemon to protect himself.

The Harrowing claim the ship for their own and proceed to convert it to their own use, though they continuously fail to awake its dormant machine spirit. Astraeos is imprisoned and tortured by Gzrel's High Magister, Maroth, who eats one of Astraeos's eyes in the mistaken belief that it will grant him power.

Carmenta, the Tech Priest in charge of the ship, is enslaved by the Harrowing, though they appear unaware of her ability to awaken the ship.

The Harrowing's work is interrupted by the surprise appearance of another ship, bearing an emissary to the Titan Child: Tolbek, a former sorcerer of the Thousand Sons, accompanied by two Rubric Marines as bodyguards. For all their arrogance, Gzrel and his sorcerers are cowed by Tolbek's presence. Tolbek says he and his fellows are searching for Ahzek Ahriman; the name means nothing to Gzrel, but he offers the services of his other sorcerers. Tolbek rejects this, and is about to leave, when he realises who "Horkos" really is. Through telepathy, he asks his former brother to leave the ship with him. Ahriman refuses, saying he is no longer a sorcerer.

In anger, Tolbek attacks, prompting Gzrel and his sorcerers to attack as well. This awakens Ahriman's dormant powers - once unleashed, he quickly kills everyone in the room, except for the two Rubric Marines, and Maroth, who is left a crippled, gibbering idiot.

During his battle with Tolbek, Ahriman received visions from some mysterious being, possibly a daemon, who urges him to re-embrace his psychic powers, telling him that the Rubric can be reversed, and his former brothers saved. Ahriman puts this off as a lie, but the unseen voice refuses to leave him alone.

Ahriman then proceeds to free Carmenta and the survivors of the renegade chapter - Astraeos, Kadin and Thidias - in exchange for their allegiance. Working together, they take over the ship and flee the sector.

Part Two: Path of Lies

Ahriman tries to track down the person who wants him dead. The Titan Child wanders the sector, as Ahriman looks for the other members of his Cabal, who were likewise exiled after the Rubric failed. Each of his former comrades has either disappeared or is found dead, and the pattern is the same: each was approached by an emissary, the same way Tolbek approached Ahriman, and died after refusing to go with that emissary.

His search takes the Titan Child into the Eye of Terror, to find his former brother, Manukara, now transformed into a daemonic oracle. In return for answering Ahriman's question, the Oracle asks only one tribute from Ahriman: an honest answer to the Oracle's question. Ahriman begins by asking what will become of the Thousand Sons. The Oracle replies that there are at least two equally possible futures: the Legion will be saved, or it will slide even further into damnation, and eventually disappear altogether. Ahriman is unsatisfied with this answer, and Manukara reminds him that Ahriman himself taught the Corvidae that the future is never fixed.

Ahriman asks who wants him dead, and the daemon chides that, in a way, Ahriman has always known: Amon, former Captain of the 10th Fellowship, and the most reluctant member of Ahriman's cabal. Amon now leads his own warband, the Brotherhood of Dust. In return, the Oracle asks Ahriman why he has never allowed himself to die in the years since his exile, when the weight of Ahriman's sins is such that he should welcome death. Ahriman answers that, either from arrogance or naivete, he still harbors hope for the future.

As he is leaving the Oracle's planet to return to the Titan Child, Ahriman's shuttle is attacked by flying daemons who were formerly Space Marines. Ahriman is forced to make a crash landing into the hangar bay with two flying beasts still attached to the ship. Astraeos, Kadin and Thidias kill the flying warp beasts and salvage Ahriman from the wreckage.

Ahriman then goes to a destroyed Astropath Station, which he confessed he helped destroy under another master's authority. He and Astraeos prepare to summon a daemon in one room that will direct them where to go next, and order Kadin and Thidias to patrol the route back to the ship.

Ahriman and Astraeos commence the ritual and summon a lesser Daemon Prince, binding it to Ahriman's will and forcing it to answer his questions. The daemon agrees to reveal Amon's whereabouts, but only if Ahriman takes it by the hand. Ahriman does, but the daemon reveals that it has already been bound to Amon, and tries to kill Ahriman. Astraeos, drawing on Ahriman's teachings, destroys it first. Then, a mass of lesser daemons emerge from the warp and attach the Space Marines. When Kadin unexpectedly disappears, Thidias stays behind to hold back the enemy while Ahriman and Astraeos escape.

Returning to their shuttle, they find Kadin, minus his arms and legs. After their shuttle escapes the station, Kadin starts to levitate, and Ahriman is forced to conclude that he has been possessed. Probing Kadin's mind causes Ahriman to pass out.

Part Three

Ahriman awakens back on the Titan Child six days later.

The ship needs a Navigator to find Amon, so Ahriman acts as one for a brief interlude, allowing them to exit the Eye of Terror and steal one from the vicinity of Cadia. They lie in wait for a few weeks until an Inquisitorial ship, the Lord of Mankind passes by on its way back from a scouting mission into the Eye. The Inquisitor in command cannot resist taking a closer look at the derelict Titan Child, which she believes to be abandoned.

Ahriman teleports himself, Astraeos, and Kadin aboard the ship with a spell. Ahriman, ironically, has been out of touch with the Imperium for so long that he does not recognize the Inquisition's sigil on the blast doors, but Astraeos and Kadin do. Kadin holds off the bulk of the Guardsmen aboard the ship while Ahriman and Astraeos kidnap the ship's navigator, Silvanus, from his quarters. The three Marines escape with their hostage just as the Inquisitorial team attacks them with seraphs and boltguns. Ahriman takes a glancing hit from a bolt shell as Astraeos shoves him backward into a warp tunnel.

Ahriman regains consciousness on the Titan Child as Carmenta is removing bits of shrapnel from his chest; two pieces are too close to his heart to be removed, so Ahriman orders her to leave them in and stitch up the wound. He informs the others that they came away from the Lord of Mankind not only with a navigator, but also with Amon's location, Ahriman having lifted valuable information from one of the Inquisitor's minds.

Amon is assembling a fleet, which the Titan Child infiltrates with Ahriman psychically shielding his and the others' presence. However, Carmenta, her nerves worn past the breaking point, contacts the flagship and informs Amon that Ahriman is on board - she is afraid for her precious ship, sure that Ahriman's present course of action will cause its destruction.

Three Storm Eagle gunships respond to her call and board the Titan Child, disgorging three Sorcerers and twenty-four Rubric Marines. When Ahriman appears on the Titan Child command deck, it is pitch dark, and he finds himself surrounded. He and the Sorcerers duel with their mental powers, wrestling for control of the Rubric Marines. Ahriman wins over all three Sorcerers, but is severely weakened. At this point, a ripple in the warp opens and three more Sorcerers, Zabaia, Siamak and Amon himself, appear. Ahriman is too weak to stop Amon levitating him and taking him back to Amon's flagship, the Sycorax, while sending the other two Sorcerers to collect the Rubric Marines searching the ship.

On the Sycorax, Amon communes psychically with his old comrade. Ahriman realizes, with horror, that while Ahriman wants to repair the Rubric, Amon wants to undo it, even if the Rubric is the only thing keeping the majority of their brothers "alive." Amon would rather destroy the Legion than let it continue to live in its current state. To complete this task, he needs Ahriman's intimate knowledge of the Rubric. Ahriman protests, and Amon sadly tells his former brother that, for all that Ahriman believes he has been humbled by the Rubric's failure, he is still arrogant enough to think he can change the fate of his Legion. Ahriman, devastated, surrenders the information Amon needs.

Aboard the Titan Child, Zabaia and Siamak are ambushed by Astraeos and Kadin and killed. Astraeos and Kadin plan to board the Sycorax, but, deciding they must use every weapon at their disposal, frees Cadar, the member of their chapter taken over by a daemon. Taking the remaining Storm Eagle to the Sycorax, Astraeos emerges disguised in one of the two dead Sorcerer's armour. Unfortunately, the crew notice the absence of his twin, and open fire. Kadin and the daemonic Cadar emerge from the gunship and wipe out the crew in the hangar bay.

Astraeos then proceeds to the prison cell and frees Ahriman, unarmed and without armour. They begin to flee, but Ahriman surprises them by declaring his intention to stay and fight. Even without his armour or his staff, Ahriman is powerful enough to overwhelm the thirty-six Sorcerers sent to halt their escape, and take control of the Rubric Marines following them. Then Amon himself appears, and the two Sorcerers duel.

At first, it appears that Amon has the clear advantage, being armed where Ahriman is not, but Ahriman reminds his former brother of a grim fact: the Rubric is part of all of them now, even those who were not turned to dust. With his own knowledge of the Rubric, Ahriman is able to reach his powers inside Amon's suit of armour and burn him to ashes. He then takes Amon's armour and staff for his own.

Epilogue

When Ahriman assumes command of Amon's fleet, only a few scattered elements try to flee or fight back, and Ahriman peremptorily orders them hunted down and destroyed. He then installs Carmenta as the new pilot of the Sycorax. When she asks why he is letting her live despite her betrayal, he ruefully replies that he shares the same hope as her: that betrayal can be forgiven.

Ahriman released Astraeos and Kadin from their oaths to him after they rescued him from his cell, but they are choosing to remain with him. Astraeos has now repainted his own armour blue, to match the livery of the Thousand Sons.

In the hold of the Sycorax, Maroth approaches the daemon inhabiting Cadar's body, and acknowledges it as his master. The daemon excitedly asks if his plan has succeeded, and Maroth replies that it has.

Characters

The Titan Child

The Brotherhood of Dust

The Harrowing

The Inquisition

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